Tanner Mordecai improved, but the run game struggled, and the defense heavily struggled to start.
Here are the defensive grades from the No. 19 Badgers 31-22 loss to Washington State.
Defensive Line/Outside Linebackers: C
Statistics-wise, the Badgers’ group had a better game against Washington State than in Week 1, but impact-wise, their grade falls around a ‘C-.
The Badgers’ defensive line struggled to make Cameron Ward uncomfortable in Week 1, as the pass rush couldn't get there at all in the first half while Wisconsin chose to rush three players primarily.
Additionally, I felt the coaching staff didn't put the group in the best situation, as the three-rush plan doesn't go well with their defensive line personnel.
In the second half, the Badgers mixed in a number of linebacker blitzes, which led to more defensive success from the defensive line, but they're not good enough on their own to sustain consistent pressure, especially against a dual-threat quarterback.
The main bright spot? Defensive lineman James Thompson Jr., who had two sacks on the day and a near safety on a solid pass-rush rep.
On Monday, head coach Luke Fickell alluded to the need to have better play from his edge players, where the Badgers lost the battle on Monday.
Jake Chaney and Maema Njongmeta both had a team-high three pressures, but it wasn't the best day for the former, who had a couple of poor plays in a row before settling into a good day.
Njongmeta had a solid outing, recording three run stops, but the impact for the linebackers, specifically in containing quarterback Cameron Ward, wasn't great in the first half, where the Badgers lost this game after going down 24-9 at halftime.
Upon his arrival, Jordan Turner also missed two tackles on the day. Overall, it wasn't the cleanest performance, but a group known for flashy and solid pass-rush should bounce back in Week 3.
It was an interesting day for the Badgers secondary, who got burned on a few deep plays, but were placed into an intriguing scheme.
For much of the game, it seemed Cameron Ward looked to throw to the off-coverage side, taking advantage of his plus arm strength and the open receivers to move the ball, allowing the Cougars to go up-tempo more often.
Given the Badgers’ size at cornerback, there wasn't much different the team could do, and their more aggressive second-half strategy paid off.
But, a majority of the big plays came off miscommunications and mental errors, which cannot happen on a week-to-week basis.
An interesting storyline: Kamo’i Latu was benched in favor of Preston Zachman after getting beaten on a 39-yard catch.
On Monday, Fickell said that Latu, who has been wildly inconsistent to begin the season, took the moment well and that the team would need him going forward, but praised Zachman, who played in an unfamiliar role on the spot and did well, recording a pass-breakup on the day.
Additionally, I would’ve liked to see more Nyzier Fourqueran, who didn't play in coverage at all to my belief, allowing the Badgers to rotate their cornerbacks and provide a more favorable matchup with his size.
In positive news, Hunter Wohler had a second consecutive good performance for the Badgers, and has an argument to be their best player this season defensively.