The Wisconsin Badgers had several questions to answer after falling in disappointing fashion to Washington State in Week 2, leaving them at 1-1 as they headed back home for a Week 3 matchup against the Georgia Southern Eagles.
After overcoming a slow start, the Badgers pulled away in the second half, ultimately winning 35-14, wrapping up their non-conference slate.
Here are three quick takeaways from the Badgers 35-14 win over the Georgia Southern Eagles.
It’s become a weekly occurrence at this point. The Wisconsin Badgers continue to start slow, which occurred on both sides of the ball last week, and continued this week.
The offense significantly struggled in the first half, scoring just seven points, punting five times, with four coming on three-and-outs.
Defensively, the Badgers allowed six Georgia Southern drives to get into Wisconsin territory, with poor quarterback decisions resulting in three interceptions during that span, with the other three drives resulting in a touchdown, turnover on downs, and a missed field goal.
The Badgers were outcoached on both ends to begin the first half, and they've consistently dug themselves into a hole that they have to get out of later in the game.
The offense needs to start much quicker, which means incorporating all of their elements on the same drive: the RPOs, inside zone, outside zone, and up-tempo. When it becomes too stale, the offense stalls, despite the talent being there on the field.
It wasn't the prettiest performance, but how can you not talk about the six(yes, six) turnovers that the Badgers defense created in Week 3?
Wisconsin dug themselves out of holes defensively by consistently finding the football through the air, forcing three first-half interceptions from quarterback Davis Brin, with two coming off quarterback hits from Ben Barten and James Thompson.
The turnovers continued in the second half, as Brin was intercepted twice more, while fumbling in the redzone, killing the momentum.
The Badgers have much to shore up defensively, but finally got their first turnovers of the season, and it came in bunches, with the six takeaways being the major difference between the two sides in Week 3.
The run game is the catalyst of the Badgers offense.
We saw in Week 2 how the Badgers struggled to get going offensively, with the run game stalling, as Washington State dominated the edges.
In Week 3, the Badgers had an intriguing gameplan, primarily involving Chez Mellusi early, although it seemed Wisconsin was rotating their top backs between drives.
Braelon Allen didn't see a single first-quarter carry, and truly only saw volume coming his way in the second half, where he started to erupt, ending with 94 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.
Involving both of their options early presents different offensive looks, although there are questions about Allen’s pass protection, and the Badgers went more pass-heavy early.
But, the run game questions don’t only involve the two different backs; instead, it’s the lack of differentiation with runs to the outside as well, which only started coming together in the second half.
Mellusi had an early outside-zone carry that he nearly broke, but was caught up by the weakside edge rusher, and the Badgers didn’t seem to go back to the concept much until Braelon Allen had the big 32-yard run, starting up his big day.
More variation could help with the early struggles, but one big positive came early with the run game: the usage of Tanner Mordecai.
The Badgers should start incorporating the quarterback runs more. Offensive coordinator Phil Longo saw success at UNC when involving his signal-callers in the run game, and Mordecai has experience with that concept dating back to his SMU days.
Mordecai had two touchdowns and a couple of nice keeper runs, which should continue to occur as the Badgers' offense opens up.
Another aspect of the run that worked in the second half was the involvement of play-action.
To force defenses to respect the play action, there needs to be an establishment of the run game, and that came on the Badgers’ final scoring drive, with Tucker Ashcraft earning two major catches to set up an easy running score.
If the Badgers can get set up earlier, their offense’s potential can really start being seen.