The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Georgia Southern Eagles 35-14 on Saturday, finishing strong in the second half after a slow start, scoring 28 unanswered points en route to victory.
While it was a good sign for the Badgers to rack up their second victory ahead of conference play, the offense started slow once again, scoring just seven points in the first half and going three-and-out four times.
An intriguing storyline on offense was the lack of carries for running back Braelon Allen early, who didn't see his first touch on the ground until the second quarter, with Chez Mellusi earning a majority of the early action.
Why did the Badgers not involve Allen much in the gameplan early?
There wasn't much of an explanation postgame from head coach Luke Fickell, who revealed that involving Allen early was a part of the gameplan, but just didn't come to fruition.
“Yeah, [involving Braelon Allen early] was part of the game plan. It just didn’t — sometimes you’ve got to adapt and adjust. In the first half, we couldn’t and didn’t, for whatever reason,” Fickell said. “We’ll go and take a good hard look at it and see why.”
However, the Badgers head coach did share his props to Georgia Southern’s defensive line for making things difficult early on.
“Give them some credit,” Fickell said. “They’ve got some 340-pounders inside there and it’s not the easiest thing in the world I guess early on.”
The run game struggled to develop early on, with a majority of carries stemming underneath five yards, which Fickell said didn't provide the necessary energy, despite potentially being physical plays.
“But nonetheless, guys don’t recognize and realize — everybody around here does because they’ve seen it for such a long time, but even a four- and five-yard run — the two-yard runs, it’s hard to gain any energy from that,” Fickell said. “Even though they’re body blows and they wear people down, but the five and the six ones are the ones that you can just see a spark.”
The change to more chunk plays increased in the second half, adding to the Badgers’ offensive momentum, which set the tone for the offense going forward.
“That’s what it was in the second half,” Fickell said. “It wasn’t an 89-yard run or whatever it was the last time. It was a six-yard run, it was an eight-yard run, and it was physical and it was close to being broken. That’s where I think you started to feel some things that were a bit different.”
However, Fickell did reveal that the star running back was struggling with some injuries this week in practice when asked about the reasoning behind Mellusi’s start, while also valuing the latter’s change-of-pace ability.
“[We went with Chez because of the] change of pace a little bit. Braelon was dinged up a little bit. But that’s what I’m as proud of anything; he didn’t bat an eye at it, whether it was dinged up a little bit, or hey, this is the route we’re going to go based on where you are physically,” Fickell said.
“He feels a lot better, and I’m not saying he was going to be a game-time decision, but he had got dinged up a little bit even in practice. I can honestly tell you I’m proud of him for the way he fought through, the way he handled even today, and it showed in the second half.”
The Badgers will need a healthy Allen to incorporate the entirety of their run game in Week 4, when they start conference play against the Purdue Boilermakers on the road next Friday.