After a disappointing loss in Week 2 against the Washington State Cougars, the Wisconsin Badgers bounced back in a 35-14 win over the Georgia Southern Eagles, breaking out in the second half to score 28 unanswered points.
Both sides of the ball started off slow, but the offense recovered in the second half, courtesy of the running game, while the defense forced a whopping six turnovers in the victory.
Here are the offensive grades from the Badgers’ 35-14 win over Georgia Southern.
Tanner Mordecai had a fine game, completing 19/30 passes for 236 yards, while rushing six times for 40 yards and two touchdowns, not including his sack.
Early on, Mordecai had one strong drive, where he completed six passes while efficiently operating the up-tempo offense, leading to the Badgers’ lone score of the first half.
However, he and the offense couldn't get anything going outside of that, with the Badgers settling for six punts and four three-and-outs in the first half.
It was a shorter gameplan for Mordecai, with 21 of his 30 passes traveling within five air yards, and the quarterback completed 16 of those opportunities.
Mordecai was solid over the intermediate range, completing 8/12 passes, but struggled to throw deep once again, hitting just 1/4 passes past 15 yards.
The passing game struggled early with a lack of run game, and it led to just an average day for Mordecai.
The rushing threat, which I had advocated for this week, started to unfold, leading to a “B-” grade for the quarterback, but there are certainly still some improvements to be had, such as letting reads develop instead of getting off them too quickly.
One thing’s clear: the offense needs to start much faster going forward.
Running Backs: B
It was a struggling start for the Badgers’ running backs, as Braelon Allen didn't see a single first-quarter carry, despite head coach Luke Fickell sharing that the back was supposed to be a part of the gameplan early on.
Chez Mellusi couldn't get much going early, as the Badgers saw a number of blitzes and heavy boxes, but started executing much better in the second half, where Allen started to explode.
Allen started things off with a 32-yard rush, as the Badgers’ offense began to flow after that.
Allen finished with 94 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries, while Mellusi ended with 61 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
There needs to be a better start in the run game for the Badgers, and likely a bigger involvement for Allen early.
One aspect I’m not as big of a fan of? The heavy utilization of Allen in the passing game, as placing him in space hasn't worked much early, leading to very short gains, despite a heavy volume.
Wide Receivers: B-
Tanner Mordecai distributed the ball across the board, targeting eight different players, but it wasn't as big of a day for the wideouts as before.
Will Pauling, who had paced the team in receiving stats in each of the first two weeks, didn't play that much overall on Saturday, and his target share was low as a result, with the wideout catching just one pass for 16 yards.
Skyler Bell led the team with a career-high five catches for 47 yards, operating as the main slot guy on a day that Pauling didn't see the field as much.
Chimere Dike had the biggest catch of the day for the receivers, hauling in a 38-yard pass, while finishing with three catches for 47 yards.
It was a quiet day for Bryson Green, who didn't earn any catches, but C.J. Williams was featured a little, catching two passes for 15 yards.
With the passing game heavily struggling early, and the run game dominating most of the major offensive production, it wasn't as big of a day for the wideouts, but their grade isn't heavily tanked due to the lack of negative plays.
Tight Ends: B+
The tight ends have been pretty quiet to start the season, with blocking serving as a majority of their production, but that narrative changed on Saturday, as Hayden Rucci and Tucker Ashcraft both caught two passes each.
Rucci saw the longest catch of the day, a 45-yarder, and finished with 51 yards, a career-high, while Ashcraft had a pair of play-action passes thrown his way for 32 yards on a nice scoring drive in the second half.
Rucci also had a nice block that I could recall, setting the edge well on an outside run.
It was a productive day for the tight ends, and a good sign that Tanner Mordecai can trust his tight ends more with receiving work, opening up opportunities for the offense.
Offensive Line: B-
In the first half, the offensive line struggled to generate holes against an aggressive Georgia Southern defense, resulting in a stagnant run game and offense overall.
However, things started to click in the second half, as the Badgers got a major hole on an outside-zone run from Braelon Allen for 32 yards, with the run game opening up after that.
If the Badgers line can remain consistent, it'll be a good sign for the offense in maintaining some level of overall consistency, but that hasn't fully been there through three games.
Center Tanor Bortolini did struggle with a high snap in the redzone, which luckily was corraled in by quarterback Tanner Mordecai, who improvised and ran for a touchdown.
But, it was a fine performance by the offensive line in the run game, while the pass protection was good throughout, as Mordecai had a ton of time to throw or improvise, while getting sacked just once.
But, as I said above, it'll come down to consistency and erasing the small mistakes that occurred early if the Badgers are to be highly competitive in conference play.