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 defensive grades from the Badgers’ 35-14 win over Georgia Southern.
Defensive Line/Outside Linebackers: B
The Badgers’ defensive front had their best game of the season, as the team had five total sacks in a solid performance.
Now, there's needed context, as some were coverage sacks, while the Badgers got extra pressure on when backup quarterback JC French entered the game.
But, there were some key plays that led to turnovers, and they were created by the defensive line.
Ben Barten started things off on the second defensive drive, hitting the quarterback on a throw, which led to a Hunter Wohler interception.
James Thompson Jr. shined again, getting a sack with Rodas Johnson, while forcing an interception by hitting quarterback Davis Brin on a pass that was picked off. He’s arguably been the best of the group through three games.
Additionally, C.J. Goetz got a sack of his own, beating a tight end 1-on-1 with speed to get to the quarterback, while Darryl Peterson had two on the day.
The main negative of the day? Run defense, specifically up the middle, where the Badgers gave up a few meaningful carries.
Against more physical teams in the Big Ten West, the Badgers will need to have better run defenses, but their pass rush was a solid sign on Saturday.
Jake Chaney had another sack coming off a blitz, marking his second on the season.
Jordan Turner had a nice pass-rushing rep as well, coming off a blitz and wrapping around the edge well on a stunt to get to the quarterback untouched, forcing an incompletion and a three-and-out.
Maema Njongmeta had a few highlight plays, starting with a fumble recovery in the redzone on a botched snap, but also learned from an early mistake.
Georgia Southern executed a pick play well to get a first down in the flat with Njongmeta in coverage, but the linebacker was able to record a pass-breakup downfield, carrying a tight end on an underthrown ball.
It wasn't the flashiest day for the linebackers, but a solid day nonetheless.
Hunter Wohler continues to be the star of the team, recording 10 tackles for a third consecutive game, while notching two interceptions, including a real nice catch on the second in the endzone on a poor decision from quarterback Davis Brin.
Wohler’s trigger and ability to wrap up(missed one tackle) is vital for the Badgers defense, and he’s looking like the best defender on the team three weeks in.
The Badgers rotated in at safety, with Preston Zachman starting, but Austin Brown and Kamo’i Latu both earning reps at times alongside Wohler and Travian Blaylock.
It wasn't the best coverage day for the Badgers, who gave up 383 passing yards to Davis Brin, with the five interceptions serving as the huge difference in leading to a victory.
Preston Zachman didn't have the best day in coverage, as he was beaten three times, with one serving as a deep catch, another as a touchdown in man-coverage, and the third in an incompletion as the wideout couldn't bring the ball down when hitting the ground.
The reserve safety did notch a nice pass breakup on a crosser in man-coverage, however.
Travian Blaylock was beaten twice in coverage, giving up a catch to Caleb Hood in man-coverage on a crosser, while Davis Brin fit in a beautiful deep pass between him and Ricardo Hallman for a huge gain later.
Additionally, Blaylock and Hallman dropped a potential interception on the first drive, but both couldn't corral the ball in.
Jason Maitre had a tougher day, getting beaten on the first slot fade for a significant gain, while committing a pass interference on a similar play later and a facemask in the second half. The slot cornerback did bounce back with a pass-breakup on the third deep attempt thrown his way, while also catching an easy interception, one of many for the Badgers.
Ricardo Hallman also was beaten a few times, but recorded an interception of his own on a poorly thrown ball straight to him.
The Badgers recorded a number of turnovers, but there were way too many chunk plays in the passing game against Georgia Southern. That needs to be cleaned up going forward.