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Three quick takeaways from No. 19 Badgers 38-17 win over Buffalo

The Badgers had an up-and-down start to the Luke Fickell era, but pulled out a comfortable victory.

The Wisconsin Badgers kicked off the Luke Fickell era with a 38-17 win over the Buffalo Bulls in an up-and-down game that eventually led to a comfortable victory to start off the 2023 season.

Much of the eyes were on quarterback Tanner Mordecai and offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s “Air Raid” attack, but it was more so the running game that stood out on Saturday, while the defense was able to withhold the Bulls to 17 points.

Here are three quick takeaways from the No. 19 Badgers 38-17 win over Buffalo.

Short-distance situations

The Wisconsin Badgers defense had a strong second half, allowing just seven points, which came after a Tanner Mordecai interception.

What really stood out was their ability to contain the Bulls' offense in short-distance situations, as the Badgers had multiple fourth-and-short stops.

Overall, the Badgers held Buffalo to 2/15 on third downs and 1/5 on fourth downs in a strong defensive performance.

While the Badgers' pass rush left much to be desired, the team played well in forcing stops, and that’s a key trait that’ll be looked upon later in the season.

Strong run game

Despite all the buzz about an “Air Raid” system coming to Wisconsin, there was never any doubt that the Badgers would still feature the run game, such as they did on Saturday.

Chez Mellusi led it off with a strong 13-carry, 157-yard, and two-touchdown performance, displaying great patience, increased burst, and good vision on a solid day for the backup running back.

Starter Braelon Allen was no slouch either, carrying the rock 17 times for 141 yards and a pair of touchdowns as well.

But, in addition to the stellar performances by the running backs, the run game flourished due to strong run blocking all around, leading to nine rushes of 10+ yards.

With the inconsistencies showcased in the passing game, the Badgers may feature the run more heavily to start, and Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi picked up exactly where they left off on Saturday.

Screen-heavy passing attack

It was an uninspiring start to his Badgers career for Tanner Mordecai, who completed 24/31 passes for 177 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.

But what really was intriguing about Mordecai’s performance was the array of passes he threw.

11 of Mordecai’s passes were at or behind the line of scrimmage, while another 10 were within five yards.

From my vision, it was a combination of two factors: Mordecai’s desire to get the ball out quickly to his checkdowns, and a variety of screen plays that were intended for shorter completions.

There needs to be a better balance in the passing game, otherwise, the Badgers’ offensive attack will remain one-sided, be it on offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s playcalling or Mordecai’s decision-making.