After a plethora of slow starts over the last few games, the Wisconsin Badgers came into Week 4 clicking on all cylinders, jumping to an early 14-0 lead and finishing the half up 21-3 over the Purdue Boilermakers.
Offensively, the Badgers are showcasing some of their potential, scoring on each of their first three drives, while the defense held Purdue to three punts and a field goal.
Whose stock is up and down through 30 minutes of action between the Badgers and the Boilermakers?
OC Phil Longo
Thus far, the Badgers offense seemed on the verge of breaking out, but hadn't really done so through three weeks, with me having some gameplan questions after hearing how players only really started adjusting in second halves.
That wasn't the case in Week 4, and much credit goes to offensive coordinator Phil Longo for utilizing a powerful weapon at his disposal: the zone-read.
Now, Longo has used zone-read a ton this season, but we haven't seen much volume in running the quarterback.
Ahead of this week, I asked head coach Luke Fickell and quarterback Tanner Mordecai about increasing that usage, and both alluded to an increase in opportunities in that area, although some would be scrambles.
That extra implementation led to Tanner Mordecai’s first touchdown, which has opened up 11-on-11 football for the Badgers, leading to a successful game on the ground.
Props go to Phil Longo for the gameplan and playcalling in the first half.
WR Will Pauling
Will Pauling has just two catches for 22 yards, so why is he on stock up?
As I’ve alluded to this spring and season, Pauling’s route-running was one of his strong suits, and that skillset is extremely important for the slot receiver in this offense.
Why? Well, in an offense looking to get the ball out quick, Pauling is tasked with running a number of out-routes, which require crisp route-running to obtain as much space as possible for the quarterback.
Pauling demonstrated that on both of his catches, while fighting for a first down to move the chains on the latter play.
Good start for the wideout in this game.
QB Tanner Mordecai
Tanner Mordecai has looked pretty comfortable here in the first half of Week 4, showcasing the willingness to utilize his legs, while operating efficiently in the air.
The air yards and distance haven't been crazy; Mordecai is 10/14 for 73 yards, but he also has nine rushes for 49 yards and two touchdowns, and hasn't made many poor decisions.
You can argue that Mordecai does leave the pocket sometimes, rather than let the play fully develop, but that was a part of the gameplan, given Purdue’s struggle in containing the run.
The Badgers have scored three touchdowns in four drives, and Mordecai’s ability from the pocket and unwavering mentality to continue the play has resulted in positive plays tonight.
TE Hayden Rucci
Rucci makes the list after a dropped touchdown, although it ultimately didn't matter as the Badgers scored a touchdown, courtesy of a Tanner Mordecai rushing touchdown.
Still, you do hope Wisconsin is able to capitalize on all of their opportunities, especially in the redzone, and that was a missed chance on the tight end’s lone target of the night thus far.
WR Skyler Bell
Similar to Rucci, Skyler Bell makes the list after a dropped touchdown on a well-placed outside-shoulder deep ball from Tanner Mordecai that went through his hands as the wideout attempted to track the pass.
That led to the lone punt of the night for the Badgers, who couldn't recover from the drop to convert the first down.
It’s just one play, but Bell now has two major drops that could've been touchdowns this season.
Coming into the week, I pointed out the run defense as a potential cause for worry, which had been seen at times on tape during the first few games, especially on runs between the tackles.
That continued during the first half against Purdue, as the Boilermakers rushed for 93 yards on 11 attempts in the first half, averaging 8.5 yards per carry.
A majority came from quarterback Hudson Card, who had six carries for 49 yards in the first half, but Dylan Downing and Tyrone Tracy Jr. combined for 44 yards on five carries, including a number of explosive plays.
While it likely won’t hurt them against Purdue, the Badgers need to tighten that area up defensively if they are to be a true threat in the Big Ten.