The Wisconsin Badgers came into the season with a completely new offense, headlined by transfer quarterback Tanner Mordecai, the new pass-catchers, and well-acknowledged offensive coordinator Phil Longo.
However, one group that remained fairly similar was the offensive line, which returned starters Jack Nelson, Tanor Bortolini, Michael Furtney, and Riley Mahlman.
Center Jake Renfro was expected to be a high-profile transfer at center, but multiple injuries sidelined him through the course of the offseason, as well as the beginning of the season, while guard Joe Huber has occupied the starting left guard role.
While there was continuity along the offensive line, a transition from guard to center for Tanor Bortolini, as well as a new offensive scheme led to questions on how quickly the offensive line would acclimate.
Following the first game of Big Ten play, head coach Luke Fickell was pleased with what he saw, especially in pass protection.
“The offensive line kind of took a step forward today, especially pass protection, middle of the field,” Fickell said. “Seemed like they had a lot of time.”
Purdue tried to gain pressure with a number of different fronts, but Fickell was satisfied with how his offensive line was able to hold up, providing quarterback Tanner Mordecai ample time in the pocket to make decisions or take off on the ground.
“I think that there are some of those situations that are a three-man rush,” Fickell said. “But in the three-man rush, sometimes it’s just about being relentless, right? Sometimes you can relax and let up. But that’s [where] I think they did a great job.”
“They didn’t when they brought five. They did a really good job on the five. When they brought six, the backs were in there. I think they did a really good job on that.”
There are areas where the Badgers needed to improve following their first Big Ten action, but Fickell thought the pass protection really stood out as a major positive of the night.
“I think, all in all, as you from where I was standing, I thought the protection was probably one of the best things that we did all night.”
“And there’s some things we got to do better,” Fickell said. “But protection was really good.”
The Badgers will look to continue their momentum against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on October 7th after a refreshing bye week, with hopes of remaining undefeated in conference play.