The Wisconsin Badgers had a comfortable 38-17 win in Week 1 over the Buffalo Bulls, aided by a strong second half where they outscored their opponent 24-7 for the victory.
However, despite a win to kick off the new era, head coach Luke Fickell thought his team played sloppy in the win, leading to a need for necessary improvements ahead of Week 2.
Following the game, Fickell pointed to the inconsistencies with playing “clean” football, which showed out early on, both offensively and defensively.
“[The win] wasn’t exactly maybe the way we envisioned. I think the thing we stressed this entire week was about the ability to play clean, and I don’t know that that’s what we really did,” Fickell said on Saturday. “I think that there were some anxieties and things. We played fast. We played aggressive, which I think it cost us a little bit defensively. I think early on we didn’t tackle very well.”
On Monday, after getting a chance to re-look at the film, Fickell shared a similar sentiment, pointing out the sloppy play in areas that the team looked to emphasize.
“I think after the game I probably wasn’t as fired up as maybe I needed to be because winning is not easy and ultimately that’s what it comes down to. Deep downside, I just felt like we were sloppy and I think that’s where to me, it’s hard to be really excited when you just don’t play the way the sound way and some things that we had put a great emphasis on.”
However, Fickell did value how well the run game went, and looked ahead to the challenge of making the necessary improvements ahead of this weekend’s game.
“And it’s awesome because it gives us an opportunity to kind of come back here this second week and this entire practice, opportunities to really kind of focus ourselves back in and to recognize the things that we didn’t do as well,” Fickell said.
The Badgers struggled much more in the air, as quarterback Tanner Mordecai threw for under 200 yards, while tossing two interceptions in his Camp Randall Stadium debut.
Following the game, I asked the quarterback: where do you need to improve for Week 2?
The answer? Consistency, which was a sentiment preached by the locker room following the Week 1 outing.
“I think just [trying to improve] consistency in all aspects. Everything run game checks, throw game. Just trying to be more consistent in every aspect,” Mordecai said following the game. “It wasn’t what I looked for, but [I’m looking ahead to] going forward [and playing] better this week.”
Offensive lineman Tanor Bortolini, who was named the Outland Trophy Player of the Week in Week 1, liked what the team showed in the run game, while expressing confidence that Mordecai would improve going forward as consistency increased.
“I think [the main improvement] is just consistency. I think we had some big plays. We missed just a couple of opportunities, I think, all around,” Bortolini said. “As an O-Line, I think there’s some things to clean up. And just as an offense just headed into week two, just making sure we’re consistent guys aren’t making simple mistakes, not missing simple reads, and we’re able to execute things on a higher level.”
“It’s the first game. It’s an entirely new offense and especially in the first game, you’re not sure what you’re going to see. So I think Buffalo did a good job of mixing up looks, keeping us on our, you know, first game, just sorting out those little details.”
Going into Week 2, the personnel won’t be much easier, if at all, as the Badgers are going up against a front unit that includes defensive linemen Ron Stone Jr. and Brennan Jackson, while the Cougars sport top safety Jaden Hicks, as well as new starter Devin Richardson, who replaces third-rounder Daiyan Henley at linebacker.
To provide themselves the best shot at a victory, the Badgers are going to need more consistency from Mordecai and the passing game, which hopefully continues to develop as the offense gets more reps with each other in a new system.