The Wisconsin Badgers quickly beat the Northwestern Wildcats 42-7 as the defense nearly held a scoreless opponent for the second time this season.
As a result, interim head coach Jim Leonhard picked up his first career victory in a new era for the Badgers after Paul Chryst was fired early last week following an inexplicable 34-10 loss to Illinois. .
Here are the defensive ratings for this week:
Defensive line: B+
Wisconsin’s defensive line was depleted heading into the game as starting defensive end Isaiah Mullens missed the game with a leg injury.
Moreover, Keeanu Benton picked up an injury during the game which forced him to miss the second half.
Nonetheless, the Badger’s defensive line didn’t back down, limiting the Northwestern Wildcats to just 2.9 yards per carry, while top running back Evan Hull managed just 13 yards on nine carries.
As a result, Northwestern was forced to implement a quick play as their offensive line was dominated at the line of scrimmage, which quarterbacks Ryan Hilinski and Brendan Sullivan failed to execute consistently, which didn’t gave up only seven offensive points.
Northwestern compiled several drives where they at least got close to midfield, but Wisconsin forced three turnovers while keeping the Wildcats offense out of the end zone.
Nick Herbig, whose impact was minimal in Week 5, got back on track, recording four pressures and a backpack on quarterback Brendan Sullivan who forced a turnover in Wisconsin territory .
However, the defensive line committed several penalties, as Rodas Johnson and Gio Paez were offside on different plays, and Nick Herbig committed a personal foul on the return of a Kamo’i Latu interception.
Overall, the defensive line was able to have its effect, especially in walking, despite the defeats of two starters, hence the B+ rating.
The Badgers changed their starting linebacker rotation as Jake Chaney and Tatum Grass were inserted in place of Maema Njongmeta and Jordan Turner.
It was later revealed that Njongmeta had broken his hand which forced him to play with a club, although it is unclear if the injury was the main reason for the switch.
Chaney had been an underrated player in limited time so far, and arguably looked better than Turner, who had several gaps in coverage in previous weeks.
The backup linebacker took advantage of his opportunity, recording a team-high four pressures and executing linebacker blitzes well when his number was called.
Chaney and Grass combined for nine tackles, with the latter also having a tackle for loss with his performance.
It will be curious if Chaney will have the opportunity to build on this performance and get more playing time as the season progresses, as he is a player who deserves more reps.
After a week in which he was constantly targeted and beaten, cornerback Jay Shaw was a constant factor for the Badgers in Week 6, recording a pass breakup, while holding on.
The Badgers defensive backs held the Northwest quarterbacks to 22/41 passing for 263 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
As the Wildcats moved the ball down in the passing game, several bigger plays were well defended but just good offense, including a 41-yard catch by Bryce Kirtz.
Cédrick Dort Jr. recorded two broken passes, the latter of which unfortunately led to a head injury which forced him out of the game.
Ricardo Hallman continues to be consistent for the Badgers, recording another pass breakup and being in good position for the majority of the game, which is all you can ask for, given his size.
Defensive backs continue to struggle occasionally with tackles in space, which has led to big plays for opposing attacks in the quick game, and that needs to be cleaned up.
But, with a solid cornerback game after a porous performance in Week 5, the Badgers unit gets a B grade.
Kamo’i Latu was the star of the game defensively, recording two interceptions, earning him the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Week award.
Latu is a physical and aggressive player, who will miss tackles himself, but plays with a level of intensity necessary for a defensive back on this team.
While interceptions for safeties are sometimes seen as being in the right place at the right time, the Badgers hadn’t forced turnovers and Latu’s presence changed that dynamic last weekend, providing additional momentum, which allowed the attack to stay in a rhythm.
Latu’s aggression led to an unnecessary roughness penalty on Saturday, which cannot happen in the future.
Safety John Torchio also worked well near the line of scrimmage, recording two tackles for loss, including one with great anticipation on the edge.
Additionally, Torchio was instrumental in the passing game, recording two pass breakups himself, showcasing his multi-faceted abilities.
Although the Badgers didn’t play their cleanest defensive game, the defensive backs played well, especially when the Wildcats approached the goal line.