The Wisconsin Badgers quickly defeated the Northwest Wildcats 42-7, showing true offensive dominance for one of the first times 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 offensive ratings for this week:
Graham Mertz had his best game of the season, completing 20/29 passes for 299 yards, while matching his career-high and Wisconsin’s career-high in touchdown passes with five.
Mertz consistently hit open receivers, which hadn’t been the case all season, and seemed to be much more comfortable in the pocket than normal.
Additionally, Mertz worked on his progressions on some plays, which led to a nice 52-yard touchdown pass to Chimere Dike.
Great throw from Graham Mertz to Chimere Dike for a 52 yard touchdown.
Mertz, who struggled to work through the progressions, worked left to middle to find Dike, who did the rest for the score.
— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) October 8, 2022
Mertz seemed to benefit immensely from the good call play, which incorporated more game action, a balance between running and passing, and new concepts that had fooled the North West defense for most of the game.
Mertz had some inaccuracies that will need to be corrected against tougher opponents as he missed two touchdown opportunities on consecutive plays on the first practice that forced the Badgers to settle for a field goal, which kicker Nate Van Zelst missed.
Additionally, Mertz continues to miss some shots, which has been one of his main lapses when it comes to accuracy.
However, Mertz also incorporated the deep ball, attempting to hit sneaky receiver Dean Engram on a shooting play. While the ball was inaccurate, it’s important for Mertz to continue the trend in an effort to stretch the defense and open up the running game.
Finally, Mertz continues to display happy feet in the pocket, sometimes bailing early on clean pockets rather than letting play develop, but the offensive line has done a wonderful job of giving him space, which made it possible to extend the games and find receivers.
Despite a few mistakes, Mertz executed the game plan, limiting turnover-worthy plays, which led to Wisconsin’s most significant offensive performance of the year.
Running backs: A-
Braelon Allen had a rebounding game, recording 23 carries for 135 yards while also throwing for a touchdown.
Allen, a running back who operates with patience, allowing the offensive line to create holes, did a great job identifying running lanes while running for extra yards when there were no openings.
Allen continues to be used out of the wildcat on occasion, but it didn’t hurt the Badgers much in this game, as it even resulted in a passing touchdown from Allen, who found his teammate At Mellusi for the score.
All in all, it was a good game plan for Allen by offensive coordinator Bobby Engram, and the sophomore running back executed it, which kept the ball moving for Wisconsin offensively.
Auxiliary running back Chez Mellusi was much less effective with his runs, going just 31 yards in ten carries.
While Mellusi has been considered “Mr. Reliable” in the backfield, his lack of elite traits limits big-play potential, and his efficiency isn’t good enough to justify a heavy workload week in and week out. .
Instead, the Badgers should look to balance runs between him and Isaac Guerendo, who provides more as a running back who can run out-of-bounds runs, which would open up the playbook for Engram, keeping the offense less predictable, while still keeping the game running smoothly.
Unfortunately for Mellusi, the senior running back suffered a wrist injury that required surgery over the weekend, which will likely keep him out until at least the bye week, according to the head coach. Jim Leonhard.
With the injury, Guerendo should become second running back, which could provide an offensive spark if the Badgers can run plays from the outside zone with their front five.
Wide Receivers: A
Chimere Dike was the star of the day, catching ten passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns, career highs for the junior receiver.
The ball consistently found Dike, who was also last week’s top receiver, and the wide made Northwestern pay, performing after the catch and constantly opening up to give Graham Mertz an easy target.
Skyler Bell was the Badgers’ second leading receiver, catching two passes for 36 yards and a touchdown.
As Bell cooled off after his four-catch, 106-yard game earlier in the season, the redshirt rookie caught Mertz’s first touchdown pass of the day as the receiver was the recipient of a pass game that had the defense. fooled.
Surprisingly, Dean Engram played an offensive role this week, catching four passes for 32 yards, while being used in a number of different ways.
Engram replaced Keontez Lewis when the latter receiver left with an injury last week, but was intended to take a back seat in Week 6 after the UCLA transfer became available for the game.
This was not the case and Engram will be looking to build on its momentum after a very quiet year so far.
Speaking of Lewis, the second-year receiver played Saturday’s game but ended up with just one catch for six yards.
However, it was not for lack of trying as Lewis opened up in the end zone on the first drive but Mertz missed high which led to a field goal attempt.
With Dike certainly a known commodity after his performance, it’s likely other receivers will have to step up against Michigan State next weekend.
Tight ends: C
Jack Eschenbach was not a factor in Saturday’s game, catching just one pass for 11 yards.
While it was expected that one of Wisconsin’s tight ends could emerge as a safety blanket this season, given Jake Ferguson’s involvement in 2021, as well as Dean Engram’s system of positional emphasis. , injuries have decimated the Wisconsin roster.
Clay Cundiff, who is out for the season, and Hayden Rucci were inactive for Wisconsin’s game on Saturday, leaving Eschenbach as the primary tight end.
For now, it looks like tight ends won’t have as big of an impact in the passing game in 2022, given the emergence of other skill position players, and with Rucci currently out, it remains to be seen. see how they will impact the racing game.
Offensive line: A
The offensive line played its cleanest game of the season on Saturday and had arguably the best performance of any positional group on the day.
As Tyler Beach nursed an undisclosed injury, right guard Tanor Bortolini was moved to left guard, while Michael Furtney was returned to the starting lineup on the right side.
Furtney played well in the early running game, working as a shooting guard and setting up multiple blocks alongside left tackle Jack Nelson to create lanes for Braelon Allen to operate on.
In pass protection, the Badgers allowed no sacks and Mertz was rarely pressured, which also led to his cleanest performance of the year.
When the offensive line was battered at the start, they recovered well, allowing Mertz to extend plays and hit targets on the field.
It was a much-needed rebounding performance for the Badgers offensive line, which struggled considerably against Illinois Fighting Illini, and although Jack Nelson committed a penalty, the unit limited negative plays for the most part.