The Wisconsin Badger’s season started off with a gigantic thump. A 16-10 home loss to the Penn State Nittany Lions was littered with mistakes and overall bad play. In particular, the offensive showed no signs of development over the last 9 months, which to say the least, is concerning for the program. There were positives, but as they head into this weekend vs Eastern Michigan, and beyond, there is a lot to work to do for Paul Chryst and co.
Notable Observations from the Game
- Mertz/Red Zone Woes: Graham Mertz and the Badgers entered the red zone four times, and came away with just seven points. In part to the Badger quarterback, two turnovers and one blocked field goal there will lead to losses, and that’s exactly what happened. Mertz has to play better, and the play-calling must improve as well. The Badgers outgained the Nittany Lions, and had 18 more first downs, but fell short when it came time to execute near the end zone.
- Chez Show: Clemson transfer Chez Mellusi was the bell cow back for Wisconsin. He showed explosiveness and balance going for 121 yards on 31 carries against a rejuvenated Penn State front seven. Notably, Jalen Berger was missing in action not playing a single snap. Chryst offered little reasoning for this, and it will be very interesting to monitor going forward.
- Front Seven Excelled: The front seven led by sophomore standout edge rusher Nick Herbig looked the best it has in years. Consistent pressure. Blow up the runs. Overall, just causing chaos behind the line of scrimmage was a welcome sight for Jim Leonard‘s defense.
- Secondary gets Burned: The Achilles heel of all Badger defenses have been one thing. Speed. While Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson is one of the best receivers in the nation, he gave the secondary nightmares leaving them in the dust multiple times, including a 49-yard touchdown.
Meanwhile, the Badgers have little time to sulk. Coming up is a pivotal get-right game vs Eastern Michigan. In effect, they absolutely must get going early. Nevertheless to at least obtain some sort of confidence for the upcoming pivotal stretch of the season.
What we Need to See Saturday
- Get Creative: The Badger offense thrives best with movement. Pre-snap motion, jet sweeps, misdirections, play action. Get creative with the play calling and get the guys into open space. The offense Saturday wasn’t just boring, it was downright bad. Get creative.
- Mertz Get Right: Graham Mertz is under the most scrutiny of his still-young career. Whether or not it is deserved is a different argument, but nevertheless, he needs to put out the tape that can restore fans, and maybe his own team’s confidence in him.
- Offensive Line’s Push: Time will tell how good the Penn State defense turns out, but the O-Line needs to dominate their opponent here. The Badgers still averaged a pedestrian yard per carry in week one, and Mertz was under fire on straight dropbacks nearly every time.
- Forcing Turnovers: One of the “MO’s” of good Badger football teams is the ability to create turnovers. They forced none in week one, and the team lost the overall battle 3-0, which ultimately decided the outcome of the game. Watch for this, as it could be telling what happens for this defense, and the team going forward.