Wisconsin Rushing Attack Looks To Improve Against Bowling Green


It’s not very often that the Wisconsin rushing attack is an area of concern, yet there are many questions surrounding the Badgers’ run game heading into Saturday’s meeting with Bowling Green.

Wisconsin’s rushing attack looked superb in the first half of its season opener against LSU, with the Badgers running all over the Tigers’ defense, accumulating 248 yards on the ground after their first drive of the third quarter. But in the nearly six quarters since that drive, Wisconsin has only been able to muster 187 yards rushing.

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A big reason for the Badgers’ lack of productivity on the ground against Western Illinois, especially in the first half, stemmed from their inability to get anything going through the air. Quarterback Tanner McEvoy struggled mightily against LSU and looked no better in the first quarter against the Leathernecks, allowing Western Illinois to stack the box and dare the Badgers to make plays through their passing game.

Luckily for Wisconsin, McEvoy found a groove, setting a school record with 17 consecutive completions, and the Badgers cruised to a comfortable victory. However, UW was still only able to record 167 yards on 39 carries; an average of 4.3 yards per carry is simply not what you would expect out of Wisconsin against a FCS opponent.

McEvoy’s total of 55 rushing yards even put him ahead of Melvin Gordon, who only picked up 38 yards on 17 carries against the Leathernecks. It certainly didn’t help that fullbacks Derek Straus (collarbone) and Derek Watt (foot) were injured, plus the normally stout offensive line struggled to create gaps for the backfield.

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But with the Badgers getting a bye last week, head coach Gary Andersen and his staff were given time to try to fix the team’s issues with the running game. Part of the solution: having the starters go up against one another more often in practice.

“A lot of good, hard, physical practice,” Andersen said of the bye week. “I think that’s good for this team. They handled it well. They practiced well against each other.”

“Other than that, we worked extremely hard and worked on getting better at our core plays.”

With Straus and Watt both still out indefinitely, along with freshman running back Taiwan Deal (hand), there will be even more pressure on Gordon and Corey Clement to produce for the offense.

However, the Badgers’ best course of action against the Falcons might actually be to help the running game by first establishing themselves through the air. After all, Bowling Green’s pass defense isn’t exactly stellar.

The Falcons are giving up an average of 412.3 yards passing so far this season, easily the worst total in the FBS.

Establishing a formidable passing attack would not only stop Bowling Green from stacking the box, but it would also help keep McEvoy’s confidence high after his solid performance against Western Illinois.

Of course, the subpar performance by the UW rushing attack over the past six quarters shouldn’t be causing anybody to hit the panic button. As long as the Badgers are at least somewhat of a passing threat and not totally one-dimensional on offense, there’s no reason to believe that Gordon and Clement won’t be one of the most effective running back tandems in all of college football. But Wisconsin needs to reestablish itself on the ground, and Andersen acknowledged that getting the run game going will be a point of emphasis against Bowling Green and going forward.

“We expect to get our run game back on track. We expect to be a physical run team,” Andersen said. “We’re not putting any numbers on it or where we want to go. We want to run an effective offense, an effective defense and an effective special teams.”

“But is it a mindset and a want-to for all of us involved in this program to run the ball better than we did a couple of weeks ago? Yes.”