The Wisconsin football team showed there are plenty of horses in the running back stable in their win over Michigan.
Wisconsin football is known for their ability to run the football. The Badgers lost two-time Doak-Walker award-winner, Jonathan Taylor, to the NFL Draft after last season. It often takes more than one person to fill shoes that big, and that’s what Wisconsin has.
They don’t have a running back who is as talented as Taylor, but they don’t necessarily need to. They have a lot of depth on this team at that position. Granted, in their first game against the Illini, the running game had some tough sledding. Illinois stacked the box against the Badgers and made the Badgers beat them through the air, which Graham Mertz happily did.
Garrett Groshek, Nakia Watson, and a little Isaac Guerendo were the main rushers against the Illini and totaled 168 yards on the ground on 43 attempts.
Coming into the game Saturday night, we weren’t sure who would be available on either side of the ball after all of the positive tests within the program. Turns out, the Badgers were going to be without Groshek and Guerendo, leaving Nakia Watson as the only running back to get a carry in the Illinois game.
So with Groshek and Guerendo out, Paul Chryst had to call on freshman running back Jalen Berger to contribute to the running game with Watson, and he did not disappoint. He ended the game as the leading rusher. He had 12 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown. He was also involved in the passing game, catching two passes for 13 yards.
Watson joined Berger with a rushing touchdown as well. Together, Watson and Berger ran for 152 yards a pair of touchdowns.
Outside of true running backs, the Badgers also got plenty of production from fullbacks Mason Stokke and John Chenal. Chenal had 71 yards on the ground, including a 43-yard scamper late in the game. Meanwhile, Stokke added a pair of touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air.
It will be interesting to see how many carries Berger continues to get after Groshek and Guerendo come back. The Badgers have a nice problem on their hands. This group of running backs will make the loss of JT a lot more bearable.
Receivers also had a big impact on the ground. I’m not sure what Chryst saw with the Wolverine’s defense, but he went back to the receiver end-around multiple times throughout the game. Receiver Danny Davis ran the ball seven times for 65 yards and a touchdown. Freshman receiver Chimere Dike joined in the fun too, breaking free for a 30-yard run on an end-around.
In all, the running back group for the Wisconsin football team gashed the Wolverines for 341 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. With this performance, the Badgers showed that they are still a run-dominant team. They aren’t just the air-it-out team that they saw three weeks ago against Illinois.
Between Graham Mertz and this running game, the Wisconsin offense looks to be one of the better units in the Big Ten and will be for the foreseeable future.