We are just two weeks into the season and there are already things trending up and down for the Wisconsin football team. We’ve seen some very good things and some very ugly things in just two games.
Stock Up – The Defense
Even in the loss to Penn State, the defense was really good. They held the Nittany Lions to zero points in the first half before finally breaking and allowing 16 points in the second half.
In the second game against Eastern Michigan, they were completely dominant. They allowed just 92 total yards, including just 16 rushing yards on 18 rushing attempts. At the half, the Eagles had just one first down and had negative rushing yards.
The Eagles moved the ball a little more when the backups came in, but not much. Even the backups shut down Eastern Michigan and forced a turnover when Donte Burton intercepted a tipped pass. In the end, the Eagles ended the game with seven points, but that was off of a pick-six on an ill-advised pass from Chase Wolf in the 4th quarter.
Through two games this season, the Badgers have allowed 8 points per game this season. They have also given up just 161.5 yards through the air and 33 yards on the ground per game so far this year. Granted, the Eastern Michigan game is a big part of that, but nonetheless, it’s still impressive.
It looks like the Wisconsin football team will have one of the best defenses in all of college football once again in 2021.
Stock Down – Red Zone Offense
It was the single biggest problem in their loss to Penn State. Going 1-for-4 in the red zone is not a recipe for winning. In a game where the Badgers lost by six, they left nine points at a minimum on the board.
Now, even against the Eastern Michigan Eagles, the Badgers had issues. On their first drive of the game, running back Chez Mellusi busted a 60-yard run, getting the Badgers into the red zone after getting tripped up just short of a touchdown. The offense then ran four straight running plays, including on 4th and goal only to be stuffed.
So far this season, the Badgers have converted on just 50% of their red zone trips, according to teamrankings.com. Last season, they converted on 88% of their trips. There’s a lot of season left, but their play in the red zone has definitely left a lot to be desired.
Stock Up – The Running Game
Luckily even when Graham Mertz was struggling in passing the ball against Penn State, the Badgers could lean on the running game to have some success. In Week 1, Mellusi went over the 100-yard rushing mark on 31 carries. As a team, the Badgers out-rushed the Nittany Lions 180-50.
Then, against Eastern Michigan, the Badgers busted two 60+ yard runs. Mellusi had a 60-yard run on the first drive and Isaac Guerendo blew by everyone for an 82-yard touchdown towards the end of the first half. Mellusi finished the game with 144 yards and a touchdown. Guerendo had just four carries but had 92 yards on the ground with a touchdown. Also, Jalen Berger got 15 carries for 62 yards.
If that three-headed monster can keep rolling as they did against Eastern Michigan, they won’t need to put a lot of pressure on Graham Mertz and the passing game. Yes, they will play defenses much better than Eastern Michigan, but having a good running game has always been important to the Wisconsin football program. If they can get it rolling, the Badgers are going to be successful.