The Wisconsin football team dropped to 1-3 on the season after a brutal loss to the no. 14 Michigan Wolverines, 38-17.
I would love to sit here and say it was another game where the score didn’t reflect how close the game really was, but let’s be honest, this game was never really close, even when the Badgers cut the lead to three before the half on a Graham Mertz touchdown pass to Chimere Dike.
Right now, the Wisconsin football fans are feeling pretty low, especially with what the preseason expectations for this were. But I’m here to tell you, it hasn’t been all bad this year. But for the most part, it’s been bad and ugly.
Graham Mertz looked like he was getting back on track before his injury
It was another rough start for Mertz, going 0-4 at the start of the game and not completing a pass before the second quarter. But when he finally had some time to throw, he was making some nice completions. After his 0-4 start, Mertz went 8-of-11 for 115 yards which included an 18-yard touchdown pass to Chimere Dike with just 0:20 left in the first half to cut the Wolverine lead to three.
Coming into the second half, there was a sense of optimism that the Wisconsin football offense would keep the momentum rolling when they started the second half with the ball. Instead, Mertz got blown up on a 3rd-and-long and took a big shot to his ribs. He left the game and didn’t return.
That’s when the wheels fell off. Chase Wolf came in and the Badgers didn’t sniff another score until they were down 38-10, when he connected with Billy Cundiff for a touchdown late in the game.
Hopefully, Mertz isn’t hurt too seriously and will be able to come back for Wisconsin’s next game at Illinois next weekend and pick up where he left off and start building some more success.
The special teams continue to hurt this team
It’s amazing how often special teams can really hurt a team.
After a stop when the Wolverines were up 7-0, the defense was going to get off the field. Then freshman safety Hunter Wohler fumbled and lost the ball on the punt return, giving the Wolverines the ball at the Wisconsin 5 yard line. The defense had to come back out onto the field and still kept the offense out of the end zone, but still gave up a field goal. That put the Wolverines up 10-0.
Then after a Wisconsin field goal that cut the lead to 10-7, kicker Jack Van Dyke kicks the ball out of bounds with 2:22 left in the first half. Yes, the Wolverines could have still scored on the drive even if they didn’t kick it out of bounds, but getting the ball in great field position at the 35 could change the opposing team’s mindset. Instead of maybe running the ball and milking the clock to get into halftime, they become more aggressive and got within field goal distance to go up 13-3.
It’s little things like that that can add up and make a difference later on in the game. Special teams need to get some things cleaned up if they are going to turn this season around.
On the plus side, punter Andy Vujnovich had another nice outing. In 8 punts, he averaged 44.9 yards per punt and put three of them within the 20-yard line of the Wolverines, including one downed at the one-yard line.
The offensive line has been atrocious
Wisconsin football fans were quick to point the finger at Mertz earlier this season, but while he hasn’t been up to the standards fans had for him, the offensive struggles are nowhere near completely on him.
The playcalling has been subpar and uncreative, but this offensive line has been nowhere near where they need to be. There is a lot of talent in the group, but most of the four and five-star recruits are still depth pieces, behind veteran guys like Tyler Beach and Logan Bruss.
Speaking of Beach, he was essentially a revolving door all afternoon, being abused time and time again by Michigan’s defensive line. The Michigan defense was in the Wisconsin backfield constantly. I don’t care who you are, if you don’t have any time to throw the ball, you aren’t going to succeed.
The same is true for the running game. The Badgers, who are considered by many to be OLine U and RBU, just aren’t getting it done on the ground. Today, the Badgers had 43 total rushing yards.
Their leading rusher was true freshman Braelon Allen, who had 4 carries for 19 yards.
I understand that the Badgers needed to pass the ball because they fell behind and because Michigan was playing the run more, but 43 yards from Wisconsin is a huge red flag.