Wisconsin football has long been a program lauded for having an identity, and consistently playing to their strengths. That identity was challenged early in the season when Wisconsin started the year 1-3, which absolutely nobody saw coming. Rather than fold and punt the season altogether, this Wisconsin team re-grouped and convincingly righted the ship.
Now, 18th ranked Wisconsin has won 6 straight games and improved their record to 7-3 with a 35-7 win over visiting Northwestern. Wisconsin is now just two wins away from a Big Ten Championship appearance (which would be Wisconsin’s 4th trip under Paul Chryst). A truly astonishing turnaround for Paul Chryst and the Wisconsin football program.
The offense totaled 497 yards in a balanced attack (229 passing, 268 rushing). Graham Mertz looked really good once again (18/23, 216 yards + 2 touchdowns), although he did throw one interception. It was especially nice to see Mertz spread the ball around as he did, nine different players caught a pass in the first half alone. It’s also worth mentioning the offensive line appeared to do an excellent job in pass protection.
Then there’s Braelon Allen, who showed without a shadow of a doubt, he can be Wisconsin’s workhorse running back in the absence of Chez Mellusi.
Jim Leonhard’s defensive unit did what it always does – shut down their opponent. Northwestern did however come out swinging. The Wildcats’ first drive went for 82 yards on 19 plays, but would ultimately only gain 108 more yards on its next 41 plays (2.6 yards per play).
Overall, Northwestern was held to just 190 total yards (3.2 Yards per play). Wisconsin’s defense forced four total turnovers on the day, all interceptions. It’s fair to say the days of being concerned about the defense needing to force more turnovers are LONG gone.
So, without further ado, it’s time to hand out game balls from the win over Northwestern.
Offense: Braelon Allen
Another week, another incredible offensive showing from the true freshman running back. Braelon Allen took over the RB1 duties and put on a show, finishing with 25 carries, 173 yards (6.9 YPC), and 3 touchdowns.
This marked Allen’s sixth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, which is the longest streak of its kind at in the Wisconsin football program since Jonathan Taylor opened the 2018 season with seven straight 100-yard games.
This kid is special, and it’s going to be incredible watching him continue to grow at a position he has minimal experience playing.
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s honestly amazing how controversial putting him on offense truly was because offense turned out to be the exact right choice. Braelon Allen is Wisconsin’s new star running back.
Defense: Leo Chenal and Jack Sanborn
“Death Row” as they call themselves were incredible all game long. Chenal and Sanborn are the top inside linebacker duo in the Big Ten, and probably the country at this point. Both Wisconsin linebackers lived in Northwestern’s backfield – ending the game with three tackles for loss apiece.
Leo Chenal is an actual brick wall, and is playing at an All-American level – this isn’t even up for debate at this point. Against Northwestern Chenal totaled 12 tackles, 3 for a loss, and a sack. Badger fans are so spoiled this is beginning to feel like par for the course at this point.
As for Jack Sanborn, he piled up 9 tackles of his own, 3 for a loss. Sanborn has been as steady of an inside linebacker presence as I’ve seen at Wisconsin, and we’ve seen some good ones.