This college football season has been quite a wild season. Some teams that were highly touted now sit far below expectations. There is still plenty of time left in the season for most teams to salvage a bowl game qualification, but changes will need to be made. Especially for the new-look Wisconsin Badgers, who recently moved on from former head coach Paul Chryst.
Whether or not Chryst should’ve been fired is a different discussion, but this is the direction the Badgers’ administration has chosen to go. The Badgers players will need to pick up their game if they hope to win. It will all start with the run game for Wisconsin, which hasn’t been as effective this season.
The Next Great Badger?
Wisconsin is a historic run-first school, and it is just what the team does. SMU, Washington State, and Oregon State are known for their air-raids and pass first offense. Every offense has their own style and type of play they gear towards in college, and the Badgers want to run the ball whenever they get the chance.
While the NFL and college are shifting to option and pass-first type offense, the Badgers continue to hammer the ball on the ground. However, this season has proven to be difficult for the Wisconsin rushing offense. Braelon Allen has still proven to be the stud he is, after breaking multiple long touchdowns and carrying the rushing load.
CAREER RUNS OF 70+ YARDS
J. Taylor – 5 (in 41 games)
B. Allen – 4 (in 16 games) pic.twitter.com/OMsMBQHD49
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) September 28, 2022
As great as Allen has been for the Badgers this year, the offense needs to work as a cohesive unit. Allen has 499 rushing yards and six touchdowns through essentially four games, since he only touched the ball eight times last outing. Chez Mellusi was the feature back against Illinois, rushing for only 16 yards, in what was an abysmal offensive performance.
The Blocking Needs Improvement
Against Illinois, the offense was shut down and couldn’t muster up much. The issues started on the offensive line and presented themselves throughout the game. Graham Mertz was sacked five times and the Allen/Mellusi duo couldn’t get a block. Mertz has been sacked a total of 10 times this year, and backup quarterback Myles Burkett has also been sacked once.
As mentioned before, everyone remembers Allen’s big runs. He can break away for 20+ yards with ease, although, he needs to have a hole to hit to do so. Outside of his big runs, against Illinois, Ohio State, and Washington State Allen regularly was kept under 5 yards a gain. The Badgers struggled to gain first downs in all three losses and the inability to consistently keep gaps open made it difficult. The run game has been the source of Badger first downs, and when it is stopped it has been difficult for the team to adapt.
— Badgers Film Clips (@Badgers_Film) September 28, 2022
The video clip above shows how Braelon Allen can break away and run effectively when given the blocking to do so. The offensive line does a great job getting out ahead of Allen and providing him with key blocks. Allen has gotten his chances this year for the Badgers. He has been able to make the most of them, but with help he could have an unprecedented season.
The Slow Start Bug Attacking the Badgers
The Badgers have struggled this year to score quickly. The scoring has come in one bunch each game, often at the end of the game when it is futile. If Wisconsin is able to turn it around and have a fast-paced first half it could take the pressure off the team. Playing with a lead against conference teams would put the team into unknown territory this season.
HALFTIME: Illinois 14, Wisconsin 10 pic.twitter.com/1UUp4kn3vl
— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) October 1, 2022
The tweet above shows the first half offensive statistics for the Badgers. The run game was non-existent, and it forced Graham Mertz into throwing the ball more. Most of his drop backs turned into scrambles and he came under pressure far too often. The mistakes are still there for Mertz, as well, which has hampered the Wisconsin offense. Some of the interceptions have been due to broken plays and missed blocking assignments, while others have been clear misses.
Offensively, aiding the stud running back Braelon Allen will do wonders for the team. Holding blocks and executing plays to stay on the field is much easier said than done. The Badgers are not a Madden team. Allen can’t carry the ball 40 times a game when the team is down. Easing the pressure on Allen can help the team work together cohesively.