After a hard fought game, the Wisconsin Badgers fell short against the Northwestern Wildcats 17-7. The game was a slug fest, being tied at seven for the entire first quarter and most of the second quarter. After a scoreless third quarter, the Wildcats pulled away in the fourth quarter with a field goal. At that point, it was a two score game and the Badgers offense was getting nothing going. Even in the loss, there were high points. But there were more low points. Here are the takeaways.
Graham Mertz is good. He has proven it in previous games and he looks like he has a lot of potential. However, this was not his game. Mertz threw three interceptions and had a fumble. Mertz’s redshirt freshman status really showed through in this game. He also completed only about 50% of his passes in this game. Most of the Wisconsin offense was unable to get anything going against the stingy Wildcat defense. However, Jalen Berger was a small high point in this game. Berger had 93 yards on 15 carries with an average of 6.2 yards per carry. The freshman from New Jersey looks like he could be Wisconsin’s next star running back. And while Mertz had a very bad game, (which is expected from a freshman) the young players on this team have potential. However, the Russell Wilson comparisons may need to be put on the backburner.
The Defense and Turnovers
Wisconsin’s defense played really well, all things considered. After giving up 14 points in the first half, the defense only gave up three points in the second half. The Badgers’ defense also held the Wildcats to 2/15 on third down. However, the defense fell short in a category where the Wildcats thrived: turnovers. Wisconsin’s only forced turnover was a lost fumble. Meanwhile, the Wildcats forced five turnovers: three interceptions and two fumbles. Even with the strong game the defense had, they were put in bad positions many times with the turnovers. And without Wisconsin creating turnovers of their own, the Badgers didn’t have a chance.
I have never been one to blame officiating for losses, and I’m not doing that here. But this game was not pretty. There were some really bad calls. One of the worst being an interception called back on a phantom pass interference call. And while officiating in the Big 10 has been nothing short of dreadful, the loss can’t be placed on them.
This was a hard fought game, but the Northwestern defense proved to be too much for the Badgers to handle. While there is cause for concern with the offense, there are other factors that played a part in the loss. Wisconsin came into the game without their starting wide receivers. This obviously didn’t help the redshirt freshman quarterback. And while this loss was ugly, there are still plenty of talented, young players to be excited about.