The Badgers faced off against number 12 Notre Dame and Jack Coan in a heavyweight matchup. With a chance to regain those high aspirations of the season, Wisconsin failed to capitalize on the opportunity. Once again the offense, and Mertz especially struggled all afternoon.
The first half was easily the worst half of offense we have seen so far this year. At halftime, Mertz was 5/13 for 71 yards and an interception. They also went 0/6 on third down and only scored three points on two drives inside the 30 yard line. A fumble in the second half also allowed Notre Dame to take advantage of a short field and gain the 11 point advantage. In the fourth quarter, Wisconsin out gained Notre Dame 110-60, however we’re out scored 31-3.
In the end, Mertz finished with five turnovers, including two pick six’s to end the game. The Badgers also went 1/14 on third down. The offense simply didn’t get it done. A lot of the blame will be put on Mertz, and rightfully so. However, the offensive line was pushed around at times, the play calling lacked creativity, and the mistakes were far too many. A few former Badgers even chimed in about the quarterback situation including Vince Biegel. In a tweet, Biegel says “Graham Mertz ain’t it….”. Paul Chryst was quoted in this tweet saying the blame shouldn’t be all on Graham. The need to be better in a lot of areas. Whatever those areas are, it is evident a change needs to happen within this offense if the Badgers want to compete in the Big Ten West.
In a game full of dominating defense and inconsistent offense, a few big plays and big penalties did not go in favor of the Badgers today. Obviously, the Badgers losing the turnover battle 5 to 1 is unacceptable. Aside from that, the Badgers had an interception in the second quarter that was called back on a questionable pass interference call. When the Badgers did gain some momentum and take the lead with a field goal. The very next play Notre Dame took the kickoff 98 yards to regain the lead and would never look back. The Badgers were not able to get out of their own way today. A kickoff returned to midfield was eventually called back on an illegal block in the back. Eventually, the Badgers couldn’t overcome the penalties, turnovers, and momentum swings.
Defense ran out of gas
The defense once again played their hearts out. Ultimately, they ran out of gas after being on the field for so long. The defense generated one turnover and had six sacks while only allowing three rushing yards. Faion Hicks was outstanding today. Hicks had multiple pass breakups and played extremely physically despite lacking size compared to Kevin Austin Jr. Even on the big touchdown Hicks gave up he made a great play jarring the ball loose at the end. That call came down to a scoring review and Hicks almost did enough to prevent a touchdown.
The defense was flying around making plays trying to keep Wisconsin in the game. Even with Jack Coan leaving in the second half the Badgers couldn’t capitalize. Freshman quarterback Drew Pyne came in the game and held his own going 6/8 for 81 yards and a touchdown.
I know a lot of Badgers fans will act as if the sky was falling. This isn’t the start most of us hoped for, so what needs to change? Mertz will be the quarterback going forward simply because we know what we have with Wolf and Vanden Boom. However, the play calling is in drastic need of change. The lack of creativity is evident, when plays did work the Badgers would try to run them again and again. For example. A third down play that resulted in a pass interference was ran by the Badgers again the very next third down. The play Pryor scored on was attempted again on third and goal and Notre Dame is way too experienced a defense to not pick up on that.
What happened to the jet sweeps, motion, screens, and other misdirection in the offense? Danny Davis and Kendrick Pryor are way too talented on the outside to not involve them more. Ferguson didn’t have his name called at all today, and the run game seems to be lackluster as well. When the Badgers did get creative, it worked. Like the throw up the middle to Clay Cundiff for 43 yards was the best play of the day. Not to mention, the little shovel pass Mertz had to Mellusi was one of the few explosive plays we saw today.
The season is not over by any means and I have faith in this team. Let’s hope for some rejuvenated play calling, and the defense to continue its dominance. No time to dwell on it, Michigan comes to town next week.
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