The Wisconsin Football team opened their 2023 season yesterday defeating the Buffalo Bulls 38-17. It was a good start for first year head coach Luke Fickell. With a new head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator, there will be things that go well and things that need to be improved on. Now that we are a day past this game, here are my thoughts from the first game of the season.
Wisconsin Football Overtime Thought 1: The Running Game Was Spectacular
Going into this game, I wrote in my game preview Wisconsin needed to emphasize the running game and establish it early. They did just that and it resulted in a Chez Mellusi one year score on the second drive.
Speaking of Chez Mellusi, the fifth year season was the best player on the field yesterday. He ended the day with 157 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. This included an 89 yard touchdown that extended the lead to 21-10 in the third quarter.
Junior Braelon Allen had a nice game on ground too. He added 141 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns. Allen also added seven catches for 25 yards.
Wisconsin did run the ball 40 times. Again, they will run the ball in the air raid offense. They needed the running game when the passing game was struggling especially in the second quarter.
Wisconsin Football Overtime Thought 2: The Passing Game Is A Work In Progress
I didn’t think the passing game would be polished right away. It’s a brand new system with a mixture of new and current players. Starting quarterback Tanner Mordecai ended the day 24-31 for 189 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
It’s important to know Mordecai should have had two touchdowns and one pick. Skyler Bell dropped a wide open pass that would have resulted in a touchdown. Instead, Mordecai threw an interception later in the drive.
I thought Mordecai and the Wisconsin Football passing game was okay yesterday. It was clear there was a conservative approach and there was a ton of dink and dunk passes. I would have liked to see some more chances taken down the field. I am not sure if the Buffalo secondary was getting the best of the Wisconsin receivers, but some more chances downfield and letting an athletic and talented group of receivers win one-on-ones.
What does concern me with the two interceptions was that they were just bad decisions. Neither were a great play by the defense. Those decisions can’t happen from a sixth year senior. There is still a ton of season left and I know Tanner Mordecai will be better, but it was an average at best debut.
Wisconsin Football Overtime Thought 3: The Pass Rush and Tackling Needs To Get Better Fast
It wasn’t a terrible day for the Wisconsin Football defense giving up 17 points. They had to deal with a short field after one of the interceptions and Buffalo had an impressive 53 yard field goal to end the first half.
However, one major issue was lack of pass rush. The Badgers front seven did not record a sack. Buffalo quarterback Cole Snyder was comfortable in the pocket all game. While it’s only one game, that can’t happen moving forward.
There isn’t a stat for missed tackles. However, if it was, I would bet the Badgers were in double digits for missed tackles. Give the Buffalo backs and receivers credit, but it was alarming how many missed tackles the linebackers and secondary had. The good news? That’s correctable. The bad news? That had to change fast, With Cam Ward waiting next week, who recorded almost 500 yards of offense yesterday, Wisconsin will lose next week if they tackle as poorly as they did yesterday.
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