Wisconsin started their 2022 campaign with a big win over Illinois State 38-0. A great start to the season for both sides of the ball, here’s three things from tonight’s big win.
New defense, Same results
It’s been noted how many starters Wisconsin’s defense has lost since last season. Although there are many new faces, they showed they can play. One of the few familiar names returning, John Torchio, had himself a game. After recording the first sack of the year for the Badger defense, “the jewel thief” as they like to call him took an interception 100 yards back to the house. Other Familiar guys Keeanu Benton and Nick Herbig were in the backfield all night long.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 3, 2022
What I really liked from the defense was the depth. We expected to see a lot of guys in and out of the lineup, but it seemed like almost every defensive snap there was someone new out there. Kaden Johnson and Semar Melvin both were guys that may not have been on your radar that made some nice plays tonight.
Even with giving up a few big plays, it was the ultimate “bend but don’t break” effort from the defensive unit tonight. Facing a relatively experienced Quarterback who made some nice throws, it was impressive to see a shutout from this unit.
My favorite performance tonight defensively was from inside linebacker Jordan Turner both on special teams and defensively. Replacing Leo Chanel and Jack Sanborn was probably the biggest question mark for this defense and Turner looks up for the challenge.
Braelon Allen Dominance
18 year old sophmore Braelon Allen joined Torchio with his own long touchdown. Another record for longest run in Wisconsin history, Allen took it 96 yards to the end zone. It’s hard to believe, but Allen looks even better than last season. I’m fully expecting a heisman type season for the young man. Once again, Wisconsin fans are blessed with amazing running back talent.
— Wisconsin On BTN (@WisconsinOnBTN) September 4, 2022
New Look Offense?
A lot of attention has been on new offensive coordinator Bobby Engram. I would say the first game was a success. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen so many explosive plays from Wisconsin. The 96 yard touchdown was all thanks to the brilliance of Braelon Allen. But, the second huge play was thanks to some new flair from Bobby Engram. A play action throwback screen to Chimere Dike went for 74 yards and almost gave the Badgers another 90+ yard touchdown. Dike would finish the drive with a touchdown in the corner of the end zone.
Graham Mertz had a very efficient night, which is nice to see. Mertz is at his best when playing confident, and this was the best he’s looked since his first career start. Mertz finished 14/16 with 219 yards and a touchdown.
It’s always hard to judge when playing weaker competition. But, just ask Iowa how they feel about their offense after today. Seeing explosive plays and a quarterback looking this comfortable is always a good sign. We know the run game will be there, but Mertz playing well will determine how far this team can go.
Let me not forget the brilliance of the offensive line. It’s so easy to forget to credit the big guys up front, because they are consistently so dominant. We really saw how good they were in passing situations, Mertz was comfortable back there
Overall, a nice start to the season. Not much else you could ask for as a fan, and it feels so good to be back. Next week, Washington State will come to Madison for a 2:30 kick off.
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