The Wisconsin Badgers came to play in the ReliaQuest Bowl. With some teams opting to not take so-called meaningless bowl games seriously, in his first year as head coach, Luke Fickell is looking to cap off his first year in charge with a win against a recognized SEC power. While some may have expected a defensive struggle, it has been the offenses that are highlighting the gameplay from Tampa Bay, Florida.
Wisconsin Badgers First-Half Explosion
If you had an expectation of how the game was going to play out for the Wisconsin Badgers against the LSU Tigers it was likely flipped. It was Tanner Mordecai and Will Pauling who dominated the air attack to give Wisconsin a 21-14 lead at the half.
During the first two quarters, Pauling had five receptions for 123 yards and two scores.
One of the highlights from the first quarter was a Pauling reception off of play action that saw him outrun the LSU coverage for a 53-yard score. His last touchdown of the half found him alone in the endzone, having found a soft spot in the coverage to toe-tap for 6 points.
After struggling in the open part of the year to find the endzone, Pauling has been a frequent visitor toward the end of the season. In his first six games, Pauling did not record a touchdown. But in four of his last six games, he changed the pattern had had games with a six-point score.
Wisconsin Badgers 2024
Now scoring twice in one half against the SEC defense, Pauling will be hoping to build off of this performance for the upcoming year.
Pauling is going to have major expectations next year as the Wisconsin Badgers will look to make the playoffs in the revised Big Ten. With an incoming transfer quarterback from Miami, Tyler Van Dyke, here’s hoping that the ReliaQuest Bowl is a preview of the explosive offense to come.
Operating out of the shotgun, and waiting for longer routes to develop, it will be something to monitor next year if this play style could hold up against a Big Ten pass rush.
Of course, the Wisconsin staff may be looking to experiment with different looks and give more fun opportunities for the offense to make plays and have more creative play calls. This comes with the knowledge that when the regular season begins the run game will be a featured part of the offense.
Either way, for now, this game has shown just how special college football can be when both teams take the game seriously and prepare to the best of their ability. Both teams dealt with opt-outs and transfers, but this was an entertaining and well-played game with highlights from both teams on both sides of the ball.
For Pauling, here is hoping that this will be looked back on as the start of his impressive 2024 campaign. A capable player, and leader on this team, he has the potential to be among the Big Ten receiving leaders, and to lead Wisconsin to the playoff landscape.