The Wisconsin Badgers went into Iowa City trying to get off of a two-game losing streak. After struggling mightily offensive for most of the game, the Badgers fell to the Hawkeyes, 28-7.
Wisconsin offensive woes
No, really, the Badgers are in one of their worst offensive stretches in a very long time. The Badgers came into this game short-handed on offense. They were without running backs Jalen Berger and Isaac Guerendo and their top two receivers, Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor. They were missing their playmakers and it was very obvious. Freshman quarterback Graham Mertz looked like a freshman again. After his blazing hot start to the season, he has been struggling mightily.
Granted, the team hasn’t really been able to get into a groove, missing multiple games this year due to COVID cases within their program as well as scheduled opponents. Pair that with being without offensive players consistently, and you have a recipe for disaster.
The Wisconsin offense managed just 225 yards total on offense. The Badgers, who are historically successful in running the football, managed just 56 rushing yards, led by Nakia Watson, with 29 yards and a touchdown.
In the passing game, Mertz couldn’t quite seem to get comfortable. He was missing passes high and low all night and wasn’t on the same page with any of his receivers. Mertz finished the night completing just 20-of-38 (53%) of his passes for 169 yards and a pick. He also fumbled the ball on their first drive after Chimere Dike ran into the ball on a fake end-around that gave the Hawkeyes great field position and leading to a field goal to put them up, 3-0. Mertz is still young and we need to remember that, but after his start in Illinois, it’s understandable to be frustrated with his performance since.
They also had some more miscues that led to a pair of turnovers, including a pick in the end zone at the end of the game. The refs did miss a blatant hold on Jake Ferguson on the play, but Mertz still made a terrible throw in the back of the end zone to pretty much end Wisconsin’s chances.
Defense showed up
On the plus side, the defense showed up to play. Wisconsin held the Hawkeyes to six points in the first half, and three of those six were after the offense fumbled in their own territory. The defense was once again awesome on third down, allowing the Hawkeyes to convert 3-of-14 third downs.
They played well, but they weren’t perfect. Defensive pass interference has been an issue for the defense since the Northwestern game. They had the same issues tonight. Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras overthrew his target and Eric Burrell picked it off, but Caesar Williams was called for DPI, overturning the pick and giving the ball back to Iowa.
Another issue for the defense was staying off of the field. When the offense was constantly going three-and-out, the defense could barely get a break.
Is the #Badgers defense even bothering to sit down in between drives?
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) December 12, 2020
Finally, the dam broke at the end of the game. They gave up two big play-action passes for touchdowns and a big run in the last few minutes that iced the game. The defense played well for three quarters of the game and would have benefited from some offensive success.
This was the Badger’s third-straight loss, giving them a 2-3 record. If they want to remain bowl-eligible, they will need to win their crossover game next week to go 3-3.
It isn’t the season we were all hoping for but given the circumstances with covid, missing games, and all of the injuries on offense, you can’t expect the Badgers to be able to compete with for the Big Ten title. We still have one more guaranteed game. And let’s remember, the incoming class is loaded with talent. The future is bright for this Wisconsin football program. Let’s not lose all hope after one tough season.