The Badgers have had an up and down start in the Luke Fickell era, but they pulled out a comfortable victory.
The Wisconsin Badgers kicked off the Luke Fickell era with a 38-17 win over the Buffalo Bulls in an up-and-down game that ultimately led to a comfortable win to start the 2023 season.
A lot of eyes were on the “Air Raid” offense of offensive coordinator Tanner Mordecai and offensive coordinator Phil Luongo, but it was the run game that stood out on Saturday, as the defense held the Bulls to 17 points.
Here are three takeaways from the No. 19 Badgers’ 38-17 win over Buffalo.
Short distance situations
The Wisconsin Badgers defense was stout in the second half, allowing just seven points, which came after a Tanner Mordecai interception.
What really stood out was their ability to contain the Bulls’ offense in short-yardage situations, as the Badgers had several fourth-and-short stops.
Overall, the Badgers held Buffalo to 2/15 on third down and 1/5 on fourth down in a solid defensive performance.
While the Badgers’ pass rush left a lot to be desired, the team played well stopping the ball, a key trait that will be looked at later in the season.
Powerful running game
For all the hype about the “Air Raid” system coming to Wisconsin, there was never any doubt that the Badgers would still excel in the running game, as they did on Saturday.
Chez Mellusi led it with a strong performance of 13 carries, 157 yards and two touchdowns, showing great patience, increased rushing and good vision on a solid day for the backup.
Starter Braelon Allen was no slouch either, carrying the rock 17 times for 141 yards and a pair of touchdowns as well.
But, in addition to the stellar performance by the running backs, the running game flourished due to strong run blocking all around, which led to nine rushes of 10+ yards.
With inconsistencies emerging in the passing game, the Badgers may start to hit the ground running more aggressively, and Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi picked up right where they left off on Saturday.
Heavy swiping attack on the screen
It’s been an uninspiring start to his Badgers career for Tanner Mordecai, who completed 24/31 passes for 177 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
But what was really interesting about Mordecai’s performance was the array of passes he unleashed.
11 of Mordecai’s passes were at or behind the line of scrimmage, while another 10 were within five yards.
From my perspective, it was a combination of two factors: Mordecai’s desire to get the ball out quickly to his checkpoints, and a variety of screen runs that were reserved for short completions.
There has to be better balance in the passing game, otherwise the Badgers’ offensive attack will remain one-sided, whether it’s offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s play or Mordecai’s decision-making.
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