After a gritty win over Iowa on Saturday, the now #11 Wisconsin Badgers will welcome #7 Nebraska this coming Saturday in another night game at Camp Randall. Before we look ahead to Nebraska, let’s take a look at some takeaways from the win over Iowa.
In a classic Big Ten dogfight like Wisconsin was in with Iowa on Saturday, one would have expected more penalties. For the second time this year, Wisconsin went the whole game without drawing a penalty.
Not getting a penalty called on you may be overlooked in just how important it is but no matter how you slice it, it is a huge advantage. Being able to go without a penalty is huge, especially when you only squeak by by one score. No pass interference calls, no holdings, no block in the backs, no unnecessary roughness. It’s that kind of mistake free mindset that Wisconsin will want heading into another top ten opponent when they take on Nebraska.
Corey Clement posts back-to-back 100-yard games
Against Ohio State, Clement had a day. He was able to get 164 yards averaging over six yards per carry, giving some thought that the running game of old was back.
Clement was once again able to eclipse the 100 yard mark, but had to take on a much larger work load to get there. With 134 yards on 35 rushes, he averaged a much smaller 3.8 yards per carry. It’s not Melvin Gordon-esque by any means, but it was effective against a very good Iowa defense.
Something a lot more concerning than his yardage, though, is his ability to hold onto the football. Clement fumbled on the goal line during the first half and Wisconsin failed to convert in the red zone (more on this later). This marked two weeks in a row that Clement got the ball knocked loose. Luckily, the fumble against Ohio State went out of bounds, but this one against Iowa though gave the Hawkeyes another opportunity in a close game.
Not that you needed another reminder, but the defense is the heart and soul of this team
Every week, Justin Wilcox’s defense does something that leaves fans in awe. And every week we assume that they can’t do anything more. And every week we are wrong.
Faced with a missing starting nose tackle, a hobbled Jack Cichy and T.J. Watt, and players playing out of position, Wisconsin’s defense was lights out, holding Iowa to nine points and zero touchdowns.
The most impressive stat comes in the form of third down conversion rate for the Hawkeyes. Iowa was just 2 for 13 on third downs on Saturday, with many thanks to the play of Garret Dooley. Dooley had 1.5 tackles for loss and was able to get seven tackles on the day, many of which coming on third down.
A hobbled Watt and Cichy were also forces for Wisconsin’s defense. Watt had 1.5 sacks and Cichy led the team once again in tackles totaling 10 on the day.
Red zone offense still struggling
It seems simple. You have to score once you’re in the red zone. But Wisconsin has made a nasty habit of not getting touchdowns or any points at all when getting to the red zone. On the first drive of the day, Alex Hornibrook and the offense stalled out leaving Andrew Endicott with a 32-yard field goal, which he then missed wide right. Later in the game, Clement would fumble on the one-yard line.
After having to settle for field goals in the red zone last week against Ohio State and then failing a few more times this week, red zone conversion is officially a problem for the Wisconsin Badgers.
Young receivers ready to make an impact
During Wisconsin’s Fall Camp, freshman receiver A.J. Taylor told SST, “I think that we could change that running back team to a receiver team in a few years.”
Taylor might be right after all.
While the freshman receivers haven’t exploded onto the scene this season, they have shown flashes of what is to come when they’ve had their opportunities.
Taylor took over jet sweep duties from Jazz Peavy and took his first one for a 15+ yard gain. Quintez Cephus, another true freshman, hauled in a huge 57-yard pass from Hornibrook that set up a rushing touchdown for Clement.
In their limited looks, the freshman receivers are making an impact.