With a win over Northwestern and Ohio State’s beat down of Nebraska, the Badgers are in good position to win the Big Ten West. Let’s take a look at some notes from Wisconsin’s 21-7 win.
Diversifying the run game
After Dare Ogunbowale found success on the ground in the previous game against Nebraska, Wisconsin continued to diversify the run game as redshirt freshman Bradrick Shaw saw 11 carries. Shaw would also be effective in those carries, gaining 54 yards and averaging almost five yards per carry.
Corey Clement, who has been the starter all year except when injured, also ran for 106 yards and a rushing touchdown. Clement was able to find much more room than in previous games where it seemed he was running into walls. Adding Shaw into the rotation seems to have given Clement a better run game to work with so do not be surprised if Wisconsin continues to diversify the run game and spread time between Ogunbowale, Clement and Shaw.
From here on out, it seems that Wisconsin will be using both Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston throughout the course of the remaining games.
Unlike past weeks, though, it seems how they are going to be used has become a bit clearer. Hornibrook will continue to be the starter and get the vast majority of drives and passing attempts. Hornibrook’s ability to make huge plays will keep him in that position and the fact he has a higher ceiling looking towards the next few years bodes well for him.
Houston, on the other hand, is in his last year. But Wisconsin can still utilize his mobility and leadership and has in the past few games. They seem to use him when Alex Hornibrook seems rattled and needs a break or seem to use Houston at the end of the game.
Houston is not phased by the big moments and has shown that with his poise during the Nebraska and LSU games. Hornibrook, on the other hand, seems to falter, such as in the Ohio State game.
Clock management is a thing
Twice this year Wisconsin has found themselves in a situation where they got the ball back right before the first half ended, and twice this year it seemed as if the coaching staff fell asleep.
With under a minute left, Wisconsin got the ball back and made a couple plays to get to about midfield. Wisconsin had three timeouts but decided to wait about 20 seconds until using one of them. Wisconsin then only had time for a couple more plays and failed to get points out of the drive.
Of course it is impossible to say if they would have left more time on the clock they would have seen able to get more points on the board, but it would have given them a better chance of doing so. In a game against Northwestern, this is not as big of an issue. But in a Big Ten Championship it could be the difference.
Filling in just fine
With as many injuries as the defense has sustained this year, Wisconsin has had to rely on an array of backups.
Cornerback Lubern Figaro helped in the secondary with a career high three pass breakups. The Wisconsin secondary continued to build off of a career night against Nebraska that saw a season-high 12 pass breakups. They would have seven against Northwestern.
Conor Sheehy, who was playing at nose tackle for the injured Olive Sagapolu, wrecked havoc on the Northwestern offense all day. He would finish the game with five tackles, would force a fumble and also get a sack.
As always, the defense carried the team and there is no reason to think that will stop anytime soon.
Controlling their own destiny
The most important part of Saturday for Wisconsin was Nebraska losing to Ohio State. This means that Wisconsin now controls their own destiny and can win out to win their division of the Big Ten. If they win the Big Ten, and pray to the College Football Playoff committee gods, they should also find themselves in their first ever college football playoff.
If you tell any Wisconsin fan three months ago that their team would be in the place that they are now, they would most likely laugh in your face. So relish in the unexpected joy and ride it out as far as you can, Wisconsin fans.