Rapid Reaction: Wisconsin dominates in home opener
Final: Wisconsin 58, Miami (OH) 0
Telling stat: Joel Stave’s 3 first-half TD passes
No Corey Clement? No problem. The senior Wisconsin signal-caller picked apart the Redhawks secondary early and often. It looked like it was going to be the Stave-Alex Erickson show early, then Robert Wheelwright stepped up. He made a nice play and a back-shoulder toss by Stave and the rout was on. That was big for a guy who didn’t have a three-touchdown game all of 2014. He looked as confident as ever. If Clement’s groin issues continue, that’s a major boost the the Badger offense.
Key play: Alex Erickson 36-yard punt return
It’s hard to believe, but the Badgers actually needed a bit of an offensive boost early. Erickson set that up by returning a Miami punt into the red zone. What does an offense love more than anything? A short field. Three plays later, Stave found Wheelwright for the first touchdown of the day. You know how it went from there.
-Tanner McEvoy started at receiver and safety
We knew this kid was versatile, but that’s just showing off. The former quarterback got the start at receiver and hauled in his first catch of the season in the first quarter. For anybody to have both playbooks mastered like that is impressive. It helps when you’re starting alongside Michael Caputo, but McEvoy still was solid in limiting the non-existent Miami passing game. McEvoy and the Badgers limited the Redhawks to 8-of-23 passing in the first half. Not too shabby.
-Running game not in midseason form
Ninety-eight yards on their first 42 carries is not what the Badgers had in mind. Yes, the Badgers were without Corey Clement, but this is clearly not the 2014 line. When Taiwan Deal broke off a 9-yard run in the second quarter, it was the Badgers’ longest run of the season. That’s very un-Wisconsin like. I know Dare Ogunbowale broke off a nice long touchdown run late, but the Badgers struggled to push the line of scrimmage for the majority of the day. That won’t be acceptable in Big Ten play.
What it means: New-look Badgers
I hate to keep beating a dead horse, but the Badgers might be better suited to build around this passing game. Groin injuries are as nagging as it gets, which means Clement might even be held out longer than Saturday. Even if Clement is back and healthy by the start of Big Ten play, this is still an offensive line with three first-year starters that are clearly better in pass protection. As long as Stave is confident in the pocket, Paul Chryst might give him the keys to the offense.
What’s next: vs. Troy
I’m going to go ahead and predict another rout. Another stout defensive performance would be big for the Badgers. Another precise performance from Stave wouldn’t hurt, either.