It might be tough to come up with a bevy of positives following Wisconsin’s 17-14 home loss on Saturday night to Washington State, but we’ll accomplish the task.

The negatives will be easier to pick out.

One thing’s certain: The No. 19 Badgers will likely tumble in the Associated Press Top 25 rankings, which are updated and released on Monday afternoon.

3 things to like

Graham Mertz’s performance

Quarterback Graham Mertz completed 18-of-31 passes for 227 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception. He had a 134.4 quarterback rating.

Mertz orchestrated scoring drives with solid pass plays, and looked extremely poised in the process.

Senior tight end Clay Cundiff was Mertz’s target on back-to-back touchdowns in the second half. Cundiff caught a 17-yard bullet pass for a touchdown that tied the game at 7. Mertz connected with wide receiver Keontez Lewis on a deep ball down the middle for 40 yards, and two plays later, again found Cundiff, who hauled in a 10-yard score to give the Badgers a 14-7 lead.

Clay Cundiff’s effort

The Badgers have wanted to find a playmaker to fill the shoes of standout tight end Jack Ferguson, and Cundiff might be the go-to guy if he can cut back on mistakes.

Cundiff, a junior tight end, scored 2 touchdowns against Washington State. He finished with 3 catches for 59 yards.

But he buckled under pressure when Wisconsin needed him most. With 5 minutes, 14 seconds to go in the game, Mertz found Cundiff in the red zone. Cundiff caught the pass but then fumbled on the 11-yard line, giving away what would have been a first-down opportunity.

Passing game overall

Mertz threw completions to 7 players on Saturday, proving that Wisconsin is more than a pound-the-ground team.

Sophomore wide receiver Keontez Lewis was the team’s leading receiver with 62 yards on 2 catches. Cundiff was second with 59 yards on 3 catches and junior Chimere Dike gained 31 yards on 4 receptions.

3 things not to like


A nagging problem that the Badgers haven’t been able to resolve over the last couple seasons is penalties. The issue was glaring against Washington State.

Wisconsin racked up 11 penalties for 106 yards. Most of the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the offensive linemen, who accounted for 5 of those flags.


Transfer kicker Vito Calvaruso missed 2 field-goal attempts on Saturday. The first attempt, from 51 yards, missed way, way right. He then missed a 43-yarder with 14:57 left in the game that would have tied the score at 17.

Is Calvaruso still dealing with a right quad injury that limited his kicking time during spring and fall camps?


The Badgers defense didn’t look like one of the nation’s top-ranked units — as it was during the 2021 season — on Saturday.

Not only couldn’t Wisconsin stop Cougars running back Nakia Watson (a former Wisconsin player) from finding the end zone twice, the defense faltered many times.

Senior cornerback Jay Shaw had an interception that turned into a fumble in the third quarter. That miscue turned into a Washington State field goal on the ensuing series.

Senior safety John Torchio said after the game that he missed quite a few tackles.