Wisconsin football: Badgers report card after loss to Indiana
The Wisconsin Badgers looked pretty brutal for the second game in a row in a 14-6 home loss to the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday. After seeing three of its first six scheduled games canceled, Wisconsin dropped to 2-2 in what has simply been a lost season for the Badgers with just one regular season left remaining before Champions Weekend.
Prior to facing the Hoosiers, Wisconsin hadn’t played since a 17-7 loss to the Northwestern Wildcats on Nov. 21, and a lot of what we saw on Saturday was almost identical to that one. The Badgers came in ranked as the No. 16 team in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, but you’d have to imagine they will not appear in the top 25 when the next reveal comes out.
Before Wisconsin moves on to the Iowa Hawkeyes to close out the regular season, it’s time to grab a pen and grade what we saw against the Hoosiers.
Wisconsin combined to score 94 points in its first two games of this season but has scored just 13 points in the past two. The offense looked pretty much the same as it did on Saturday that it did against Northwestern with the only difference being three fewer turnovers. Redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz still turned the ball over twice with an interception and fumble.
The passing game operated slightly better than it did against Northwestern, but it still was a struggle. While Mertz didn’t play all that well, he is missing some key pieces at wide receiver. Starter Danny Davis was inactive again for this game and Kendric Pryor played but left the game with an injury. In addition, reserve wideouts Adam Krumholz and Stephan Bracey were not available. If you’re looking for more excuses, Wisconsin was using true freshman Tanor Bortolini at center after injuries to the top two players at the position.
Once again, the biggest bright spot for the Wisconsin offense was true freshman running back Jalen Berger. It’s a mystery why the Badgers are not using him like the workhorses they have had through the years in the program because he is the best part of this offense. For the third straight game, Berger topped out at 15 carries, gaining 87 yards in this one. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry but he saw the ball just once in the Badgers’ final two possessions that did not result in any points.
Whenever Wisconsin got any momentum offensively, the drive stalled in the red zone or it resulted in a turnover. The offense needs to be better if Wisconsin wants to be successful no matter how good the defense is.
Teams should just stop trying to run on this Wisconsin defense because the Badgers continue to stop opponents in the ground game. In this game, it seemed like a gift whenever the Hoosiers went to the running game. Indiana averaged just 2.8 yards per carry and had much more success passing the ball.
Without starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who is out for the season with a knee injury, Indiana turned to Jack Tuttle, who made his first college start. His numbers weren’t all that impressive, but he was effective enough. He only completed 13 of 22 passes, but they went for 10 yards per completion and a couple of touchdown passes. The Badgers weren’t terrible against the pass, and they were without cornerback Semar Melvin in addition to Rachad Wildgoose, who was injured against Northwestern and opted out of the season.
The Badgers secondary was bailed out in a major way early in the fourth quarter when nobody covered Indiana receiver Miles Marshall for what should’ve been the easiest 57-yard touchdown you’ll ever see.
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) December 5, 2020
Special teams: C
The special teams certainly did not get off to a very good start with holding calls on Wisconsin’s first two kick returns. In addition, the Badgers were offsides on their first kickoff of the game.
Kicker Collin Larsh hasn’t had a whole lot to do this season with just one field goal attempt coming in, but he knocked in two chip-shot kicks for the Badgers’ only points of the game.
It seems like a minor thing, but punt returner Jack Dunn continues to cost Wisconsin field position by not catching the ball and instead letting it bounce and roll. This happened again before the Badgers’ final drive, which cost them roughly 10 yards of field position in a must-score possession.