Every week Herald Sports will analyze the most recent Wisconsin football game and hand out grades for each position group on a scale from zero to five. Let’s examine how the Badgers fared in their third game of the season against Arizona State.
Quarterbacks – 4 out of 5
Scott Tolzien had his best performance of the year against the Sun Devils. It was an efficient outing for the senior captain, who totaled 246 yards through the air and completed 19-of-25 passes against a stingy Pac-10 defense. Tolzien threw a strike to Lance Kendricks for a 14-yard score to give UW their first touchdown of the day and he completed a crucial third down pass to salt the game away. It was an even more impressive performance considering Tolzien was without Nick Toon and David Gilreath, his top two receivers, due to injury.
Running backs – 4 out of 5
After totaling 125 yards against ASU, junior John Clay now has nine straight games with 100-plus on the ground. Clay averaged almost six yards per carry against last season’s top Pac-10 defense against the run. His 19-yard score gave the Badgers a 20-13 lead and that proved to be just enough for UW. Freshman James White averaged 6.7 yards per rush and flashed his athleticism on a couple nice runs while Montee Ball, despite struggling on the ground, had a few nice catches to help the offense move the chains.
Tight Ends – 5 out of 5
Lance Kendricks looked like one of the best tight ends in the country Saturday. His seven catch, 131-yard effort was just flat-out impressive. The senior hauled in a clutch grab on third-and-two to give the Badgers a huge first down as UW ran down the clock for the win. Kendricks provided solid blocking in the running game once again and he is making a strong case to be considered the best all-around tight end in the nation.
Wide Receivers – 3.5 out of 5
UW was far less dynamic on the perimeter without Toon and Gilreath but Jared Abbrederis filled in nicely. The redshirt freshman had three receptions for 33 yards and proved to be a reliable target during his first start. Senior Isaac Anderson also chipped in with five catches for 42 yards.
Offensive line – 3 out of 5
The Wisconsin O-line has extremely high expectations, so paving the way for a 100-yard rusher and only allowing a single sack earns them just an average grade. Despite those nice statistics the Badgers struggled to create a push and convert third-and-shorts on a few occasions, which is usually their bread and butter.
Defensive line – 2 out of 5
Arizona State running back Deante Lewis became the first player to rush for over 100 yards against UW since Ryan Mathews of Fresno State did it early last season and the Badger D-line bears most of the blame for that. ASU’s offensive line was able to neutralize UW’s front and reach the second level, leading to a productive day on the ground. Defensive end Louis Nzegwu was a bright spot recording a team-high seven tackles and a sack, but as a group the Badger D-line wasn’t at its best Saturday.
Linebackers – 2.5 out of 5
The linebackers share some of the responsibility for failing to stop ASU’s running game and the group had a mediocre day overall. Sophomore Chris Borland barely played after aggravating a shoulder injury and Culmer St. Jean suffered an ankle injury that forced him to leave the game momentarily, so UW’s depth was tested. Kevin Rouse recorded another sack and he’s found a role as an explosive pass rusher off the edge for the Badgers, but that was about the only impact play of the day for the linebackers.
Secondary – 4 out of 5
UW’s secondary had a breakthrough performance against the Sun Devils. Quarterback Steven Threet and ASU’s spread attack was only able to muster 211 yards through the air and Badger cornerbacks were running stride for stride with wideouts on every deep ball. As a result, Threet’s longest completion went for a mere 18 yards. Aaron Henry played with a lot of physicality breaking up a potential touchdown with a big hit in the endzone and he and Jay Valai each recorded a tackle for loss.
Specialists – 2 out of 5
It was an up and down day for the UW specialists. Brad Nortman had a solid punting average that included an effort downed at the two yardline and Phillip Welch was 2-for-3 in his field goal attempts, including a 49 yarder, but Welch’s line-drive kickoff (a poor squib attempt) at the end of the first half was almost a catastrophic mistake.