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 scored in their comeback victory over Purdue.
Quarterbacks – 2.5 out of 5
Scott Tolzien and the Badger offense was flat out of the gates and the senior captain never really got into a groove against the Boilermakers. Tolzien’s first quarter interception was the result of badly overthrown ball that brought a promising UW drive to an abrupt end. Tolzien did make a couple nice throws, the highlight being his touchdown toss to Jared Abbrederis in the back of the endzone. The signal caller, who finished 13-for-19 and just 130 yards, admitted after the game that the defense really picked up the slack in wake of his sluggish start.
Running backs – 4 out of 5
Freshman running back James White was out nursing a knee injury and John Clay was taken out with a knee injury of his own, but thanks to Montee Ball the Badger running game didn’t miss a beat. Ball racked up 127 yards (career-high) on 21 carries and the sophomore scored two touchdowns to extend Wisconsin’s lead. Ball showed great vision all day and he was decisive as soon as he got the ball. Clay had 12 carries for just 42 yards before leaving the game with his injury and was rendered ineffective in the first half against Purdue’s front seven.
Wide receivers – 3.5 out of 5
Nick Toon continues to work himself back into mid-season form and the junior had a nice day against the Boilers, catching five balls for 62 yards. Toon had one catch in particular over the middle where he showed off his leaping ability to bring down a high throw from Tolzien. Abbrederis recorded just the second touchdown of the year by a UW wide receiver (both are his) but the rest of the Badger wideouts had a pretty quiet day.
Tight ends – 2.5 out of 5
The UW coaching staff wasn’t sure if star tight end Lance Kendricks would be available against Purdue, but the senior captain did play limited snaps on passing downs. Kendricks had just one catch for nine yards and that was the only catch by a Badger tight end on the day. Jake Byrne and Jacob Pedersen were shutout but as usual, played a crucial role in the running game. Byrne did have one costly holding penalty that brought back a long touchdown run by Montee Ball, but it was a borderline call to say the least.
Offensive line – 4 out of 5
Wisconsin’s O-line passed two difficult tests against Ohio State and Iowa, but the Purdue D-line gave them some trouble. The Boilermakers sacked Tolzien three times and caused some trouble for the UW running game in the first half. Head coach Bret Bielema was impressed with the Boilers defensive effort up front and noted the effectiveness of their stunts and run blitzes early on, but the Badger offensive line settled in and started to dominate in the second half. Montee Ball ran behind some huge holes and got some unbelievable blocks downfield, and the tailback took advantage.
Defensive line – 3.5 out of 5
J.J. Watt recorded a sack on Purdue’s first series so fans were hoping that was a sign of good things to come from the Badger D-line. Unfortunately, Pat Muldoon’s sack later was the last one for the front four. Despite some struggles in the pass rushing department, the defensive line was solid against the run limiting the Purdue backs and keeping dual-threat quarterback Sean Robinson in check.
Linebackers – 4.5 out of 5
There were some missed tackles early, but the UW linebackers stole the show in the second half. Culmer St.Jean’ s interception at the start of the third quarter swung the momentum and gave the whole team a lift. Mike Taylor continues to progress with his knee injury and the sophomore was at his best Saturday intercepting a pass and recording a sack. Blake Sorensen chipped in by tipping a pass that fell into the hands of Antonio Fenelus who did the rest.
Secondary – 4.5 out of 5
Fenelus had such a good day he was honored by the Big Ten as co-defensive player of the week. Fenelus recovered a fumble forced by safety Aaron Henry and returned an interception for a touchdown on top of a team-high nine tackles. Niles Brinkley was rarely tested, but the senior corner broke up a pass that dropped into the hands of Taylor to create yet another turnover. Jay Valai was slowed by a calf injury and Shelton Johnson filled in nicely as his temporary replacement.
Specialists – 3 out of 5
Phillip Welch shanked his first field goal attempt of the day, but the UW kicker connected on two big kicks in the second quarter to cut the halftime deficit to four. Brad Nortman had an average day, punting four times and averaging 43.5 yards per punt.