Every week, Herald Sports will take a look at how the Wisconsin football team did over the weekend and grade them by position group. Here’s how the Badgers scored against Austin Peay.
Quarterbacks – 4.5 out of 5
Senior Scott Tolzien finished the game 15-of-17 for 217 yards and three touchdowns, a very good performance to finish the non-conference schedule. Tolzien’s only incompletions came on a bad drop by John Clay and a slightly overthrown fade to Jared Abbrederis in the end zone. By the second half, redshirt freshman Jon Budmayr finally got to make his collegiate debut and went 6-for-7 for 55 yards. Budmayr looked much more poised than he had during spring and fall camps, allowing the coaching staff to breathe a sigh of relief.
Running backs – 5 out of 5
Clay had his usual 100-yard day, finishing with 118 yards on 15 carries. That pushed the junior’s 100-yard game streak to 10 games. Clay added a touchdown run in the second quarter. The real star in the running game was freshman James White, who had 145 yards and four touchdowns on just 11 carries, highlighted by a 66-yard scamper along the left sideline. Even sophomore Montee Ball, now relegated to third on the depth chart, got his touchdown in, to push the score to 70-3. Fullback Bradie Ewing made the most of his two carries, plunging in from seven yards out to open the scoring.
Wide Receivers – 3.5 out of 5
Abbrederis has stepped up in the absence of the injured Nick Toon, becoming Tolzien’s go-to receiver. The redshirt freshman finished with three catches for 38 yards and finally got his first end zone target. Isaac Anderson and Kyle Jefferson showed they can still be factors in the passing game as well.
Tight Ends – 4.5 out of 5
Lance Kendricks had a quietly outstanding game, with six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Austin Peay seemed to have great trouble tackling the senior tight end, who looks more and more like the Badgers’ most dangerous weapon on offense. Bonus points for Jacob Pedersen, who managed to get open in the end zone and make a nice leaping grab for a touchdown.
Offensive line – 4 out of 5
Anytime the offensive line paves the way for 378 yards rushing, it means UW’s big guys are probably doing something right. The line did a good job opening up holes, as well as pulling for outside tosses and sweeps. While Tolzien was sacked once, it can be pinned on White more than Carimi and co. The line also avoided penalties, playing the clean kind of game needed during Big Ten play.
Defensive line – 3.5 out of 5
Wisconsin was able to rotate guys in on its defensive front and helped hold the Governors to 42 yards rushing. David Gilbert and Patrick Butrym had sacks in the game and the line accounted for four tackles for loss. J.J. Watt didn’t have a huge game, but didn’t need to and was able to rest his bruised thigh in preparation for this weekend’s showdown at Michigan State.
Linebackers – 4 out of 5
With Chris Borland out for the year, it is going to fall on the shoulders of all the linebackers to pick up the slack. Sophomore Mike Taylor led the way, finishing with a team-best seven tackles in just one half of play. Taylor was all over the place, often in the Austin Peay backfield, which bodes well for the Badgers, who lost an impact player in Borland.
Secondary – 4 out of 5
Despite making the Governors’ passing game look like a Pac-10-caliber attack for much of the beginning of the game, UW’s defensive backs managed to up their game against Austin Peay. Wisconsin only allowed 115 passing yards and most of them came on screens and check-downs. The defensive highlight of the game came courtesy of safety Aaron Henry, who absolutely leveled APU tight end Ashlon Adams for a big incompletion. From then on, UW’s defensive backs started laying some of the biggest hits of any position.
Specialists – 3.5 out of 5
The Badgers avoided the kickoff coverage problems that almost cost them the game last week. Kicker Phillip Welch’s leg may have gotten tired from the eight kickoffs he took. The junior averaged 59.9 yards on his kickoffs and made all of his extra point attempts. Backup kicker Alec Lerner even got in the game, making an extra point and handling three kickoffs. Punter Brad Nortman didn’t need to punt until the fourth quarter and even then, only did so twice. He ended the game on a booming 76-yard punt to run out the clock. The only blemish was Abbrederis, who fumbled twice on punt returns, leading head coach Bret Bielema to plug Henry in for two punt returns.