In a game that felt like déjà vu, the No. 14 Wisconsin football team (2-2, 2-2 Big Ten) lost for the second week in a row, this time at the hands of the No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers (6-1, 6-1 Big Ten) 14-6. The Hoosiers proved Saturday that they are the real deal and beat the Badgers for the first time in ten games.
After losing to the Northwestern Wildcats last week, many expected the Badgers to come out inspired offensively Saturday afternoon. After putting up seven points last week and turning the ball over five times, it only seemed right that the Badgers offense would bounce back and prove themselves.
That proved to be way too optimistic of thinking. In reality, the Badgers came out looking flat as if they had nothing to play for now that they were no longer Bowl eligible and were unable to win the Big Ten West division now that Northwestern had clinched the berth.
Scoring a total of six points, combined for 13 total points in two games, is nothing to be content with. The Badgers offense seemed to have no rhythm, putting up a total of six points. While the Badgers showed glimpses of their potential offensively, they couldn’t shape up.
The loss falls on the offense, there’s no way around it. Specifically, this one falls on Graham Mertz, the redshirt freshman quarterback, who hasn’t found a way to avoid turning the ball over when trying to make plays.
Mertz threw for 204 yards on a 58% completion percentage with an interception, a fumble and no touchdowns. While he made some plays with his feet and others with his arm, his effort wasn’t enough. His youth shows, which could be seen as both a positive and a negative.
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Mertz has plenty of time to learn from these mistakes and can only get better and back to his Heisman hopeful form. It’s clear that Mertz is more of a project than we thought and he should be given the time and patience to continue to prove himself as the starting quarterback for the Badgers.
On the positive side, the Badgers’ defense and offensive lines have continued to prove dominant forces against their opponents. The defense has only allowed 31 points in two games and didn’t allow Indiana to score in the second half this Saturday afternoon. Thirty-one points is a total that could be beaten in one game with a competent offense, let alone two games combined.
For the offensive line, the Badgers rushed for 141 yards, including freshman running back Jalen Berger, who rushed for 87 yards on 15 carriers, averaging 5.8 a carry. Berger had far and away the most touches for the Badgers’ backfield, which was by community in the previous games, but it seems as though Coach Chryst and the coaching staff have found their premier back in the freshman from New Jersey.
The Badgers have one more chance to show this season wasn’t a complete wash, heading out to Iowa City to face the No. 19 Hawkeyes, who looked sharp this Saturday against the Fighting Illini. The game time is to be determined, but will hopefully end the Badgers season on a high note instead of a potential three-game losing streak and what could knock the team out of a top 25 ranking.