Wisconsin Football Report Card: Grading The Win Over Austin Peay
While it's difficult to read too much into a 70-3 win over an FCS opponent, it's hard for pretty much anyone associated with Wisconsin football not to feel good about Saturday's game against Austin Peay.
With Wisconsin's three uninspiring wins to open the year, many began to openly question whether the Badgers were really as good as everyone was predicting. As their last non-conference opponent, Austin Peay was supposed to be the game where Wisconsin showed what it could really do to work out the kinks in their offense, defense and special teams before kicking off the Big Ten schedule.
Well, you could say, for the most part, those kinks were worked out.
Again, a dominating performance against an FCS school should be taken with a grain of salt. But, boy, "domination" is the only way to describe the Badgers' victory on Saturday afternoon.
Here are my grades.
Now this is the offense everyone expected to see out of Wisconsin in 2010. With a school-record 70 points and 618 yards of total offense, the Badgers had arguably the greatest offensive day in program history on Saturday.
They were unstoppable. Literally.
Wisconsin scored a touchdown on their first nine drives, and that streak only stopped after the backups had come into the game.
As usual, the running game paced the Badger "O," as a combination of eight runners piled up 346 rushing yards.
Seeing extended playing time for the first time this year, freshman James White rushed for 145 yards and four touchdowns on just 11 carries. He showed speed that the Badgers haven't seen at the running back position since Brian Calhoun was on the team five years ago.
John Clay also extended his streak of consecutive 100-yard games to 10 with 118 yards on just 15 carries.
Quarterback Scott Tolzien also had probably his best game of the year, throwing for 217 yards and three touchdowns on 15-17 passing.
With both Nick Toon and David Gilreath still absent with injuries, Tolzien's favorite target was once again tight end Lance Kendricks, who caught six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.
Although against a team like Austin Peay, no real conclusions can be drawn, it's certainly a reassuring feeling seeing Wisconsin's offense play to their potential.
After a shaky performance against Arizona State—in which Wisconsin's defense limited the Sun Devil offense to only one touchdown but gave up gobs of yards—the Badger "D" looked very good on Saturday.
Giving up just three points (on a 51-yard field goal), Wisconsin's defense absolutely overpowered the Governors on Saturday.
Austin Peay, a team that had been averaging over 30 points a game prior to Saturday, had just 157 total yards and couldn't find any consistency either on the ground or through the air.
The Badgers held the Governors to just 42 total yards on the ground (a 1.3-yard average), and quarterback Jake Ryan was only 9-19 for 115 yards.
Linebacker Mike Taylor, now even more important in Wisconsin's defensive scheme with the loss of Chris Borland, had a big game, recording seven tackles, including 1.5 for a loss.
David Gilbert and Patrick Burtrym also chipped in with a sack apiece as the Badgers completely stifled the Governors.
Even though special teams didn't really factor into the game much on Saturday, in the few instances that mattered, Wisconsin performed well.
Freshman wideout Jared Abbrederis, filling in for David Gilreath at punt returner, had a decent day, returning five punts for 45 yards with a long of 27. Free safety Aaron Henry also got a crack at it late in the game, taking back his only return for 30 yards.
As for Austin Peay, the Governors didn't get a single punt return. On 11 kickoff returns, they gained only 141 yards.
Not a significant day by any means on special teams, but definitely an improvement over last weekend's debacle.
When your team wins by 67 points, it's hard to give the coaches anything but an "A."
Let's be honest, though, it's not like Bret Bielema really had to develop an intricate game plan in this one. Hand the ball to whoever, throw the ball to the wide-open receiver and let the defense stop an offense not accustomed to facing the speed and power Wisconsin brings to the table.
That said, I do give credit to the coaches for keeping the starters in as long as they did. It would have been very easy to pull every first-stringer after the Badgers got up by four touchdowns, yet they kept them in until the beginning of the second half.
With the Big Ten season beginning next week, it was vital that the starters got as much action as possible so they didn't go into East Lansing having essentially taken a week off.
Not only was that important for cohesion and rhythm, but it should have given the starters some much-needed confidence after two straight confidence-shaking wins.
With their trip to Michigan State just around the corner, this kind of win couldn't have come at a better time. Wisconsin needed this.
After sputtering offensively the last two weeks, the Badger "O" moved the ball at will while also finishing off drives, something they hadn't done against San Jose State or Arizona State.
The defense, after giving up huge amounts of yards last weekend, didn't give up a touchdown and kept Austin Peay's offense to under 200 total yards.
No, Austin Peay isn't the kind of competition that you can make an accurate judgment on, but with a performance like this, it's hard not to be impressed.