Wisconsin Football: Grading the Badgers' Win vs. South Dakota

Sean LansingContributor ISeptember 26, 2011

Wisconsin Football: Grading the Badgers' Win vs. South Dakota

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    The 7th ranked Wisconsin Badgers might have gotten off to a slow start on Saturday against FCS opponent South Dakota, but it didn't last. 

    Fifty-nine points and 612 yards of offense allowed Wisconsin to improve to 4-0 heading into conference play.

    The Badgers avoided the dreaded "trap game," and they got a nice tune-up for their showdown next Saturday under the lights at Camp Randall against Big Ten newcomer Nebraska. 

Quarterbacks: A+

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    After picking apart FBS defenses for three straight weeks, it’s no surprise that Russell Wilson had a field day against FCS South Dakota.

    In his final tune-up before conference play, Wilson threw for 345 yards and three touchdowns while completing 76 percent of his passes.

    Four weeks into the season, Wilson is a legitimate Heisman contender. 

Running Backs: A+

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    Wisconsin racked up 612 yards of total offense against South Dakota, with 267 of those coming on the ground.

    White and Ball again formed an unstoppable combo (183 yards and three touchdowns between the two of them), and freshmen Jeff Lewis and Melvin Gordon each added a score.

    Like Wilson, the Badger running backs were excellent in their lead-up to Big Ten play. 

Wide Receivers: A+

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    Nick Toon is healthy, and he’s a superstar.

    The Badgers’ senior wideout had his best game yet against the Coyotes, hauling in seven passes for 155 yards and two scores.

    As impressive as Toon was, walk on sophomore Jared Abbrederis continued to turn heads on Saturday with five catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.

    Big Ten defenses are going to no doubt sell out against the run when they line up against the Badgers, and this group’s performance is going to be critical to Wisconsin’s success. 

Offensive Line: A

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    The Badger’s offensive line did give up two sacks, but the Coyotes’ defense was no match for the big boys up front.

    Wisconsin controlled the line of scrimmage all game long, paving the way for 267 rush yards and plenty of clean pockets for Russell Wilson.

Defensive Line: B+

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    The Badgers’ defense did give up 124 yards on the ground, but this might have been the defensive line’s best all-around game this season.

    Constant pressure from the front four resulted in three sacks (Beau Allen, David Gilbert and Patrick Butrym) and just 49 yards passing from South Dakota.

Linebackers: B+

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    Wisconsin’s top three tacklers from Saturday play linebacker (Mike Taylor, Chris Borland and Kevin Claxton), and Borland added an interception to his stat line.

    This unit bears some of the blame for the 124 yards South Dakota racked up on the ground, but overall, another solid performance from Wisconsin’s second line of defense. 

Secondary: A+

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    It’s a good day for any secondary when the opposing team completes just 10 passes for 49 yards.

    Aaron Henry had one of his better games with five tackles, and corner Marcus Cromartie continued to fill in nicely for injured starter Devin Smith.

    Keep an eye on Cromartie when the Badgers open up conference play and the competition improves. 

Special Teams: A

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    Wisconsin gets an A for making it through the non-conference portion of their schedule without starting kicker Phillip Welch unscathed and for keeping punter Brad Nortman fresh by scoring almost every time they touch the ball.

    Expect special teams to play a much bigger role for the Badgers in Big Ten games.  

Coaching: A+

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    The coaching staff gets high marks for keeping the Badgers focused on Saturday and avoiding the dreaded “trap game.”

    Wisconsin got off to a slow start against the Coyotes, but it didn’t last.

    While it would have been easy to sleep walk through this game with Nebraska looming on the schedule, Coach Bielema and company didn’t let it happen. 

Intangibles: A+

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    With four games in the books, Wisconsin is undefeated and Russell Wilson has been everything Badger Nation had hoped for and then some.

    Now, the real fun starts.

    Big  Ten newcomer Nebraska comes to town next week. ESPN’s College Gameday will be on campus, and Wisconsin has the opportunity to catapult themselves into national title discussions.