Wisconsin started a little slow, but once again a big defensive game changed the game. How important is choosing a Torchio 6 to get the momentum rolling?
Tyler: It was huge, overall it seemed to wake the whole team up and ready to play. I felt like something was starting a bit, and I think that pickaxe woke everyone up a bit and things started to roll from there. Torchio may not be the fastest, strongest etc, but the guy makes plays.
Nick: Well, given that Badger’s offense only ran 3 games in the first quarter, it was huge and very timely in a match we needed to control. It also seemed that defense was somewhat in its wake early on. I know it was mostly related to penalties but it was still unsettling to watch at first.
JJ: That was great! This was a match Wisconsin needed to set the tone for the season. I don’t think there were any realistic scenarios where the Badgers would lose against Illinois State, but it could certainly put them in a less than ideal place heading to Washington state If they are barely scraped. Torchio gave the team the big game spark plug they needed to really get the flow of energy and control of the game.
Speaking of defense, the first close of the season, what set you apart from their performance?
Tyler: I think high school was what stood out most to me, specifically in the corner. Maybe it’s a little tricky with lockdown, but this group will need to get a lot clearer by week four when they head to Columbus. I think they will because it was their first Wisconsin reps for many of them and I think they will communicate more as the season goes on.
Nick: That the leaders ascended. Not only did John Turchio pick six players, he also earned his first sack in the game. Nick Herbig also had some bags that were pretty explosive. I thought Maema Njongmeta played really well last night too. Some concerns may be that the secondary type gave up on a few too easy completions. They succumbed to 35, 26, 26 and 23 passes. With better opponents emerging, such as Ohio StateThey’re going to need to cut back on those big plays. Hopefully the return of CB Alexander Smith and CB Justin Clark will help solidify the rear end.
JJ: Honestly, what stood out the most was the defensive back, because I think mainly they were unexpectedly quivering. As Nick mentioned, the core of the Badger’s Corner has been destroyed for many big plays, even if none of those big plays result in points. This will be something that needs to be tightened before Wisconsin faces the Washington State team that threw the ball 40 times in Week One.
He spent all the slack season talking about the offense of Badger’s new look. What do you think of this week? Did you feel like Wisconsin tried to hold on to in hopes of salvaging some things for weeks later?
Tyler: I think they’ve kept it a little cute to salvage some new things for Washington State and Ohio State in the coming weeks. Illinois State was a team that you were likely to beat with your basics. Mertz seemed really solid to me, but I need to see him constantly before I get too excited. Overall, it didn’t stand out much, but I don’t think it’s a good or bad thing.
Nick: I told myself I wouldn’t rush to judgment about the crime. They controlled a smaller team as they should. Graham made strong decisions and kept it clean. At one point, I thought he was going to force the ball down in a scramble and ended up dragging it down and taking a few yards. I loved the little wrinkles we saw but I think there will be more wrinkles in the coming weeks.
JJ: I don’t think they kept it cute on purpose to keep things so much as they kept it simple and effective. Meretz made the throws he needed to make, didn’t press anything, and was rewarded with highly efficient specificity. As expected, the Badgers had no trouble establishing the race and ultimately made Mertz’s day easier. I don’t think we’ll really see the “new look” part of the option tested until the Ohio State game.
Who is the person who distinguished you on the offensive side of football?
Tyler: I think Graham looked really efficient and took good care of the football. If he could do it consistently, this group would be a lot better than it was last year. Again, I have to see him week after week first.
Nick: Brylon Allen– The idea of carrying the ball 14 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns was the idea for the first game of the year.
Graham Mertz – Completing 14/16 with a few drops by receivers was incredibly effective. Again, it was against Illinois State but he showed an improvement over last year.
JJ: Meretz went out and did exactly what he needed to do. He seemed to have renewed confidence and his game reflected that.
Tyler: Torchio and Mertz, as we all expected
Nick: John Turchio– Monster pick starter Six and a bag of safety couldn’t be better.
Graham Mertz– Look above.
JJ: Since Nick already said Torchio, I’ll go with Nick Herbig – who had a great day flying around the field making mayhem in the background. He looked like a leader in defense, which is a big deal considering some of the significant experience the unit had lost. And then because Nick said Mertz about his offensive game ball I’m going to Brylon Allen. Nearly 150 yards with two pitches in only 14 carrycots it was a great day in the workload that didn’t tire him too much.
Looking ahead, what will you be watching this week as Badger’s focus shifts to Washington State?
Tyler: Injuries to tackle should be right-wing Riley Mahlman and safety Hunter Waller. Those two could really hurt, especially Wohler who would be big against Washington State’s attack.
Nick: Injuries to Riley Mallen and Hunter Wohler. They both left and never came back, so I’d be interested to know if we learned anything else about them.
JJ: Who will replace Hunter Wohler, who, if I’m not mistaken, was disqualified from WSU, in high school? Because as we discussed above, Badger High had a few cracks against Illinois State, and Washington State likes to throw the ball a lot.