Game Day Grades: San Jose State

No.11 Wisconsin got the win Saturday against San Jose State but seldom things were crisp. With a tough Pac 10 opponent in Arizona State coming to Camp Randall next week, the Badgers will have to sharpen their skills in a hurry. Badger Nation Publisher Benjamin Worgull hands out the grades.

Quarterbacks

Nobody is more disappointed in his performance over the last two weeks than Scott Tolzien. A competitor and perfectionist, Tolzien had no good explanation for his play or why things aren't clicking perfectly on offense.

He finished 15-of-22 for 191 yards and a touchdown, but his game will be remembered for his three fumbles and his poorly- thrown interception. On the play, a deep slant route to Isaac Anderson, Tolzien went to his first target and didn't look at his other options, a throw he considers a missed read and a missed throw.

"Turnover were an issue last week and they were an issue again this week," Tolzien said. "You never want to have repeat mistakes and we did. I know a lot of it stems from myself and being careless with the ball. I need to learn from those mistakes and get better."

When asked after the game if Tolzien was pressing, Bielema said the senior made his best play in the fourth quarter, changing the play at the line of scrimmage and hitting a checkdown route to Kyle Jefferson for eight yards. No offense but if that's the best play of your day, it wasn't that good of a day.

Grade: D

Running Backs

Yes, Wisconsin's running game racked up over 200 yards rushing, always a good thing. When the opponent is San Jose State and you have a porous rush defense, the Badgers should have accomplished so much more.

John Clay got six more carries than he did in the opener and added 14 more yards. Clay grinded all game long. If you take away his 40-yard run at the beginning of the third quarter, Clay averaged 4.4 yards per carry. It's good to see him continue his 100-yard game streak, but one hopes Clay has more in him.

Without question, Montee Ball and James White took steps backward. Ball looked a little out of sorts on his carries and was generally ineffective. You have to wonder if he's having trouble adjusting to the 20 extra pounds of muscle or so he put on in the offseason or if it's just early season rust.

White had his much publicized fumble and recognized that at Wisconsin, the Badgers run the ball over the goal line, not reach it across. White is a good player and a great added talent to the UW backfield. He'll learn from that opportunity and be better for it. However, Bielema said it best: "It wasn't a great day in the run game for any of those guys."

Grade: C-

Wide Receivers

Much like Luke Swan, Jared Abbrederis is making strides toward the next-great receiver walk-on. Playing his first game in the Camp Randall atmosphere, Abbrederis was impressive with his five catches. It'll be interesting to see how he grows over his career, especially if he adds a couple extra pounds. Remember, he had been playing receiver for a little over a year.

Lance Kendricks registered a team-high 60 yards, including an excellent 14-yard touchdown catch that he set up by having sound blocking at the line of scrimmage and then releasing into the secondary unguarded, turning in the easiest touchdown pass he'll ever catch.

"He's getting recruiting by LSU, Arkansas, I can't remember all the schools that offered him a track scholarships, but he's bought into what we are selling," Bielema said. "He's come in, put on weight and has developed into an unbelievable football player. What he's doing blocking wise now is as good as we have had here."

It was also nice to see Jacob Pedersen get on the board, catching his first pass for a 15-yard gain, but the Badgers will need more out of that second tight end position to be truly effective.

Grade: B-

Defensive Line

He has yet to register a sack through two games, but J.J. Watt's imprint can be found on nearly every faucet of the defense. He is making tackles for loss, quarterback hurries and pass breakups positive. He's been a great addition in goal line offense and on special teams, where he made his imprint on Saturday with a blocked field goal at the tail end of the first half.

"I am doing whatever I can to help the team win," Watt said. "We're 2-0 so obviously, stuff is working right now."

The middle of the defense has been very good thus far for the Badgers, allowing the Spartans to gain only 55 rushing yards. Beau Allen is massive in the middle of that line and is a great compliment to Jordan Kohout and Patrick Butrym in the middle. None of the group has registered a lot of tackles, but they have certainly clogged the gaps.

"it's really nice to look over to the sideline and say you need a sub and get a sub," Watt said. "In the past, we haven't always been able to say that all the time. When I am a little bit tired, I can have Pat Muldoon come in, Tyler Dippel come in and we get a rest. When you are playing well rested, you play better."

Louis Nzegwu was all over the field, as well, registered six total tackles and three solo tackles. Only knock on the group, no sacks against the Spartans, which handcuffed the rest of the group when adequate pressure couldn't be applied.

Grade: B

Linebackers

Senior Blake Sorensen, who has proven to be a versatile commodity, registered his second career interception in the first that led to Kendricks touchdown. Sorensen added seven tackles to go along with the pick, finishing one of his best games of his career.

Culmer St. Jean has quietly been solid in the middle, especially with all the attention paid to Mike Taylor's return and Chris Borland's absence. Taylor was on a pitch count Saturday, playing about 30 plays, but ended with two total tackles.

"I would say I played a little bit tentative the first few plays, but after that as the game went on, I got a little more confidence, felt better and better," Taylor said. "It's kind of like my rehab game, just to see how it feels. Hopefully, over these next few days, (my knee) can get stronger and better."

The grade is lower because of the passing yards, which the linebackers share the burden on with the secondary.

Grade: C+

Secondary

San Jose State's passing offense was 118th in the country last season in scoring. The Spartans threw for only 86 yards in the opener. So how did SJSU throw for 252 yards? That's a number that is too high and unacceptable. Jay Valai needs to play better at the safety position and was in the wrong position on a 46-yard pass play on third-and-six. Break up that play, and UW gets prime field position and probably can score a touchdown before halftime instead of a field goal.

The tackling on Chandler Jones 37-yard bubble screen was horrible and unacceptable and the defense on the fourth-and-nine play that resulted in a 19-yard pass completion and an eventual touchdown wasn't much better.

"I was extremely upset on the conversion," Bielema said. "Blake Sorensen lost leverage and gave him an easy completion. Everybody is looking that they completed another pass, but the linebacker keeps inside leverage and we don't have an issue. A huge part of that is pass rush. You really saw a lost of (Borland) pressuring the passing game. Hopefully we get that element back, we can all benefit from that."

I will credit the secondary for only getting one penalty called on it. That makes two in two games, which is key. Of course when an offense is passing all over you, there aren't many opportunities to commit penalties. Kudos also to Antonio Fenelus, who made a spectacular one-handed interception and tied for the team lead with seven tackles, including five solo stops.

Grade: C

Special Teams

Dating back to last season, Philip Welch had made 13 of his last 14 field goals and had made 41-of-52 (.788) for his career, second-gest percentage in school history. Welch, after losing his job in favor of Borland last year in Hawaii, has been kicking better since the bowl game and has been an asset in the improvement of the UW kickoff team.

Brad Nortman only kicked three punts, one of which finished inside the 20. The return units still need to improve and get some yards on both punt and kickoff.

Grade: C


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