After getting off to a slow start in the first half against Western Illinois, Wisconsin found its stride in the second half and looks to pick up right where they left off when they face Bowling Green. In order for Wisconsin to come away with its second victory of the year, the Badgers’ defense will have to be ready to slow down a up-tempo offense. Head Coach Gary Andersen and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig also have to show that the rushing performance against Western Illinois was a rarity opposed to it becoming the norm for this season.
With Bowling Green coming to Madison, here are the “Five Keys to Victory” for Wisconsin.
1, Cooling the TempoA lot has been made of Bowling Green’s offensive tempo on offense this week, especially after them running 113 plays in the victory against Indiana last week. Even though Bowling Green is going to try and establish the same kind of rhythm on offense, don’t expect them to have the same success for the simple reason that Indiana’s offense is ahead of the Hoosiers’ defense.
Wisconsin’s defense should be able to do a better job of getting after Bowling Green quarterback James Knapke then Indiana’s pass rush did. Through two games this year, Wisconsin has been able to display the speed and athleticism that defensive coordinator Dave Aranda wants. With Bowling Green wanting to go no huddle, Wisconsin won’t be able to substitute as frequently as they have this season. Whoever is in for the front seven will have to make sure Knapke doesn’t have the same luxury of sitting back in the pocket like he did against Indiana. If Wisconsin can supply consistent pressure it could result in mistakes, incompletions, or short drives.
2, Establishing the Run
With Tanner McEvoy giving Melvin Gordon a little grief over the last two weeks for out rushing him against Western Illinois, Gordon should be chomping at the bit for kickoff to come. It’s been a weird start to the season for Gordon, who is averaging 5.4 yards per carry but hasn’t busted many big runs over the last six quarters. Bowling Green will likely follow the same game plan as Western Illinois by loading the box and making McEvoy beat them with his arm. Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig has had two weeks to come up with a plan on how to utilize Gordon to his strengths. Also, if Austin Ramesh can pick up the initial blocker on run plays, it will give Gordon a chance to create something with the offensive line trying to create a hole for him. As long as Gordon stays patient, which he has something will open up for him.
3, Secondary Test
Wisconsin’s secondary will be tested against Bowling Green and Knapke has a chance to test the secondary the most out of any of the quarterbacks Wisconsin has faced so far. Through the first two games the Badgers have defended against 42 passing plays. They could see that number of pass attempts, if not more, on Saturday. With Bowling Green possibly going into four wide receiver sets, freshman Derrick Tindal will have to be ready, as well as Michael Caputo and Lubern Figaro as a safety blanket.
4, Second Wide Receiver
Still looking to strike that perfect balance on offense, it could help if somebody outside of Alex Erickson at the wide receiver position takes a step in the right direction. The question now is who? The options right now seem to be few and far between. Reggie Love might be the likeliest candidate to step up since he looks the part, but he’s still trying to find that consistency. Love played well against LSU but dropped a critical pass against Western Illinois that would have resulted in a touchdown. Love only received a handful of snaps after that play. The coaching staff has shown they want to get Love involved in the game plan and even though it was a costly drop, he has shown to have solid hands in the past.
5, Rafael Gaglianone’s Redemption
After hitting his first career field goal from 51 yards against LSU, it was surprising that Gaglianone missed his next attempt from 33 yards against Western Illinois. Special teams coach Jeff Genyk said his true freshman speeded up his process and rushed the kick. Gaglianone should get another chance against Bowling Green to show that he is the consistent kicker that he was during fall camp. If the Wisconsin offense gets off to a slow start or if a drive stalls, Gaglianone will have to make sure Wisconsin doesn’t leave the field without getting at least three points.
The game will be close going into halftime before the Badgers start to pull away in the second half. Wisconsin’s defense will take a series to figure out how to slow down Bowling Green’s offense, but the Wisconsin offense should be able to have success early and often against the Falcons. McEvoy has another solid game and Gordon gets back on track running the football.
Wisconsin 38 Bowling Green 17