On a tough day to throw the football, Joel Stave was very good in the first half.
Throwing for 157 of his 219 yards in the first half, Stave – who won for the 28th time as a starter – delivered a number of big time throws in the first half. He delivered 17-yard pass to Troy Fumagalli through a tight window on third-and-5, hit Alex Erickson down the sideline over two defenders and dropped a perfect pass to Jazz Peavy over two defenders that would have been a touchdown, only Peavy lost the ball once he hit the ground.
He even ran the two-minute drill to near perfection. UW 62 yards down the field in 40 seconds to set up a field goal before halftime.
“It feels good to be able to put together some of those big plays and finish drives with touchdowns,” said Stave, who won for the 28th time as a starting quarterback. “I was really happy with the way we were able to execute in the first half. Score 27 points in a half, that’s going to be tough to beat.”
Like any veteran quarterback, Stave took responsibility for the two interceptions he threw, although the first one could have been caught by Erickson instead of deflecting off his hands. The second pick was another case of Stave not setting his feet and forcing a weak throw to a covered receiver.
“It was a little bit of everything,” said Stave. “Everything bad that could happen did happen.”
As has been the case more than a few times in conference play, the touchdowns Wisconsin’s defense has given up has been a result of Stave’s turnovers.
Bart Houston was freed the final nine minutes of the game but didn’t complete a pass.
With all due respect to Dare Ogunbowale, Taiwan Deal and Alec Ingold, Corey Clement showed what can happened when an experienced tailback recognizes a hole and bursts through it. Clement – at only 85 percent – was tremendous in his limited work with three touchdown runs of 12, 21 and 1.
His 12-yard run was emphasized by a sharp cut to the inside and then accelerating into the end zone; his 21-yard run was perfectly blocked to allow him to sprint to the goal line and his 1-yard run was all about patience.
He only touched the ball 11 times but there’s no question that his 115 yards and three touchdowns changed everything for the offense, especially when it comes to energy.
“He's got a little bit of everything,” said senior fullback Derek Watt. “He's a physical guy but at the same time he can make you miss. He just works hard and he brings a lot to the table and you never know what he's going to do. He's got some shaking and he's got some physicality as well.”
Ogunbowale had a team-high 14 carries but only managed 41 yards (2.9 yards per carry), which included a 24-yard carry. It’s evident now more than ever of the drop off from Clement to the rest. To be fair, Ogunbowale is a threat in the passing game, as his 16-yard catch and dance was impressive at the end of the half. He also stood his ground on pass protection, including picking up a blitzer that freed Stave on his touchdown throw.
Ingold (6 for 9) and Serge Trezy (4 for 9) didn’t add much.
Only five receivers caught 13 passes and, of course, Erickson gobbled up most of them. His six catches for 103 yards – his fifth career 100-yard receiving game – was another boost for the unit, including his 27-yard catch along the sidelines and his 31-yard touchdown on fourth-and-7, benefited by his defender slipping on the wet turf and Stave delivering the perfect pass.
At this point, N.F.L. scouts should start drooling over Fumagalli and his abilities at the tight end position. His three catches for 55 yards – including a long of 31 – are critical for balance in Paul Chryst’s offense.
Jordan Fredrick (19) and Reggie Love (14) each made the most out of their one catch.
Zero and two, numbers that represent the number of sacks and quarterback hurries Wisconsin gave up to the Rutgers’ defense. That shows tremendous growth for the group, just as much as the number of running and passing yards delivered by the offense.
The rotating door on the offensive line appears to have stopped, mainly because UW doesn’t have any more healthy bodies to put in the trenches. Still, the Badgers had used this starting five before and that certainly played a factor in the Badgers having few extremely noticeable communication issues and allowed only four TFLs in the running game
On a wet, sloppy day, Michael Deiter didn’t have any quarterback-center snap exchange issues (Rutgers wasn’t as fortunate). Fact is the Badgers never put the ball on the ground. That’s a credit to Deiter’s preparation at the position, which he really has been working at since the spring.
“To click like that was pretty exciting,” said Deiter. “It wasn’t my first rodeo at center. I’ve been playing center essentially ever since I got here, so it made it pretty easy. It feels like my natural position sometimes.
Rutgers bases its offense from setting up the run first to open things up down the field in the passing game. The Scarlet Knights had 10 drives of three plays or fewer and 11 drives where it gained six yards or fewer. It’s obvious that the group did its job.
For the third straight game, UW held an opponent under 85 rushing yards. Averaging 2.2 yards per carry, Rutgers didn’t have a bust until Josh Hicks went around the left side for 22 yards against the backups late in the fourth quarter. Take out that run and Rutgers averaged 1.6 yards on 37 carries.
Any way you slice it, that’s darn good.
No staggering numbers from Wisconsin’s linebackers but a productive day nonetheless.
Vince Biegel – in Joe Schobert’s shadow much of this season – was the star of the show with five tackles, two sacks and a quarterback hurry.
Schobert was quiet (three tackles) but his pass breakup was comical, having a pass bounce off his helmet and into the waiting arms of Tanner McEvoy. He does deserve credit for sticking with his coverage and keeping the target between him and the sideline.
“We have a great coaching staff all around,” said Schobert, who also recovered a botched snap at the Rutgers 3, setting up another score. “Coach Aranda and our position coaches do a great job getting schematically ready for the game. And then when offenses are finding something successful in the first half, they are already drawing stuff up how to stop it.”
Injuries have been the theme this year for the Badgers but so have players stepping up to the plate. Knowing the whole week that Chris Orr (leg) likely wouldn’t play, Jack Cichy moved from outside to inside linebacker and played solid with a career-high eight tackles. It’s a move a couple yards to the inside but it’s easier said than done, so a lot of credit to him.
Rutgers was held to its fewest total yards in a game this season as well as its fewest passing yards in a game this season and the second-lowest rushing total in a game.
Entering the game leading the Big Ten with a passing completion percentage of 67.2 and third with an efficiency mark of 148.9, Chris Laviano was confused and bewildered by Wisconsin’s defense. His 4-for-14 passing was ugly, as were his 31 yards. Backup quarterback Hayden Rettig wasn’t any better when he came in during the second half, going 2-for-6 for 51 yards
Darius Hillary, who on the second drive got run through and allowed a first down inside UW’s 10, came up big with a pass breakup in the end zone that saved a touchdown. The Badgers have now allowed opponents to reach the red zone 15 times in nine games, giving up 10 scores (five TD, five FG).
“I just think we're real close,” said cornerback Sojourn Shelton, who finished with four tackles. “As far as the secondary and even the guys like Schobert and Biegel, we've been playing with each other for so long. Now it's just a matter of us just building that chemistry and then the guys that are filling in for some areas, just getting them on board too.
“I think as far as the three years I've been here, I've been fortunate enough to play on some special defenses, but I think this is probably the best one. We're out there having fun and I think that's the best part about it."
Michael Caputo’s eight tackles tied Cichy for the team high and McEvoy’s interception was the team’s sixth of the season, tying their total from all of last season.
It’s shocking that a former coaching staff with a former punter could screw up Drew Meyer so badly. It’s taken Meyer some time, but the senior punter is back on track in impressive fashion. A year after being named the special teams player of the week, Meyer dropped three of his five punts inside the 20, including one at the 4. In the third quarter he received a low snap but still
Erickson finally showed some pop in the punt return game, going 55 yards on three returns with a long of 25. His returns of 19 (to the Rutgers 34) and 11 (to the Rutgers 28) set up short fields and touchdowns.
Chryst knew his return game would be tested against a team like Rutgers, and the Badgers held up for the most part. UW allowed only a 19-yard average on six kick returns and a 10-yard average on two punt returns. The biggest damage was a 42-yard scamper that gave Rutgers field position at the UW 46, but UW’s defense forced a turnover on downs in the second quarter.
Rafael Gaglianone has struggled kicking in sunny conditions, so go figure he went 2-for-2 with a long of 49 against Rutgers.
Wisconsin only real mistake on special teams was a kickoff fumble by Zander Neuville that Derek Straus was able to recover.