Grading Out

The report card from Wisconsin's 23-5 loss to UNLV, along with each position's season-to-date GPA

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Quarterbacks

 

For the third time in as many games, Jim Sorgi threw for 200 yards, but against UNLV Saturday Wisconsin's signal caller struggled immensely. Sorgi overthrew a number of passes and struggled with his decision-making. He had a difficult time finding  receivers, no matter how open, against UNLV's frequent blitzing. Sorgi was picked off twice, the first time throwing too high and a little behind Brandon Williams. The ball skirted off Williams' hands and into the arms of Jamaal Brimmer, who would later pick off another pass. On this second interception, Sorgi badly overthrew his target, Jonathan Orr, but also threw into triple coverage on that play.

 

Sorgi did make some good plays down field, but could not find a rhythm or put a drive together Saturday. One third quarter possession was telling. On third-and-15 from the Wisconsin 41, Sorgi connected over the middle with Darrin Charles for 21 yards. The following play, Sorgi audibled, but UNLV had disguised its blitz perfectly and Brimmer came free off the edge, drilling Sorgi in the backfield. Sorgi then delivered a 25-yard strike to Williams, but the drive stalled after Sorgi misfired on an attempt to Owen Daniels on second-and-seven that could have been a touchdown. A sack and a missed field goal later, and the drive had gone for naught.

 

Matt Schabert played one series and did not fare any better.

 

UNLV game grade: D

 

Season GPA-to-date: 2.33

 

Running backs

 

When a star player goes down, those behind him need to step up. That did not happen Saturday. Dwayne Smith and Booker Stanley did a reasonable job finding holes and picking up yards on the ground, (117 yards on 24 combined carries) but the running backs were awful in pass protection and Smith's consecutive first quarter fumbles were the game's biggest turning point.

 

Matt Bernstein, usually dominating as a lead blocker, was average Saturday, breaking even on collisions with UNLV's talented linebackers.

 

UNLV game grade: D

 

Season GPA-to-date: 3.00

 

Receivers

 

The wide receivers and tight ends were adequate. Brandon Williams and Lee Evans made good things happen when they touched the ball, but that did not occur quite often enough. Sorgi did a poor job delivering the ball, but Wisconsin's receivers also did not consistently beat UNLV's coverage and find holes in the zones, failing to adjust to the Rebels propensity for getting quick pressure, and dropping line backers into the deep middle. The receivers also had a few drops. They did block well, though.

 

UNLV game grade: C

 

Season GPA-to-date: 3.33

 

Offensive line

 

At first blush, a glance at Saturday's statistics gives the line a failing grade. Wisconsin allowed eight sacks and only rushed for 52 net yards. The statistics are deceiving, though. Wisconsin's tailbacks averaged 4.92 yards per carry (the eight sacks are statistically tallied along as rushing yards in college football), a respectable number. The line did a decent-to-good job of creating running lanes and making space for Dwayne Smith and Booker Stanley. Like the rest of the offense, turnovers broke any rhythm the line may have developed.

 

UNLV's front seven and particularly its linebackers, though, did a good job beating blocks and avoiding the gaping holes that Wisconsin's line created against West Virginia and Akron.

 

The eight sacks allowed are inexcusable, but the line is only partly to blame. Wisconsin did a miserable job recognizing the Rebels blitz packages and adjusting appropriately, the entire offense draws fault in this respect, not just the line. At first blush, it appeared that UNLV was bringing the house every play, but this was not the case. The Rebels would show blitz from all angles, but rarely rushed more than five players. On only two of the sacks did UNLV come with what can be considered an all-out blitz, with six players rushing on those plays. Wisconsin's running backs did not do a good job picking up extra pass rushers, and quarterback Jim Sorgi did not adjust and deliver the ball more quickly. Still, four of the eight sacks were the direct result of poor blocks on the offensive line.

 

UNLV game grade: C

 

Season GPA-to-date: 3.00

 

Defensive line

 

Wisconsin's defensive line was adequate, but could not manage a pass rush. The line was generally solid against the run, but was caught out of position on UNLV's draw plays, no matter how frequently the Rebels ran them. The Rebels, it should be noted, have not allowed a sack all season and have typically controlled the line of scrimmage.

 

UNLV game grade: BC

 

Season GPA-to-date: 2.83

 

 

Linebackers

 

Wisconsin's linebackers were modestly productive, causing some good things to happen Saturday. Chris Catalano had a good showing in his time at weakside linebacker and Jeff Mack and Alex Lewis were their lively selves. With Catalano emerging and Elliot Goode providing quality play at strongside ‘backer, spelling Lewis, the Badgers much talked about depth at the position looks to be coming to fruition. The linebackers, however, missed a few too many tackles and had a hard time recognizing UNLV's draw plays on long yardage situations.

 

UNLV game grade: BC

 

Season GPA-to-date: 2.67

 

 

Secondary

 

The unit's coverage was much improved from the previous game, but work still needs to be done. Levonne Rowan had an all-around decent showing in his first outing as starter, but was physically overmatched on two touchdown passes to Earvin Johnson. Rowan's play was indicative of the secondary on the whole. They were in the right position time and again, but could not come up with a big play, as UNLV's secondary did, despite a few good opportunities provided by Rebels quarterback Kurt Nantkes. The team played often with five or six defensive backs and at times the extra safeties were slow to react to run plays, but they stepped up and more often than not made good tackles.

 

UNLV game grade: BC

 

Season GPA-to-date: 2.33

 

Special Teams

 

R.J. Morse punted fairly well, but the punt coverage units had a miserable day. Kick coverage was adequate and Alex Lewis blocked another punt. Scott Campbell was 1-for-2 on field goals. The return game, aside from one good punt return from Jim Leonhard, had a paltry performance. A few bright spots here, but all told a mediocre day.

 

UNLV game grade: C

 

Season GPA-to-date: 2.83


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