Grading the Badgers - Fresno State

With the defensive front shutting down the Bulldogs, the Wisconsin offense productive in the clutch and the Badgers winning the turnover battle, No.10 Wisconsin leaves California with a 13-10 victory over No.21 Fresno State and a 3-0 record. Badger Nation publisher Benjamin Worgull grades Wisconsin.

Quarterbacks

His numbers weren't as spectacular as his last outing but as you watch the performance of Allan Evridge, Badger fans have got to feel comfortable with what their starting quarterback is able to do and how he is able to lead the offense. Making his first road start since 2005, Evridge was solid when he had to be and made several solid throws over the course of the evening. More importantly, while Fresno State was turning the ball over, the Badgers didn't commit a single turnover as Evridge made sound choices with the football.

When Evridge was forced to leave the game due to a left leg cramp with eight minutes left in the fourth, junior backup Dustin Sherer came in, avoided a linebacker blitz and completed a seven-yard screen pass to Zach Brown. Moreover, when UW was pinned against its own 1, Sherer tucked the ball and pounded the ball straight ahead to give UW some breathing room.

One has to be somewhat concerned that the Badgers were only 3-for-13 on third down and didn't generate a lot of yardage (their 304 yards was the fourth-lowest total under Bielema). When you look at it though, the Badgers were put in plenty of prime-field positions because of turnovers and the Badgers turned those two turnovers into 10 big points.

Grade: B+

Running Backs

Wisconsin looked impressive early running the ball, generating 47 rushing yards on its second drive (44 of them on the back of P.J. Hill) in getting the Badgers down inside the 10. Curious play calling, however, at the end of drive left Badger fan scratching their heads. Hill was the driving force behind the drive, but Wisconsin handed the ball to Brown and he wasn't able to muscle into the end zone. When Wisconsin decided to go for it on fourth-and-one from the 1, they gave the ball to Hill, he was stuffed and UW turned it over on downs.

Hill was solid, rushing for 112 yards on 26 carries – his first 100-yard rushing effort on the road since last season's UNLV game. John Clay and Zach Brown were virtually ineffective against Fresno State's d-line and the Badgers failed to score a rushing touchdown for the first time in five games.

The run of the game had to be Bill Rentmeester's eight-yard physical run through the middle of the Fresno State's defense to seal the victory.

Grade: C

Wide Receivers

Where would this team be without Garrett Graham? The junior has caught every touchdown pass for Wisconsin this season and led the Badgers in catches for the third-straight game. Without question, this is a running offense that likes to incorporate its tight ends once in awhile.

Travis Beckum returned after missing the team's first two games and caught four passes for 51 yards, but did show some expected signs of rustiness.

Maurice Moore chipped in with two catches for 24 yards, including a 14-yard catch and a tiptoe along the sidelines.

Other than that, there wasn't much production from Wisconsin's starting two receivers (Gilreath one catch, Jefferson none) and zero production from any reserves, something that needs to change in conference play.

Grade: C

Defensive Line

This was probably one of the better performances we have seen out of the defensive line in recent memory. Fresno State wanted to establish its own running game with Ryan Mathews (who rushed for 163 yards and three scores in the opener). The Badgers never allowed him to get going, allowing 54 yards on 17 carries (a meager 3.2 average), and only allowed the Bulldogs to get 118 rushing yards.

The front four made 13 stops, two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss but Matt Shaughnessy was the man. He broke up two passes at the line of scrimmage, one of which resulted in an interception by DeAndre Levy.

Grade: A

Linebackers

Next to his interception curiosity of Shaughnessy, Levy had a standout game, leading the team with nine tackles, three tackle for loss and a huge fourth-quarter sack on third down that forced Fresno State to punt, effectively giving the game to Wisconsin.

Jae McFadden was all over the field at the mike position, registering seven tackles and combining with Mike Newkirk in a tackle for loss.

The underscored play of the game, however, was by Jonathan Casillas (seven tackles). With Wisconsin up 13-7, Mathews caught a screen pass and made Levy and safety Jay Valai miss, causing nothing between him and the end zone. Casillas came from the other side of the field and ran Mathews down at the nine-yard line. The Bulldogs never got into the end zone and had to settle for a 33-yard field goal.

"Jonathan Casillas, in my mind, he might have won the game when he ran that guy down and tackled him and made it into a field goal," Bielema said. "If he doesn't do that, they go in and score a touchdown, we don't know if we ever win this game."

Grade A+

Secondary

Wisconsin was far from perfect defensively and that showed in the Badgers secondary. One of the big reasons Wisconsin was out gained by Fresno State (343 to 304) was the bevy of poor angles and missed tackles that led to huge plays by the Bulldogs of 47 yards (FSU's lone touchdown), 57 yards and the 61-yard screen pass that Casillas thankfully squelched. Those big plays helped the Bulldogs go 6-for-15 on third down.

Although he made a career-high seven tackles, Jay Valai's missed tackles were a direct results of two of those big plays, including the touchdown, and Shane Carter missed an open-field tackle that could have stopped the 57-yard run before it started.

Allen Langford had a team-best five solo tackles and played one of his best games of the season, limiting Seyi Ajirotutu to only three catches for 31 yards.

Grade D+/C-

Special Teams

Fresno State lived up to its reputation as the best blocking school in the country over the past six years by getting a hand on a punt and a finger on Phil Welch's 50-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half.

Even so, Welch was the best kicker on the field Saturday night, making clutch field goals of 38 and 23 yards, while his counterpart, Kevin Goessling, went 1-for-4, missing from 47, 51 and 35.

Watching the routine of freshman punter Brad Nortman during his five punts, you could tell that he was rushing a little bit, which probably led to the dropped snap that led to the block. Even so, Nortman booted two punts inside the 20 and four inside the 23.

Grade: B-


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