Week 8 scouting report | Wisconsin

The Badgers have a tough defense in a season where three of their games have been canceled.


Megan Nagorzanski

Iowa defensive back Geno Stone makes a tackle during a game against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, November 9, 2019. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Badgers 24-22. The Hawkeye defense had a total of 67 tackles.

Isaac Goffin, Assistant Sports Editor

The Wisconsin Badgers (2-2) have been playing on and off in 2020, literally.

Wisconsin’s first game of the season was against Illinois, which it won 45-7, but the Badgers canceled their contests against Nebraska and Purdue because of positive COVID-19 tests within their program.

The Badgers won their next game at Michigan, 49-11, and then lost at Northwestern, 17-7. Their next opponent, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, had COVID-19 issues in their program. The Golden Gophers were forced to cancel the game.

Last week, the Badgers did get their game in against the No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers in Madison. Though the Hoosiers were without their starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr., they got past the Badgers and won 14-6.

Though the Badgers have played four games, there is enough information for Iowa to know what it will be facing Saturday.

For one, Badgers redshirt freshman starting quarterback Graham Mertz has slowed down since the season started. After having an amazing five-touchdown performance and completing 20-of-21 passes in the season opener, Mertz hasn’t reached 10 touchdowns this season.

He threw three interceptions at Northwestern and didn’t throw a touchdown against Indiana. Mertz isn’t a great runner, and the Badgers have allowed nine sacks in 2020. With the Hawkeye defense showing they can defend opposing quarterbacks, as well as get sacks, they should have an opportunity to show that again against the Badgers.

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Though Mertz isn’t contributing much to the running game — unlike the recent quarterbacks Iowa has faced — the Badgers have other players that do. Averaging 199.8 yards per game, the running game is led by redshirt freshman Jalen Berger. He has 267 yards on the ground with one touchdown this season.

That number may seem low, but he’s averaged 5.9 yards per carry, and he didn’t play in the first game. Sophomore Nakia Watson is the team’s second leading rusher at 162 yards.

Tight end Jake Ferguson, a junior, is the Badgers’ leading receiver. He has 235 receiving yards and four touchdowns so far, and three of the touchdowns came against Illinois. Wisconsin has two other players with over 100 receiving yards — receivers Chimere Dike (121) and Kendric Pryor (119).

Defensively, the Badgers have allowed only 12.25 points per game, suggesting the Hawkeye matchup could be a low-scoring, gritty game.

Forcing turnovers hasn’t been Wisconsin’s strong suit. Against Northwestern and Indiana, Wisconsin forced one turnover in each of those games, which wasn’t good considering it committed five turnovers against Northwestern and two against Indiana.

Quarterbacks haven’t had a great time throwing the ball against Wisconsin, as the Badgers defense has allowed 157 passing yards and 1.25 passing touchdowns per game.

Their rushing defense has been strong also. Allowing 2.9 rushing yards per attempt, no opponent has scored a rushing touchdown. Iowa’s running back duo of Tyler Goodson and Mekhi Sargent has scored 13 combined touchdowns in 2020, so it should be a contrasting matchup.

On special teams, punter Andy Vujnovich has averaged 42.5 yards per punt, and kicker Collin Larsh has gone 3-for-3 on field attempts. Larsh’s longest field goal this season was 29 yards.

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