In a game between the triple option offense and, well, 2021 Wisconsin, you knew you were going to have some wild statistical anomalies. The Badgers’ 20-14 win over Army certainly lived up to the pregame billing.
Take the first quarter as a primer. There were 25 offensive plays run in the opening period. Of those 25, 22 were runs and only three were passes. The Black Knights unsurprisingly threw the ball only six times all evening, but were surprisingly successful through the air with five completions.
Wisconsin dominated the first half defensively, allowing Army an average of only 2.4 yards per play. The second half is where the Black Knights found success on both sides of the football, cutting the 13-0 Badger lead to 13-7 in the fourth quarter before Leo Chenal forced a game-sealing fumble.
Here is a statistical look at how the Badgers improved to 3-3 on the season:
Graham Mertz ran for as many touchdowns as Army
The pocket collapses around Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz (5) during the first quarter of their game Saturday, September 25, 2021 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill. Notre Dame beat Wisconsin 41-13. Credit: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-Imagn Content Services,
Wait, what? Yes, you read that right. While this says more about how well Wisconsin’s defense contained a Black Knights triple option offense predicated on running the football, Badger QB Graham Mertz ran for a pair of scores on the night.
An excellent play call late in the first half from Paul Chryst saw Mertz score easily on a five-yard keeper after faking the handoff, and the Badger QB later scored on a one-yard sneak following Chenal’s fourth-quarter strip sack.
An Army team dedicated to keeping the football on the ground and a quarterback not known for his legs each scored a pair of rushing touchdowns.
Leo Chenal finished with a career-high 17 total tackles
Oct 16, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Army Black Knights running back Tyson Riley (32) is tackled by Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Leo Chenal (5) during the first quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
It was all Leo Chenal for Wisconsin defensively, as the Badger linebacker exploited the A-gap against the triple option. Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard had a unique plan for Chenal, who played nearly on the line of scrimmage during certain plays while dropping back into his usual spot on others.
There were a handful of times where Chenal got into the backfield just as Army got the snap off, including on his game-winning forced fumble. The plan was executed to perfection by the Wisconsin native.
Here’s another solid nugget from Mike Hogan of Badger247 on Chenal’s total tackle numbers:
Leo Chenal missed two games with COVID-19. He still leads the team in tackles with 42. Remarkable but not at all surprised. Story coming on how he and fellow ILB Jack Sanborn impacted the game. #Badgers
— Mike Hogan (@MHoganReports) October 17, 2021
Jack Sanborn...runs for a first down?
Sep 4, 2021; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Jack Sanborn (57) celebrates following a sack during the first quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Camp Randall Stadium. Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Wisconsin got tricky! Late in the second quarter, facing a 4th-and-1 from their own 40-yard line, the Badgers dialed up a fake punt that went directly to LB Jack Sanborn, who bursted up the middle for a first down. It was about as tricky as Wisconsin has been all season long. Welcome back riverboat gambler, Paul Chryst:
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 17, 2021
Wisconsin wins time of possession against Army
Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Danny Davis III (7) celebrates in the second quarter against Army, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Wisconsin winning a time of possession battle is usually the antithesis of “wild.” Not against Army, however. Due to Army running the triple option, the clock is nearly always running as the Black Knights keep it on the ground. The Badgers were the first team this season to win time of possession against Army as they controlled the football for 30:47.
Jake Ferguson adds to his record
Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson (84) picks up 18 yards on a reception during the first quarter of their game against Army Saturday, October 16, 2021 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.
Jake Ferguson was Mertz’s go-to target all evening long, as the Badger tight end finished with a game-high four receptions and a game-high 58 receiving yards.
Ferguson also added to his existing Wisconsin record, recording a catch in his 40th consecutive game.