Wisconsin began the Luke Fickell era with a 38-17 win over the Buffalo Bulls yesterday.
The buildup to the game was tremendous, with palpable excitement for the Badgers’ new air raid offense under offensive coordinator Phil Longo. By the time the game was over, the story was not the passing attack. Believe it or not, it was the continued tradition of running back dominance in Madison.
What we learned yesterday is that growing pains should be expected for the passing attack, even for quarterback Tanner Mordecai who threw two head-scratching interceptions on the day. A win is a win, and the Badgers now turn attention to a change to avenge last year’s loss to Washington State.
Before the page is completely turned, here are our game balls from Saturday’s win:
RB Chez Mellusi
Stat line: 13 carries, 157 yards, 2 touchdowns
Mellusi was the spark the Badgers needed yesterday, seen perfectly with his 89-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter.
Chez Mellusi😳 This Wisconsin RB room is something else!
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 2, 2023
The veteran transferred to Wisconsin ahead of the 2021 season and has been a terrific contributor when healthy despite being passed over by Braelon Allen for the lead job. However, Mellusi’s 13 carries were only four short of Allen’s 17 yesterday and it looked a lot more like a 1A, 1B situation than Allen being the clear No. 1.
The biggest takeaway from the game is Wisconsin’s dominance on the ground. Thanks to Mellusi playing a perfect compliment to Allen, I predict we’ll say that often throughout the season.
RB Braelon Allen
Stat line: 17 carries, 141 yards, 2 touchdowns
Braelon Allen picked up where he left off after a tremendous first few seasons in Madison. As noted, his power style compliments Mellusi’s speed perfectly with the Badgers in search of a steady offensive attack.
My biggest observation from the day is how tired the Buffalo defense became in the second half, and how it doesn’t seem very fun to meet Allen in the open field. With Wisconsin’s new pace on offense, Allen’s power closing out games late looks like a formidable strategy.
Braelon Allen is 245 pounds of pure hell carrying the ball pic.twitter.com/d14GqgG46D
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) September 3, 2023
A 298-yard, 4-touchdown season debut from the backfield duo. Extremely impressive.
S Hunter Wohler
Stat line: 11 total tackles, 10 solo
Hunter Wohler is likely Wisconsin’s best player on defense, and he looked the part on Saturday. The unit as a whole only registered three tackles-for-loss and did not record a sack — two numbers we’ll need to see improved upon as the season continues.
But Wohler was as-advertised yesterday and may end up leading the team in tackles this season.