Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst, Badgers react to Washington State loss
The Badgers suffered their first loss of the season Saturday, 17-14, to the Cougars at Camp Randall Stadium.
Mark Stewart, Wochit
The Wisconsin Badgers look to rebound Saturday against New Mexico State after suffering a stunning loss to Washington State last week.
The Badgers are 1-1, while New Mexico State is 0-3.
Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. at Camp Randall Stadium.
Join blog host Mark Stewart as be brings you live updates and analysis from the press box. Be sure to refresh your browser for the newest.
Wisconsin vs. New Mexico State: Preview, prediction and more as Badgers wraps up their nonconference schedule
Van Zelst took over the place kicking duties after Vito Calvaruso was unable to play due a leg injury. You couldn’t have asked for more from him. Van Zelst drilled each of his extra points and late in the game made a 27-yard field goal a drama-free event, giving the Badgers their final margin of victory, 66-7. Bravo to the redshirt freshman.
Wisconsin avoided allowing a score late in the first half when the Aggies missed a 29-yard field goal. But in the fourth quarter after UW cleared its bench New Mexico State drove 75 yards in seven plays and reached the end zone on a 1-yard run by Ahmonte Watkins with 8:10 to play. The big play of the possession was a 36-yard pass from Gavin Frakes that set up first and goal from the 1. Wisconsin 63, New Mexico State 7.
The senior had never scored more than once in a game at UW until today. His 30-yard run with 11:48 remaining, along with the extra point, gave the Badgers a 63-0 advantage. Guerendo is up to 71 yards in 10 carries. His 7.1 yards per carry are the best among UW’s ball carriers today and his rushing yards are the second-highest total of his career. He had 92 yards against Eastern Michigan last year, 82 of which came on one run. Wisconsin 63, New Mexico State 0.
The blowout is allowing Guerendo, who didn’t finish last season due to injury, to get some work. He is made the most of it on the Badgers’ final score of the third quarter. he scored on a 3-yard run with 1 minute 41 seconds left. The touchdown came two plays after his 16-yard score was nullified due to a holding penalty on tight end Jack Eschenbach. Wisconsin 56, New Mexico State 0.
You can’t get too excited considering the competition, but the junior quarterback surpassed his career high for yards in a game with his 18-yard touchdown in the third quarter to Skyler Bell. Bell reached the goal for the second straight possession, this time catching a pass in the corner of the end zone on a ball thrown over the top of the defense that gave UW a 49-0 advantage.
That was Mertz’s final pass of the day. Backup Myles Burkett took over on the next possession. Here are Mertz’s final numbers: 12 of 15, 251 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
This is turning into a good day for the Badgers’ young receivers. Sophomore Keontez Lewis scored his first collegiate touchdown in the first half. Bell, a redshirt freshman, reached the end zone for the first time on a 49-yard touchdown grab with 10 minutes 21 seconds left in the third quarter that gave the Badgers a 42-0 lead.
It looked like Mertz knew he was going to Bell coming out of the huddle. Upon the snap Mertz fired a dart to Bell, who caught the ball in stride near the 30, cut inside the defensive back and reach the end zone untouched.
Mertz, by the way, has his ninth 200-yard game. He sits at 203 yards on 10-of-13 passing.
It should be no surprise the Badgers are leading every major statistical category so far. Here is a look: Total yards: 310-100, Rushing yards: 164-60; Passing yards: 146-40; Time of possession: 16 minutes 15 seconds – 13:45.
Here are a couple of other noteworthy tidbits
* After piling up more than 100 yards in penalties against Washington State, UW been flagged twice for 25 yards.
* QB Graham Mertz has completed eight of 11 passes for 146 yards. He has an 18-yard touchdown pass to Keontez Lewis but also a poorly thrown interception he tried to force into coverage.
* Wisconsin had three plays of 15 yards or longer -Two of those plays, an 18-yard pass from Mertz to Keontez Lewis and a 37-yard completion from Mertz to Skyler Bell, either resulted in touchdown or led to them.
* Braelon Allen (13 carries for 83 yards) is on well on his way to his 10th 100-yard game.
The sophomore has run for three touchdowns twice in one game in his career, but never has it comes this easily. The Fond du Lac native reached the end zone for the third time with a 2-yard run with 6:09 left in the second quarter. His other three-touchdown efforts cam in back-to-back games with Northwestern and Nebraska.
At this point in the game Allen has 77 carries in 12 attempts and Wisconsin leads 35-0.
Njongmeta, the junior linebacker, picked off the first pass of his career and returned it 6 yards to the New Mexico State 2-yard line. Allen took care of the rest, gaining 1 yards on the next two plays to reach the end zone. The play plus the extra point gives the Badgers a 28-0 lead.
The sophomore transfer from UCLA caught an 18-yard touchdown from Mertz with 12:22 left in the first half. The grab was the third in the past two games for Lewis and his first touchdown since his junior year of high school. His senior season was cancelled due to the pandemic and he wasn’t part of the passing game at UCLA.
The score, plus Nate Van Zelst’s extra point, pushed UW’s lead to 21-0.
Wisconsin needed seven plays and 2 minutes 40 seconds to cover 63 yards and get its second score, a 2- yard run by Chez Mellusi. Mellusi gained 40 yards in 10 carries during the position.
The drive came with the aid of some changes on the offensive line. Wedig, Kettle Moraine High School graduate, replaced Logan Brown at right tackle and Bortolini, who missed the first two games due to injury, took over for Michael Furtney at right guard.
The rest of the line – Jack Nelson at left tackle, Tyler Beach at left guard and Joe Tippmann at center – remained the same.
If this is an indication of how the afternoon is going to go, then UW is going to pile up points in a hurry.
It took UW four plays and 1 minute 22 seconds to get into the end zone. The Badgers needed no passes on the drive and used fullback Jackson Acker twice, including on the touchdown run.
And kicker Nate Van Zelst split the uprights on the extra point. The Badgers lead, 7-0.
We’ve got about 35 minutes left until kickoff and one thing is certain, special teams could be interesting. With Calvaruso and Van Dyke out, redshirt freshman Nate Van Zelst will get his first action kicking field goals and Gavin Lahm will handle punts.
Lahm, a freshman from Kaukauna, is actually the third-string kickoff specialist. Van Dyke and Calvaruso are the team’s top options at that position
Of greater interest from this seat will be how Van Zelst fares, especially after Calvaruso missed two kicks badly last week. During the preseason Van Zelst said he has range up to about 50 yards.