The junior quarterback shined in one of his best performances of his career.
The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the New Mexico State Aggies to the tune of 66-7, controlling the game from the opening drive and never taking their foot off the gas, even with backups in the game.
Here are the offensive grades for the Badgers:
Graham Mertz played one of his cleanest games as a Badger, albeit against some porous competition, completing 12/15 passes for 251 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception.
Mertz completed passes of all accords, hitting receivers deep, intermediate, and in the short depths of the field, connecting with Skyler Bell for 108 yards and two touchdowns on four catches.
When receivers consistently got open, Mertz didn’t make mistakes by missing those plays, even working through progressions at times to find completions.
Mertz continued to spread the ball to several receivers, utilizing a number of his provided weapons, as the junior quarterback hit six different players on his 15 passes.
To me, one of Mertz’s best throws of the day came early in the first quarter when the quarterback worked the middle of the field before progressing to the right side and hitting tight end Clay Cundiff in the flat with a blitzer in his face.
On the play, Mertz not only showcased the progressions that had been inconsistent throughout his career but also the poise with his feet to complete the play from the pocket.
Mertz did have some mistakes, throwing an interception that appeared to be tipped at the line of scrimmage, but into a tight window that likely wouldn’t have resulted in a good play either way.
After the game, Mertz attributed the turnover to a miscommunication with receiver Skyler Bell.
Additionally, Mertz still possesses jittery feet, even in clean pockets, which can be an issue if maintained for the rest of the season.
Lastly, Mertz also missed an open Chimere Dike on a crosser on one of his three incompletions on a touch pass, while misfiring on another pass.
True freshman Myles Burkett saw action in Saturday’s game from the third quarter forward, completing 4/5 passes for 84 yards.In limited action, Burkett displayed his arm strength, unleashing a deep 37-yard completion to Dean Engram that was underthrown because the quarterback was hit on the play, but likely would’ve been completed in stride.
Deacon Hill also saw limited snaps, but was sacked on his lone dropback, which coincidentally, was the same outcome of Burkett’s first dropback in Week 1.
After a “down” week against Washington State, in which he rushed for 4.7 yards per carry, superstar running back Braelon Allen had a monster game, rushing 15 times for 86 yards and three touchdowns.
Overall, the running backs rushed for six total touchdowns, with Isaac Guerendo scoring twice and Chez Mellusi hitting paydirt once.
Allen had several nice runs, including a 39-yard carry, where he was decisive from the jump and made the correct read at the line of scrimmage.
However, there are still instances where Allen either isn’t decisive or hits the wrong hole initially, before bouncing back for a nice gain.
Isaac Guerendo had his reclamation game, rushing for 74 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries, and the redshirt senior’s speed appeared to be back.
Guerendo’s combination of vision and speed is a huge compliment to Allen’s physical running style, and he should continue to see serious playing time as the backup.
Chez Mellusi had a solid game as well, rushing for 71 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, hitting holes consistently as he’s shown to do.
While Mellusi doesn’t have the traits of either Allen or Guerendo, he’s known to be consistent, which brings value and stability to the running back room.
The wideouts had a clean, impactful game, limiting the drops from a week ago, while making several impacts plays that prolonged the Badgers’ offense.
Skyler Bell led the charge with four receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns, while Dean Engram, who only saw playing time with Myles Burkett, caught three passes for 63 yards.
All three top receivers for the Badgers made nice catches on the day.
Skyler Bell had a nice grab in the endzone, getting both feet in after hauling it in over the defender, while also beating a zone defender off the line of scrimmage before getting past another for a 49-yard touchdown.
Chimere Dike hauled in a layered throw from Mertz, absorbing a hit from the incoming safety and grabbing the 28-yard pass.
Keontez Lewis ran a nice route on his lone catch, an 18-yard touchdown pass, beating his defender to the inside and making the play in the endzone.
The receivers will be relied upon in Week 4, when the Badgers travel to Ohio State in a matchup against the Buckeyes.
After dropping a pass in both Week 1 and 2, Markus Allen did not have a catch on Saturday.
Clay Cundiff led the way for the tight ends with two catches for 57 yards, while Hayden Rucci caught two passes for 20 yards.
Cundiff got wide-open over the middle for a 47-yard play, making another big play after two touchdowns last week.
However, the grade decreases for the unit after Jack Eschenbach, who was seen by some as the top tight end in the offseason, committed a penalty, which was a theme in Week 2 with the group.
While Cundiff and Rucci had solid production, it doesn’t appear that either will emerge as the true safety blanket for Mertz, given their volume compared to the receivers, as well as the quarterback’s tendency to spread the ball to several players.
The offensive line played much better from last weekend’s disappointing showing, however; the unit was still without right tackle Riley Mahlman, who missed his second straight week with an injury.
Logan Brown got his second straight start at right tackle and played fine, although the offense stalled early, with the Badgers punting on two of their three first drives.
However, when right guard Tanor Bortolini, who played in his first game of the season, and Trey Wedig, who came in at right tackle, entered the game, holes were immediately created in the running game and the offense never looked back.
Bortolini and Wedig rotated in with Michael Furtney and Brown when the starters were playing, and the former looked like the better duo on the right side of the offensive line, which had been inconsistent all season.
It’s even more surprising given that Bortolini told me the duo had never played together in that alignment(Wedig has been the backup center) until this week during practice.
I asked #Badgers OL Tanor Bortolini about his experience with Trey Wedig, who played significant snaps at RT.
You’ll be surprised at his response based on how well they played together today. pic.twitter.com/2VUfkAyEXG
In his postgame presser, head coach Paul Chryst did confirm that the Badgers wanted to try the rotation in preparation for this game, likely given the opponent, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it continued in Week 4 with Bortolini being 100% now and Wedig’s 6’7, the 315-pound frame being a natural fit at tackle.
In other news, center Joe Tippmann committed another holding penalty after having two flags in Week 2.
Overall, it was a bounce-back performance for the offensive line after a worrisome Week 2, and the unit needs to ride this wave of energy into a tough Week 4 matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
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