Tom Oates: Grading Badgers’ performance against Lobos
State Journal columnist Tom Oates grades the Wisconsin Badgers’ performance in their 45-14 victory over the New Mexico Lobos on Saturday at Camp Randall.
Jonathan Taylor does it all as a runner but lost his second fumble in two games. Last year’s problem hasn’t gone away. Alex Hornibrook was hit just as he threw on his lone interception. A.J. Taylor kept getting open and Hornibrook kept finding him. After a so-so opener, the line started clicking like we know it can.
The defense dominated after New Mexico’s opening drive. Is there anything Andrew Van Ginkel can’t do? His quarterback hit led to Scott Nelson’s game-turning interception. Isaiahh Loudermilk was disruptive in his first game. Olive Sagapolu was active. He pushed a blocker right into the back for a loss on third-and-2.
Special teams: B
It’s comforting to have a healthy Rafael Gaglianone kicking field goals, isn’t it? Anthony Lotti crushed a 54-yarder on his only punt. Not sure he had the leg to do that last year. Zack Hintze should boom kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback every time. The coverage was shaky on the two he hit to the goal line.
After running the ball down the Lobos’ throats on the first drive, Paul Chryst called all pass plays on the second. Then he returned to his senses. The triple option gave the defense fits early, but it adjusted. Jim Leonhard blitzed both inside linebackers, opening a path for Andrew Van Ginkel, who forced a pick.
UW hasn’t played its best football in either game so far, but it has shown signs that its best football is coming, probably soon. The offense ran for 417 yards, its highest total since 2014, but two turnovers held it back. The defense allowed a 17-play, 87-yard drive to open the game, then shut the door completely.