The Badgers, not surprisingly, looked good Saturday.
The defense found a way to shut BYU quarterback Taysom Hill down early, and senior running back James White gave Wisconsin a chance to fight through the fourth quarter and come out with a win.
With a grind of an 11-play, 76-yard opening drive, UW set the tone early. Once again not surprisingly, all the big names come up in the box score—Chris Borland, Joel Stave, Jared Abbrederis and Melvin Gordon, among others.
The surprising part, however, were the players not on that list who had solid games.
Head coach Gary Andersen said it was the team’s best team effort of the season, an assertion that has a fair amount of evidence on its side. It wasn’t just the big names that were making plays.
Redshirt senior tight end Jacob Pedersen had six catches for 49 yards, and held multiple blocks downfield that allowed White to get an extra few yards on each run. While his receiving numbers may not seem spectacular on first glance, all of his receptions came at key junctures in the game. Three of his catches were recorded in the same drive, getting the Badgers to the five-yard-line. White was able to punch it in after an athletic 24-yard reception from Pedersen, making it 17-3, a two-score game.
All game Pedersen was used as the Badgers’ second receiver, instead of his normal role as last resort. When Stave gets too zoned in looking at Abbrederis, bad things happen. In big games you can see Stave widen his range of possible receivers, which makes for a much better offense, as seen Saturday. This bodes well for the Badgers down the stretch.
Redshirt sophomore safety Michael Caputo found his way into the spotlight, recording 12 tackles while playing a big role in stopping Hill. All year Caputo has been a sleeper in the secondary, and it’s good to see a game plan built at least partly around his ability to fly to the ballcarrier. Andersen is learning to utilize all of his weapons, and that’s a dangerous skill for a coach to have.
Sophomore kicker Jack Russell made both his field goals, one from 38 yards and the other from 26, in a game where wind was a huge factor. The Badgers’ kicking woes this season are legendary and it’s far too soon to say that things are fixed, but the kicking game is definitely on the rise.
Redshirt sophomore safety Tanner McEvoy, who transferred to UW as a quarterback over the summer, is settling into his new role as a safety quite nicely. He had an interception and five tackles in the game, shutting down Hill and the dynamic set of BYU receivers.
Hill only tossed for 207 yards, much less than his 360 yard average per game.
All in all, the Badgers play better as a team than as a set of disjointed superstars.
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