The Wisconsin Badgers fell to the Northwestern Wildcats 24-10 Saturday evening at Camp Randall Stadium.
In a game where Badger fans expected a win and the offense to recover after back-to-back poor outings, Wisconsin football produced another dud, dropping to 5-5 on the season.
The Badgers have disappointed in the past weeks, accumulating three losses in a row. Wisconsin’s offense looked flat these past games and failed to score more than 14 points during each game in that period.
Tanner Mordecai returned against Northwestern after a three-game absence due to a broken throwing hand suffered against the Iowa Hawkeyes in a 15-6 Week 7 loss. He threw for a season-high 45 times on Saturday, completing 31 attempts for 255 yards. He also ran eight times for 25 yards.
Mordecai has been able to run effectively this season when he can’t find an open receiver but struggled to do so against Northwestern’s defense, which ranks among the top 30 in NCAA statistics.
Wisconsin’s offense came out flat, failing to score nearly all of the game. With 11 seconds left, running back Jackson Acker scoreed the Badgers’ only touchdown on a three-yard rush.
Acker barely contributed, with four carries for 11 yards and a touchdown. That’s despite Braelon Allen — who suited up after sitting out last weekend and got the game's first rushing touches — and Chez Mellusi’s injuries. Instead, Cade Yacamelli led the team in rushing with 47 yards on nine carries.
For a team that is usually dominant rushing the ball, the Badgers’ running threat was nonexistent, only gaining 86 yards as a unit.
Northwestern quarterback Ben Bryant emerged from his four-game absence after suffering an upper-body injury earlier in the season. The sixth-year graduate student returned strong, completing 18 of 26 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns. He also added a score on the ground, adding to the Wildcats’ run game’s efficiency.
Northwestern garnered 129 yards on the ground by continuously running the ball down Wisconsin’s throat. The Badgers struggled early to defend the run, giving up a 32-yard gain to sophomore Wildcats running back Joseph Himon II and a 17-yard rush to senior running back Cam Porter.
Saying the Wildcats came out hot would be an understatement as their three scores came on their first three drives. Northwestern failed to find the end zone the rest of the game despite their prolific start.
The Wildcats’ struggles to find the end zone in the second half can be partially attributed to Wisconsin’s solid defense. The Badgers shut out Northwestern in the second half and caused four of their six drives to end in three-and-outs.
Unfortunately, the Badgers offense had nothing to show for it.
The Wildcats will look to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2020 as they face the Purdue Boilermakers (3-7) on the road next weekend.
The Badgers will hope to do the same and improve their streak of 21 straight bowl appearances when they host the 5-5 Nebraska Cornhuskers next Saturday under the lights at 6:30 p.m. for senior night and their last home game of the season.