Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig

Behind Enemy Lines: Wisconsin

As we get closer to Saturday night’s game between the Buckeyes and Badgers we continue our deep dive into Wisconsin.

Yesterday we had our own look with Tale of the Tape but we can only see so much from a couple of games of tape and a few stats books. But what really makes this team tick?

Are the Badgers better than the team who lost to Washington State? Was the New Mexico State game an indication of what this team looks like when it is firing on all cylinders? Will the Badgers even be able to get two cylinders firing against the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes?

We are being joined by an old friend, Jake Kocorowski of the Wisconsin State Journal to talk a little bit about the Badgers, their running game, persistent questions about their secondary and much more as we go behind enemy lines.

BuckeyeHuddle: Just how potent is the running game? Are we focusing too much on Braelon Allen or not enough?

Jake Kocorowski: He’s averaging about 110 yards per game on the ground. He leads the team in rushing, has five rushing touchdowns, had a record setting 96-yard touchdown run against Illinois State. Followed that up a couple weeks later with a 39-yard run in a ‘Get Right’ game last week against New Mexico State after that blunder against Wazzu.

He’s a main back, he’s all of six-foot-two, 235-240ish (pounds), has the physique. But there’s speed, there’s patience.

You (also) have Chez Mellusi, the Clemson transfer, and then someone like Isaac Guerendo, who has battled injuries pretty much almost every year, and he showed up last week, too. Each of those players gained at least 70 yards against New Mexico State. Now, as a disclaimer, the Aggies are one of the worst programs in the FBS.

It’s gonna be a different animal against Ohio State, but Wisconsin does run the ball. The key though, Wisconsin’s got to make some plays through the air. They can’t be as one-dimensional as they have been against the Buckeyes in previous years.

BuckeyeHuddle: Has Graham Mertz been a bit of an enigma at quarterback?

Jake Kocorowski: With Mertz you’re seeing the improvements in footwork and accuracy. He is completing over 70% of his passes through three games. He has six touchdowns, two interceptions, I think he’s making better reads, every quarterback is going to have a bad throw here and there.

When you’re criticized as much as someone like Mertz at times, people pile on one mistake, but it’s almost like an offensive line to where you can’t be 100% perfect.

The scheme that’s been evolved underneath offensive coordinator Bobby Ingram. This just isn’t just Paul Chryst’s offense anymore.

BuckeyeHuddle: What is the status of the Wisconsin secondary with a lot of rumors circulating about their health?

Jake Kocorowski: Alexander Smith on the preliminary available report was out. It has been noted before that he has been battling a hamstring injury and those are very tricky.

Justin Clark, who was a 7th-year transfer from Toledo… he miss the first two games due to injury but played last week.

One other key member of the secondary that has been out since part of the Illinois State game is sophomore safety Hunter Wohler. Wohler is a special talent and there was a reason why some of the best programs in the nation were recruiting him. He has a unique athletic ability. We don’t know when he will return.

BuckeyeHuddle: What happened against Washington State?

Jake Kocorowski: Whenever you cough up two fumbles and an interception… takeaways were huge. Penalties, it was a perfect recipe, you had 11 penalties for 106 yards at home, that is inexcusable.

The second half they start off with (allowing) a terrible kickoff return that puts Washington State in great position. Wisconsin has to really replicate that recipe to do to Ohio State coming up.

BuckeyeHuddle: Wisconsin wins the game if…

Jake Kocorowski: Along with everything there, Graham Mertz has to make some game-changing throws and get the Ohio State secondary to bite, that’s going to help there.

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