When a team wins 51-17, there’s really not a whole lot you can complain about. I mean, unless you took the 35-point spread in this one—which UNLV managed to beat with a couple late scores—you really would be searching hard. But, despite the lopsided score, there is still a couple things to pick at.
First off, some praise. Russell Wilson, making his debut at UW, was fantastic. He finished the game 10-of-13 passing with 255 yards and two touchdowns, while also running for 62 yards—including a 46-yard touchdown—on just two carries. Other than a couple missed passes early on, Wilson was virtually perfect against a hapless Runnin’ Rebel defense and looked very comfortable in a Badger uniform. Along with running backs James White and Montee Ball, who combined for over 100 yards rushing and five total touchdowns, Wilson and the Badgers looked every bit as good as the 2010 Wisconsin offense.
However, this was UNLV. Other than maybe South Dakota, this will probably be the worst defense Wisconsin faces all year. But regardless, Wisconsin performed and got it done on offense.
Defensively, Wisconsin didn’t look so sharp. Against UNLV’s pistol offense, the Badgers looked very slow and allowed huge chunks of yards to an offense that, last season, was one of the worst in the country. The Rebels racked up almost 300 yards of total offense, including 146 on the ground. Quarterback Caleb Herring finished 18-of-27 passing with 146 yards and two touchdowns.
Now, you may say this is nitpicking. And, it may be. But, UNLV will be far from the best offense that the Badgers face this season. Even next week’s opponent, Oregon State, has a much, much better offense than the Rebels. Of course, the Badgers are without their defensive leader from last season, J.J. Watt, but that’s still no excuse against what will likely be one of the worst offenses in the country once again.
So, final thoughts. The offensive performance, though outstanding overall, should be taken with a grain of salt. I do believe that this performance will represent how the Badgers play for most of the season, but UNLV is not indicative of the quality of defenses Wisconsin will face this year. If Wilson and the Badgers can put up these numbers against the Beavers next Saturday, I’ll be completely convinced.
Defensively, the Badgers need to get it together. Call it rust or call it adjusting to a bunch of new faces, but regardless, the Wisconsin ‘D’ can’t hope to play like it did on Thursday and still hold up to the quality offenses it will face this year. Starting next weekend, they had better be ready for a fight every game.