Badgers: Tyler Beach talks Week 1 struggles, Graham Mertz ready to move on and questions persist about Jalen Berger

Fans were critical of Tyler Beach during Wisconsin’s 16-10 loss to Penn State on Saturday. The Badgers starting left tackle struggled, especially in protecting quarterback Graham Mertz. He was tagged with giving up three quarterback pressures and three quarterback hits by Pro Football Focus, and he also allowed a sack. Two days later, Beach was just as hard on himself as those that watched the game from the stands or their couch.

“I think I played poorly, to be honest,” Beach said Monday morning. “I didn’t play up to my standards personally and there’s no excuses for that.”

While the senior from Port Washington wasn’t willing to make excuses, it’s worthwhile to note the path to his second career start at left tackle wasn’t ideal. He suffered a foot injury just before fall camp that required surgery and kept him out of all but five practices leading into the game. Beach was also making the move from right tackle, where he started six games last season, to the left side as the replacement for Cole Van Lanen.

“I would say there was a little bit of rust,” Beach said. “I just kind of got out of whack with my pass sets. Even in my run game stuff, I was getting too wide and letting guys inside. And that’s just not who I am as a player. So, I’ve just got to clean it up.”

When things went wrong physically against the Nittany Lions, Beach got inside his own mind and lost the confidence and trust he had in his technique.

“That’s what it comes down to. Just not thinking too much,” Beach said. “You get beat one time and you start thinking in your head, like, ‘Oh, shoot’, but it just comes down to being confident mentally, just knowing you can do this. You can’t get in your head.”

Offensive line coach Joe Rudolph stuck with Beach throughout the game. While there were changes at the interior spots, Beach played all but one snap (he injured his surgically repaired foot but was able to quickly return), while right tackle Logan Bruss played the entire game. It’s because Rudolph has confidence in what he’s got in Beach even though he strayed from his fundamentals against Penn State.

“I know I’ve got a really good pass set,” Beach said. “I know that I practice it and (Rudolph) sees it all the time. I think I just got out of sorts and that’s what he kept telling me. That’s what he told me this weekend after the game. That’s what he told me I have to get back to.”

Mertz moving on

Graham Mertz is a film junky, so it should be no surprise that he watched the loss to Penn State on Saturday and again Sunday. Obviously, he didn’t like everything he saw.

“For me, there’s a couple,” Mertz said when asked if there was a play that stood out that he wished he could have back. “There’s some stuff on there and that’s not how I play. That was definitely frustrating going back to watch it, but I know in the end I can only control what I do next. And that’s approaching practice every day like it’s a new opportunity for growing. For me, there’s definitely a couple but it’s in the past now. I’ve got to learn from it and got to move on.”

Mertz said anybody that watched the game would know which plays he’d like to have back – the fourth-down interception at the goal line with under three minutes left, a miss down the middle to Chimere Dike for what would have been the game-winning touchdown and also his game-sealing interception seconds later.

“It’s just a couple plays you’d like to take back that will change the course of the game,” Mertz said. “That’s my opportunity, my choice to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s what I’m going to do.”

Wisconsin will face an Eastern Michigan team that beat St. Francis (PA), an FCS team, 35-13 last week. The Badgers are 25.5-point favorites on the Eagles and Mertz is looking at this as a chance to get a much-needed win after a bitter disappointment in Week 1.

“I know my guys are ready to go,” Mertz said. “And we’re looking at this opportunity as a new one and a great one. The guys are hungry. We need a win, want to win, and we’re going to win.”

Where is Jalen Berger?

Among the biggest surprises of Saturday was the absence of Jalen Berger. The team’s leading rusher in 2020, the redshirt freshman didn’t even get a single snap against Penn State. While Wisconsin was on offense in the first half, Berger was seen standing back by the bench without his helmet on and it didn’t appear as if he was even an option for running backs coach Gary Brown. It was a similar scene in the second half, too.

Berger was not listed on the pre-game injury report and UW officials said he was available to play. After the game, Chryst was asked about Berger not playing and he pointed to the play of Chez Mellusi and Isaac Guerendo as the reason. He was asked again Monday what Berger has or hasn’t done to suddenly not be involved with the offense.

“Jalen has had a good approach. We’ve also liked what Chez and Isaac have done,” Chryst said. “The way the game played out, we weren’t thinking we needed to go with three at the time. I think that can always be a tricky thing for any individual. And yet you just have to keep going, keep working at it. Just because he didn’t play doesn’t mean he’s doing something wrong. It’s also we liked what Chez did and liked what Isaac did.”

After being listed as Mellusi’s backup on the Week 1 depth chart, Berger was joined by Guerendo as the backups for Week 2.

Berger was not made available to speak with reporters Monday.

World beaters

When you score just 10 points and lose your home opener for the first time in 26 years you wouldn’t think anyone would shower you with compliments. But that’s exactly what Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton did Monday when talking about the Badgers as his team prepares to face Wisconsin for the first time since 1996.