MADISON — Quarterback Graham Mertz scored twice and Wisconsin’s defense suffocated No. 9 Iowa in a 27-7 win for the Badgers on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
Offense: Braelon Allen
The Badgers have won four straight games and Allen has run for 100 yards in four consecutive games. That might just be a coincidence, but it shows Wisconsin has gotten back to what it is as a team.
“Running the ball is really our identity,” Allen said. “When you think of Wisconsin, you think of powerful ball, good o-line, good running backs, just pounding the rock. And once we get back to that, like we have been, we start to win games.”
Allen ran for 104 yards on 20 carries and is now averaging 120.8 yards per game since becoming a significant part of the offense.
“Winning is everything for me,” Allen said. “And as long as I can do my part, and to help our team win, no matter if that is 20 yards, or 100 yards or 200 yards, I’m all for it. But for four in a row, it is pretty cool. But it is also four wins in a row, so it’s good for me.
Defense: Nick Herbig
Wisconsin’s defense ruled the day and Herbig was a big reason. The outside linebacker played in Iowa’s backfield much of the afternoon. It started early with the sophomore coming off the edge and knocking the ball loose from quarterback Spencer Petras in the second quarter. The Badgers were able to recover it, one of three turnovers by Hawkeyes on the day.
“My coach always talks about going for the ball every time we come around the edge,” Herbig said. “We want strip-sacks, not just sacks, so I saw the opportunity and I just took it.”
Herbig would add another 1.5 sacks, finishing with six tackles. 2.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss in what was his signature game of the season. He has piled up six sacks on the year, which now leads the team, and he is part of a defense that has held its last three Big Ten opponents to an average of 151.7 yards per game.
“Nick is a huge energy guy for us, for the team,” outside linebacker Noah Burks said. “He’s stepped up so much as a vocal leader. People really feel his energy and passion that he brings. Obviously, on the field, his pass rush and all the plays that he makes, he’s just a playmaker. That’s what you need, especially within this defense. This team, we call his number a lot, so we expect a lot out of him, and he delivers for us.”
They Said It
“If you talk to Nick, he’s wired different. I talked to him, and he told me how every rep, if he loses, he feels like he’s losing at life. And to an extent, OK, but he’s a little crazy. Even if he loses a rep in practice, he gets mad at himself. But I feel like it brings out the best in him. He’s a different type of breed.”
— Nose tackle Keeanu Benton on what OLB Nick Herbig brings to the team
“Especially early in the year, I would come to this podium after the games, I’d be like, I know the type of team that we have. Everyone wants to laugh at us and say Wisconsin’s not a good team this year, all this and that. And it was every time I came here, and I said, ‘No, I know the type of team that we have.’
I’m happy that we came out here, all three units — offense, defense, special teams — and proved to everyone that I was right and that what I was saying was true. Because I knew all along the type of team that we had and when we played together, when we played good football, these are the type of results that we expect.”
— Linebacker Jack Sanborn on overcoming a 1-3 start to win four straight games
— Former Wisconsin fullback Alec Ingold served as the honorary captain. His NFL team, the Las Vegas Raiders, are on a bye this week.
— Wisconsin’s starting left guard Josh Seltzner was held out of the game with an injury. Sophomore Michael Furtney got the start in his place.
— Wisconsin tight end Clay Cundiff suffered an ugly looking leg injury in the third quarter. The sophomore was eventually put into an ambulance and taken to a local hospital. UW updated his status in a statement Saturday night.
— Three starters on defense were injured in the game. Linebacker Jack Sanborn (arm), defensive lineman Keeanu Benton (ankle) and safety Collin Wilder (leg) all missed time but were able to return to the game.
Jack Sanborn said he dislocated his finger to the point where stiches were needed inside the locker room. Said it was pretty gnarly but came back because “it’s Iowa week.”
— What started out as a Halloween costume turned into the latest turnover prop in college football. Playing off the grittiness of the program, Wilder determined he was going to be a mechanic from The Grit Factory as his costume. He found a hat a local store and later wrote “The Grit Factory” in sharpie on the hat. He wore it to the team hotel Friday night, and everyone liked it. Even coach Paul Chryst.
“I got on the bus, and I had it on and I’m like, ‘Hey, coach, this isn’t team issued. What do you think?’ And he’s like, ‘love it,’ gave me some knucks,” Wilder said. “I was like, all right, I guess I can wear it.”
A strength and conditioning coach brought it to the sideline and when the first of three turnovers happened, the hat found its way to the players involved. Expect that to continue the rest of the way.
“Yes, it’s sacred now,” Wilder said. “I don’t even think I can wear that for Halloween (Saturday night). I think I have to keep it safe in the locker room.”
Inside the Numbers
0 – That is how many turnovers Wisconsin had. It snapped a streak of 12 straight games that the Badgers had given the ball up at least once. After being -11 in turnovers the first six games, Wisconsin is +6 in its last two. The average margin of victory in those games has been 18.5 points.
6 – That is how many sacks Wisconsin had. It was the second straight week the Badgers had six sacks and it is the third game this season they have reached that number.
5 – That is how many red zone scores Wisconsin had in its six trips inside the 20-yard line. It included three touchdowns, though the Badgers were also stopped inside the 5-yard line after a turnover. Kicker Colin Larsh is now 12-for-14 on the season after going 2-for-2 on the day.
29 – That was how many straight games Iowa had held teams to 24 points or less coming in. Wisconsin snapped that with 27 points.
8 – That is how many wins Wisconsin has over Iowa in the last 10 matchups. The Badgers now lead the overall series by five games.
3 – That is how many Big Ten wins Wisconsin has. It leaves them 3-2 in conference play and a game back of 4-1 Minnesota. The Badgers and Gophers play in the regular season finale in Minneapolis.
Wisconsin (5-3, 3-2) heads to New Jersey to face Rutgers (4-4, 1-4) next Saturday at 2 p.m.