Badgers still waiting on final diagnosis for RB Chez Mellusi

MADISON — Wisconsin is still waiting to see if it has lost its leading rusher for an extended period of time.

Running back Chez Mellusi went down with what appeared to be a left knee injury against Rutgers. He limped off the field and then spent roughly 10 minutes in the injury tent before walking gingerly to the locker room. Head coach Paul Chryst said Mellusi told him that he felt something wrong a few plays prior to when he actually went down. The initial mood around the injury made it seem very serious but the Badgers haven’t gotten the final prognosis.

“Last I learned from the doctors, just kind of waiting to find out exactly what it is,” said Chryst when asked about Mellusi being listed as questionable on the team’s status report. “You’re always very hopeful that it’s not as bad as what your mind sometimes takes you to, so we’ll find out on that.”

Mellusi leads the Badgers with 815 yards rushing and is second on the team with five touchdowns in his first season since transferring in from Clemson. The junior has provided a steadying hand for running back room that has undergone significant change this season with transfers, dismissals and injuries.

“Truly appreciate what he’s brought to this team,” Chryst said. “Obviously, from a production standpoint is one thing, but that’s not easy to just come in, whole new group of new teammates, new system, new place and (I) have appreciated from the get go how he’s kind of come in and dove in. He’s truly an important part of this team and more than just as a player.”

If Mellusi is forced to miss time, the Badgers would likely need to count on Braelon Allen even more. The 17-year-old earned his second Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor in the last three games after rushing for 129 yards and a touchdown against Rutgers. He has now rushed for at least 100 yards in each of the last five contests and is averaging 7.5 yards per carry in those games.

But he’s banged up, too, dealing with what he called general soreness after the game Saturday. With Isaac Guerendo done for the season with an injury, Jalen Berger in the transfer portal after being dismissed from the team four weeks ago and junior Brady Schipper mainly being used in a third-down role, the Badgers options for replacing Mellusi would likely come down to sophomore Julius Davis and true freshman Jackson Acker.

Davis has battled injuries in his career and seemed destined to never get an opportunity to play. But he served a vital role on the scout team earlier in the season, earning praise from Chryst a few weeks ago. Even before Mellusi went down, Davis was involved in the game plan early with a carry on the first drive. He finished with seven touches for 32 yards and figures to see even more time against Northwestern on Saturday.

That’s also possible for Acker, who came in as a running back but could also see time at fullback. He traveled with the team for the first time and ended up with three carries for 24 yards and a touchdown.