As many expected heading into the game, the University of Wisconsin football team and Notre Dame are locked in a tight battle at Soldier Field. But a turnover by the Badgers gave the Irish the momentum and lead late in the second quarter.
Notre Dame leads 10-3 after a sluggish start from UW’s offense and a 36-yard touchdown pass from Irish quarterback Jack Coan.
Here are three observations from the first half.
1. Offensive line allowing too much penetration
The Notre Dame defensive line has to feel good about what it’s doing in the run game so far.
It has a tackle for loss from Howard Cross on the first play of UW’s second drive to put UW behind the sticks — something it hasn’t shown the ability to overcome this season. The Badgers have 17 yards rushing in the first half
UW put its second offensive line group — left tackle Logan Brown, left guard Cormac Sampson, center Kayden Lyles and right guard Michael Furtney to go with starting right tackle Logan Bruss — into the game on the third series. The group held up well to allow Graham Mertz to throw down the field to Clay Cundiff for a 43-yard gain, but Brown then was beat on fourth-and-1 and his man made the tackle in the backfield to stop the drive.
The Badgers have to run the ball to win this game. The offensive line has to do more in the second half to make that happen.
2. Henningsen too much for Baker
UW defensive lineman Matt Henningsen tallied a sack and was in on another UW pile atop Notre Dame’s Jack Coan in the first quarter.
In both instances, Henningsen overpowered the Irish’s freshman left tackle Tosh Baker, who is making his second consecutive start. Baker simply can’t handle the bull rush from a big, strong veteran like Henningsen. Henningsen appeared to be lined up a little bit wider than usual in UW’s nickel packages, almost head to head with Baker on multiple snaps.
UW clearly has the advantage in that matchup and is looking to use it, but what could be interesting going forward is the blitzes the Badgers bring elsewhere knowing that Notre Dame is going to have to start helping Baker with slide protections and extra blockers.
Joe Alt, a tight end on the ND roster who’s been made into the backup right tackle, replaced Baker at left tackle in the second quarter.
UW has four sacks, and essentially a fifth when Coan tripped and fell while trying to evade the rush in the first half.
3. Defense has been on the field too much
Notre Dame has run 44 plays to UW’s 24, a bad omen for the second half for the Badgers defense. The defensive unit is playing well, but after Mertz’s interception in the second quarter, Notre Dame took advantage and finally connected on a deep pass.
The Badgers have had big pass plays early on multiple drives but can’t run the ball enough to sustain anything, which is putting the defense in difficult situations. The offense has to help out the other side of the ball.
Here’s a look at the Badgers’ injury situation at halftime.
Ruled out before the game
UW does not give reasons as to why players are unavailable on their status reports.
RB Braelon Allen
FB Quan Easterling
TE Jack Eschenbach
S Tyler Mais
ILB Mike Maskalunas
ILB Jordan Turner
OLB Aaron Witt
Get to know the Wisconsin Badgers' 2022 football recruiting class
The Badgers landed a tall, speedy receiver when Tommy McIntosh committed in late June.
The DeWitt, Michigan, native stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 200 pounds. He uses his body to shield off defenders at the point of the catch and does well catching the ball away from his body. His Hudl page lists a 4.47-second 40-yard dash time, and he has breakaway speed when he gets in the open field and can use his long strides.
A consensus three-star wide receiver chose the Badgers over offers from Cincinnati, Indiana, Iowa, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.
UW beefed up its defensive front by landing defensive tackle Curtis Neal.
Neal — a 6-foot-2, 310-pounder — had more than 25 scholarship offers, and reportedly was deciding between UW and Ohio State at the end of his recruiting process. Neal is a product of William Amos Hough High School in Cornelius, North Carolina, where the Badgers found receiver Devin Chandler in last year’s cycle.
Neal, with his size and strength, likely fits best as a nose tackle in the Badgers’ 3-4 scheme.
Jim Leonhard may have found another rangy, smart cornerback to add to his secondary in Avyonne Jones, who committed in to UW in late June.
Jones — who hails from Southlake, Texas — was on campus the weekend of June 18 for an official visit and had narrowed an extensive offer list to UW and California. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound defensive back was previously committed to Oklahoma State, but retracted that commitment in late May.
With good recovery speed and a good feel for getting his hands between a receiver’s at the point of the catch, the consensus three-star prospect is a good fit for what UW cornerbacks coach Hank Poteat said he wants from his position group.
The Badgers landed the top-ranked player in Wisconsin for the sixth consecutive recruiting class when Joe Brunner committed the last week of June.
Brunner — a 6-foot-6, 300-pound prospect from Milwaukee who attends Whitefish Bay High School — is a consensus four-star recruit and a top-10 offensive tackle in the nation.
He held at least 16 Power Five scholarship offers, including ones from a majority of the Big Ten Conference, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon and Tennessee.
VINNY ANTHONY IIUpdated
Receiver Vinny Anthony II — a consensus three-star prospect from Louisville, Kentucky — joined UW's class on June 30.
Possessing a good burst of speed and long arms that extend his catch radius, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Anthony has a chance to play across the formation as a receiver.
Anthony chose UW over Cincinnati and Duke.
Austin Brown — who hails from Johnston City, Illinois, a small town outside of Carbondale — was considering offers from Boston College, Illinois, Michigan and Northwestern before choosing UW. The consensus three-star prospect had 21 known scholarship offers.
Brown committed to UW on the Fourth of July.
At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, he has a good frame already and his high school film shows a willingness to lay big hits and attack blockers. He also plays quarterback for Johnston City.