September 6, 2008

Post-Marshall positional analysis

MADISON, Wis. - It took the Badgers a little while to wake up from their slump Saturday afternoon, but when they shook off the cobwebs, there was no stopping them. The Badgers reeled off 51 straight points en route to their 51-14 pasting of Marshall and recovered in a big way following their early scare.

The following is a positional analysis following the Badger's second win of the season:

Quarterback:

After a week where the new left-handed quarterback Allan Evridge had only 10 attempts, he flashed what he is capable of. In all, he finished with 308 yards passing while completing 17 of 26 attempts. He did not throw any interceptions and connected with Garrett Graham for a touchdown pass in the third quarter.

Compared to last week, this game was a step up for Evridge. He avoided costly turnovers and effectively hit his receivers downfield. He remained poised in the pocket even when defenders were bearing down on him. His chemistry with the tight ends is impressive.

Backup Dustin Sherer looked impressive as well completing his only pass for 21 yards late in the game.

Grade: A-, a couple of botched handoffs, while not completely Evridge's fault, need to be cleaned up before Fresno State. Overall, a great stride from last week was made on Saturday.

Running backs:

The running game was very solid. It was evident early in the game that Marshall wanted to slow P.J. Hill, thus the reason for only 57 yards, but the position in general once again took advantage of a worn down defense.

It has got to be frustrating for opponents when the Badgers slip in their third running back and they get a 6-foot-2, 237- pound beast in John Clay when most third string backs are not anywhere near his skill set.

Last week, the top three running backs found the end zone, this week, the top four running backs hit pay dirt as Bradie Ewing scored his first career touchdown in the cardinal and white.

They did not rack up 400 plus rushing yards, but they were able to capitalize on the opportunities they received and helped properly finish inside the red zone.

Grade: B+, the fumble by Hill and botched handoffs with both HIll and Clay knocked them out of the A range.

Wide receivers and tight ends:

It is funny how productive the wide receivers can be when given more than 10 opportunities. Lance Kendricks had a big day as he led all receivers with three catches for 94 yards. Garrett Graham was his usual reliable self, and David Gilreath, Kyle Jefferson, Maurice Moore and Isaac Anderson accounted for 156 yards, nearly half of all the passing yards.

Credit the offensive line and running backs for picking up the blitz, but it was obvious that Marshall's secondary could not keep up with the speed and talent UW possesses at the receiver position. Saturday was a huge confidence booster before the team heads out to Fresno next weekend.

Grade: A

Offensive line:

They picked up the blitz in an effective manner for the most part, and provided Evridge with ample time to deliver passes. They did not open holes like they did against Akron, but with that being said, the rushing game still punched in six touchdowns and tallied 158 yards.

Grade: A-

Defensive front seven:

The linebackers and defensive line harassed the Thundering Herd quarterback ruthlessly, especially in the second half, and took control of the game. They were effective in slowing the run and rattled Marshall's young quarterback with led him to throw three interceptions.

After falling down 14-0, the line pumped the team up and really set the tone for the rest of the team. They also did not let Marshall get anywhere near the goal line after their second touchdown in the second quarter.

Grade: B. The two early scores, and lack of rush early in the game lowered their grade.

Secondary:

After allowing 183 passing yards in the first half, the Badger defensive backs played excellent. They set the tone right away in the second half when Niles Brinkley intercepted a Marshall pass that set up a touchdown. It must have been contagious because Shane Carter jumped a route shortly after and returned it 43 yards to set up another score.

Brinkley added another interception later, which pushed the dagger in a little bit deeper.
Grade: B. The first half, particularly big plays from their wide receivers, was not up to par for the secondary. As rough as the first half was for Badger defensive backs, the second half was that much better, but a slow start like that at Fresno State would be extremely costly.

Special Teams:

Freshman punter Brad Nortman averaged 47.7 yards per punt and had great hang time. He punted the ball in a timely manner and showcased his strong leg to the Badger faithful. On the season he is averaging 50.3 yards per punt.

Grade: A.

Freshman place kicker Philip Welch impressed many when he connected on a 45-yard attempt into a stiff wind in the second quarter. His kickoffs, while none were touchbacks, had plenty of height and allowed the special teamers plenty of time to get downfield and limit the Herd's return game.

Grade: A.

Finally, Gilreath had multiple fair catches on punts and limited opportunities for kickoffs, but he did not make any mistakes and caught everything. When the offense is rolling like it was on Saturday that is all he needed to do.

Grade: A.

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