Colten Bartholomew, the State Journal’s Wisconsin Badgers football beat reporter, shares three observations from the first half of Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan. The Badgers lead 24-0 at the intermission.
UW has dominated the game on both the offensive and defensive lines, which has led to a strong performance in the first half on the ground and EMU being short on answers in its limited snaps.
Mellusi, Mertz have to figure out red zone handoffs
The play ended up not being as costly as it appeared to at first, but after Mellusi set the Badgers up inside the 7-yard line with a 60-yard run on the game’s second play.
He and Mertz got tripped up on the snap — it appeared Mellusi’s toe caught Mertz’s foot as he tried to hop toward a hole immediately off the handoff. That play killed the momentum of the drive and UW failed to score on three runs after that mistake.
Whether Mertz needs to extend the ball further away from his body or Mellusi needs to maintain better footwork on the handoff, the fix should’ve been made this week in practice after the same issue cost UW points last week in a loss to Penn State.
The offensive line thankfully dominated the rest of the half, helping UW rack up 275 yards rushing on 32 carries.
Defense dominating early
The Badgers’ defense didn’t seem too interested in being on the field much in the first half.
Eastern Michigan went three-and-out on its first four series and didn’t pick up a first down until late in the second quarter. The missed tackles that plagued UW in the second half last week haven’t happened yet and EMU isn’t challenging the front seven with the run game at all. EMU has minus-13 yards rushing when factoring in 18 yards lost on sacks.
The Eagles have gained 23 yards on 18 plays.
Danny Davis continues to impress
Senior receiver Danny Davis continued making a big impact in the first half after eight catches for 99 yards last week.
He had three catches for 30 yards, two of which went for first downs.
Davis caught a drag route near the line of scrimmage and converted third-and-11 after knifing through two tacklers.
His lone mistake of the half was committing holding down field on a play that would’ve been the first career touchdown for tight end Clay Cundiff. UW settled for a field goal to end the drive.
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.
ILB Leo Chenal (COVID-19)
CB Deron Harrell
CB Faion Hicks
S Tyler Mais
S Collin Wilder
OLB Aaron Witt
Injured in first half
TE Jack Eschenbach (right leg, questionable to return)
Get to know the Wisconsin Badgers’ 2022 football recruiting class
Myles Burkett became the Badgers’ first Class of 2022 recruit when he announced his decision in January.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder from Franklin is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and Rivals, and showed great mobility and arm strength in his junior season. He battled back from a knee injury as a sophomore to throw for 1,236 and 11 touchdowns and rush for 180 yards and a score in a pandemic-shortened season.
He’s the first in-state quarterback to earn a scholarship out of high school since 2011.
As his recruiting stock started to rise, the Badgers were able to secure a commitment from Fall Rivers’ Barrett Nelson in late June.
The offensive tackle was 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds after his junior season, and his quickness off the ball has made him a load on both the offensive and defensive lines. Nelson is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and a two-star on Rivals.
He had offers from Iowa State, Northwestern, Nebraska, Purdue and others before choosing UW.
Nelson’s father, Todd, was a Badgers offensive lineman in the late 1980s, and his brother, Jack, is currently an offensive lineman for UW.
After wowing UW coaches at a pair of camps, Monroe tight end JT Seagreaves accepted a scholarship offer in late June.
Seagreaves is an intriguing prospect for the Badgers — at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, he has the physical frame to grow into an imposing tight end, and he possesses sprinter speeds. He’s averaged more than 21 yards per catch each of the past two seasons and was starting to gain more Power Five conference interested when he committed to UW.
Seagreaves is a three-star recruit per 247Sports and a two-star according to Rivals.
In multiple trips to UW’s campus in June, Cade Yacamelli was called “a football player” by UW coaches rather than locking him into a position. He earned a scholarship offer after an impressive camp workout and accepted it in late June.
The consensus three-star athlete was starting to earn more recruiting attention from Power Five schools when he accepted the Badgers’ offer. UW was the first Power Five offer for the 6-foot, 200-pounder. He’s played receiver, running back and defensive back in high school, but likely projects as a receiver or defensive back in college.
The Penn Trafford High School product has good quickness and change-of-direction that make him dangerous with the ball in his hands.
When A’Khoury Lyde accepted a UW scholarship offer in late June, he became the first player on the defensive side of the ball to commit in the 2022 class.
Lyde (5-foot-11, 170 pounds), a consensus three-star recruit, has strong ball skills and a willingness to hit that separates him from other cornerbacks.
The Wayne, New Jersey, native is the eighth-ranked player in his state, per Rivals.
The Badgers locked in their first incoming transfer of the class in late October in Kalon Gervin, a cornerback from Michigan State.
Gervin played in 19 games for the Spartans, including seven career starts. He had 22 tackles, four pass breakups and a fumble recovery at MSU. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder from Detroit will add some experience to a cornerback group that loses its top two starters to graduation.
Gervin was offered a scholarship by UW coming out of high school.
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 II
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.
UW added an athletic defensive line prospect in mid-November when Tristan Monday flipped his commitment from Arizona to the Badgers.
UW was interested in Monday since he arrived in high school, but his size then didn’t lend itself to a natural position fit in the Badgers’ defense. Now standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 240 pounds, he’ll start his career as a defensive end. UW offered him a scholarship in early November and he accepted it after visiting campus Nov. 12-14.
Monday is a consensus three-star recruit from Scottsdale, Arizona, who had offers from Arizona, Baylor, Colorado, Florida State and Iowa State.
After much discussion and thought, Tristan has changed his commitment and will be accepting a football scholarship offer from the University of Wisconsin. He has the utmost respect and admiration for the University of Arizona but this is an opportunity he cannot ignore. pic.twitter.com/hqf8GGqZwp
— Tim Monday (@pappamonday) November 16, 2021
Vaughan, a 6-foot-4 linebacker from Walled Lake, Michigan, committed to UW in late November, choosing the Badgers over offers from programs like Colorado, Florida State, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and others.
Vaughan is rated as a three-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals.
Vaughan has been a late-riser on the recruiting trail, with all of his Power Five offers coming since October, but he has potential to be an inside or outside linebacker for the Badgers. He could fill the big-bodied outside ‘backer role that C.J. Goetz currently has for UW or could be a hybrid type of linebacker like UW pulled in with Jake Ratzlaff in the 2021 cycle.
— Aidan Vaughan (@AidanVaughan5) November 22, 2021
This article originally ran on madison.com.
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