It’s been hard to keep Logan Bruss off the field since he found a role on the University of Wisconsin football team’s offensive line as a redshirt freshman.
The fifth-year senior from Kimberly only had missed three of a possible 34 games due to injury since 2018. But this season has been a physical grind. UW’s starting right tackle missed more than a week of training camp after a left leg injury and a neck and shoulder issue kept him out of games against Illinois and Army.
Bruss has been at his best since returning to the lineup against Purdue, and his impact on the offensive line and the offense as a whole is clear.
“Just the way he plays, he’s violent,” redshirt sophomore quarterback Graham Mertz said. “He’s just one of those guys that you love to have in the huddle, so it’s good to have him back.”
Bruss was named to Pro Football Focus’ team of the week after his performance against Iowa. He didn’t allow a sack, quarterback hit or hurry in 23 pass-blocking snaps and earned a grade of 83.6 from PFF, the highest of his career. He also didn’t allow a pressure against Purdue and star defensive end George Karlaftis a week earlier, though UW (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten) only had 12 drop-backs.
A further look into the numbers shows how much Bruss’ return and strong play has helped. UW had 10 runs against the Hawkeyes between Bruss and right guard Jack Nelson or off-tackle outside of Bruss. Those runs gained 66 yards — the most of any two adjacent gaps on the Badgers lines — with four of them going for first downs and two gaining more than 10 yards.
Nine runs in the gaps around Bruss gained 115 yards against Purdue, including freshman tailback Braelon Allen’s 70-yard run that set up the go-ahead touchdown. Bruss had a crucial block on that play, blowing defensive tackle Damarjhe Lewis off the line and turning him toward the middle of the field. That push also caught hard-charging safety Marvin Grant in traffic, opening a massive lane for Allen.
“Green grass, really,” Allen said about what he saw on the play.
Bruss, when asked about his play of late, said it just feels good to be back on the field with his teammates.
“When you have a lot of good guys around you, and a lot of guys you trust to get the job done when maybe you can’t play, you always feel better about it,” Bruss sad. “Just having those guys support you even when you can’t play and when you go through a tough time, definitely makes it a lot easier. Made it a lot easier to kind of transition into coming back and playing again.”
After suffering the stinger during practice leading up to the Illinois game, Bruss said he and UW’s medical staff weighed trying to play against how effective he could be due to the injury. Taking time to rest and heal fully was determined to be the best option because it was the type of injury that can linger.
“We kind of knew going into this year that for us to be as good as we could be, we needed him to play really well,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. “And he’s capable of that when he is healthy, and now it’s been good that he’s back and feeling healthy. I think our expectations, his expectations, are high.
“It’s amazing. Each week it’s a different challenge and you get tested differently. But there’s a guy (who’s) played in a number of games. And so I think you get to a point where you look forward to those tests, you look forward to those challenges. Him being in there and him playing at his best is really good for our offense and good for our team.”
UW will need Bruss to continue his hot streak this week at Rutgers (4-4, 1-4). The Badgers will win the Big Ten Conference’s West Division if they win their remaining four games. UW never has lost to Rutgers in three meetings, but the most recent one came in 2018.
The Scarlet Knights use a four-man front most often and like to bring standout linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi on blitzes off the edge. However, their track record against teams with good rushing attacks isn’t great this season. After holding Michigan to 112 yards on 38 carries, Ohio State (208) and Michigan State (249) found space on the ground.
Northwestern (135) and Illinois (107) both had some success rushing as well.
Bruss’ confidence is earned after the way he’s played the past two weeks. Senior receiver Danny Davis said Bruss provides a calmness to the offense because teammates know they can expect great play from him.
“That’s who I stand next to (in the huddle), that’s my dude,” Davis said. “We always go out there and we say something to each other.”
In what’s expected to be his final season of college football, Bruss said he’s most proud of the progress the offensive line has made after the unit struggled during the 1-3 start.
“(We’re) continuing to trust the coaches,” Bruss said. “I think coach (Joe) Rudolph has done a great job putting us in good positions, coach Chryst has, too. Just put all the guys in good position to succeed. I think that’s the biggest thing, just trusting the course and trusting each other. Just cutting it loose and having fun on game day.”
Badgers fans on Twitter find what they’ve been looking for in Wisconsin’s victory over Iowa
Credit where credit’s due
That’s the team I thought we would see earlier in the year. Kudos to the players and coaching staff for not giving up and getting back on track.
— Craig Smith (@smithcp1) October 30, 2021
Enjoy the ride
Great game and that’s how UW will win. Offense not making mistakes and defense forcing turnovers and dominating.
Side note: trucker hat is lame
— Mitchell Skurzewski (@MSkurzewski) October 30, 2021
No looking back
No point in lamenting what didn’t happen earlier this season. This is good, and hopefully there’s more good things to come
— Ken Chia, some guy online (@kcchia80) October 30, 2021
Who’s laughing now?
The turnaround is impressive. The offensive line finally looks like Wisconsin, minimizing the reliance on Mertz, and the defense is spectacular.
Three weeks ago, if you said the Badgers would have the inside track on a division title, I’d have laughed you right off of Twitter.
— Kyle Cooper (@SportsCoop66) October 30, 2021
A path to success
If the defense can continue to dominate like they have the last several games, and QB Graham Mertz can play like he did in the first quarter, Wisconsin can win the Western Title and gain a berth in the Big Ten Championship!
— Jeff Ostach (@jeff_ostach) October 30, 2021
U know it
Running Back U.
Offensive Line U.
says it all
— JMW123 (@jmw1235) October 30, 2021
Live it up
It’s only the beginning
The defense was great! Mertz looked good at times again….can’t forget he is still young and developing. Maybe this next month the team can gel and still win the big ten
— jimmy johnson (@jimmy2222) October 30, 2021
Hungry for more
Strong D obviously. Uneven offense…need more of what was cookin’ first half, especially from GM5
— PMW Badger (@Oltedlou1) October 30, 2021
How sweet it is
Beat the #9 rival by 20 to win four in a row and control their own destiny? Doesn’t get much better than that.
— Matt Anderson (@mbanderson83) October 30, 2021
Home sweet home
Look to be back to their usual standing in the West.
— David Padget (@davidcpadget) October 30, 2021
Let’s not rush to judgement
Beat a top 10 team and first in division
— Felix Vega (@felix_vega10) October 30, 2021
What more can you want?
Dude, we just beat Iowa, Mertz looked fantastic and you say “eh”?! A QB is never perfect.
— Andrew Lucas (@andy_lucas98) October 30, 2021
Sincerity or sarcasm?
Best team ever
— aarondentz (@aarondentz) October 30, 2021
The wait is over
Bout time this team looked like that
— Nicholas~Bucks in 6 (@Nicholaswisco) October 30, 2021
Don’t stop now
Solid win. Got 4 more to go.
— Ry???? (@R_Lebica) October 30, 2021
Think happy thoughts
Love it! No negative vibes!
— Brian Hipp (@Brianhipp) October 30, 2021
A game to remember
Badgers dominated the #9 team in the country from start to finish, what more could you ask for?
— Dan D. (@One_Punch_Dan) October 30, 2021
Only time will tell
Can’t decide if this is the best Wisconsin defense I’ve seen or the 2017 team
— Jorgy (@dcjorgenson) October 30, 2021
Best of the best
Most complete game this season. Best lb crew in the country. Allen #1 rb. Keep the momentum!
— Michael Burger (@Burgscom) October 30, 2021
Attacking from both sides
Great D and turnovers works for the Badgers. Plus a decent running game
— John Husmoe (@JohnHusmoe) October 30, 2021
Iowa out if its depth
Wisconsin has way more talent
— Tyler Morgan (@tyler_morgan28) October 30, 2021
Straight to the point
Y E S S S!!
— Mark Massey (@mfmass) October 30, 2021
Still time to buy in!
— Ben Miskowski (@MiskoBeat) October 30, 2021
OK, one more