Replay: Wisconsin bounces back in second half to down Georgia Southern, 35-14
The Wisconsin Badgers football team used a big second half to overcome another slow start to down Georgia Southern 35-14, Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
Reporter JR Radcliffe provided updates and analysis from the press box.
It will look harmless enough on paper to the generations of Badgers fans that come after, but you know better; Wisconsin trailed early in the third quarter, 14-7. But Braelon Allen bounced back in a big way, and the Badgers finally started cashing in the gift-wrapped turnovers heading their way. After no points on three first-half turnovers, Wisconsin scored following all three of its takeaways in the second half.
The Eagles still outgained UW, 455-451, behind quarterback Davis Brin, and UW will have a ton to work on heading into the Big Ten opener next Friday in Lafayette against Purdue.
Tanner Mordecai threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns, and Braelon Allen ran for two scores.
Darryl Peterson gets his second sack today
The Badgers are up to six sacks, with Darryl Peterson registering his second of the day, and now the Badgers have the ball back at their own 30-yard line with 2:14 to kill.
Braedyn Locke checks in at quarterback for the Badgers.
The Badgers were getting grossly outgained early in the third quarter but it's much closer now, with the Eagles edge just 455-427. The Eagles have 23 first downs to Wisconsin's 21.
J.C. French checks in at quarterback for Georgia Southern, a white-flag wave with the Badgers in command here.
Davis Brin had a fascinating day, going 33 for 52 with some incredible throws and 383 yards passing, including one touchdown. But he also threw five interceptions, and at least three (maybe four) were gift-wrapped. He also fumbled a snap for a sixth turnover.
The Badgers will move to a nerve-racking 2-1, with a battle next Friday in Lafayette against Purdue representing an interesting next test.
Chez Mellusi soared over a would-be tackler, and Wisconsin just cashed in another turnover for points. After the first three turnovers did not result in scoring, the three in this half all have.
Mellusi's one-yard run capped a seven-play, 86-yard drive (3:41). It's 35-14, with 5:51 to go. Wisconsin found it in time, though most will remember the Badgers going behind in the third quarter, 14-7.
Mellusi finishes the drive with four carries for 21 yards. He's up to 61 for the game, and the Badgers have 191 yards rushing overall with five touchdowns.
Maema Njongmeta comes FLYING in through the line to jump on a fumbled snap, and the Badgers thwart another Georgia State drive with a turnover. That's No. 6 on the day and first via fumble recovery.
That probably seals the victory for UW with 9:32 to go, though I suppose it's a little too early to declare the dagger.
Davis Brin: 33 for 52 and 383 yards but also five interceptions and one fumble. What a line.
Davis Brin threw a beautiful ball that Khaleb Hood nearly reeled in at the 3-yard line, but Preston Zachman did just enough to break it up. But that hasn't slowed the Eagles, who are now down to the Badgers' 17-yard line, looking to make this a one score game with 10:30 still to play.
Brin has five interceptions but also 377 yards passing on 32 of 51.
C.J. Goetz just got a bit time sack that threw GSU for a 10-yard loss. The Catholic Memorial alumnus and Muskego alumnus Hunter Wohler (two interceptions, sack, team lead in tackles) have had big days. Shouts to the Classic 8! Just need Arrowhead's Owen Arnett to recover a fumble or something.
The bad news, though: GSU still gets a first down on the ensuing series, moving the ball to its own 46-yard line. UW not out of the woods yet.
End third quarter, Badgers up two scores
Wisconsin commits a facemask penalty that gives Georgia Southern a first down at its own 44-yard line when we return for the final 15 minutes. The Badgers have delivered in third quarters this year, and though this one started in a rough spot, Wisconsin rallied for 21 unanswered points to take a 28-14 lead.
Now they just need to finish it off. Against Washington State last week, it felt like the tide had turned ... until it hadn't.
Braelon Allen has 94 yards on 12 carries and also a pair of catches for 5 yards, with two touchdowns. Tanner Mordecai is 16 of 27 for 163 yards passing with 36 yards rushing and two scores.
Braelon Allen finishes off what he started with a two-yard touchdown run, and the Badgers have a two-score lead. The Badgers went 80 yards in just 5:05, and the offense finally appears to have figured out Georgia Southern.
After a scare, UW has taken command.
Braelon Allen just a different person in the second half
Allen looks to be completely wrapped up at one point and then escapes a tackle, on his way to a bruising seven yards as Wisconsin drives down the field. Allen is running with purpose and flair in the second half, up to 92 yards rushing with 11 carries.
Wisconsin is finally exerting its will. It's knocking on the door of another score.
Wisconsin has its fifth interception, second for Hunter Wohler
Wisconsin now has FIVE interceptions. Hunter Wohler made another leaping catch in coverage, coming away with a ball that might have been a touchdown otherwise.
Georgia Southern had driven to the Badgers 35-yard line after a facemask penalty on Curt Neal, but Davis Brin went for a home-run shot and lost.
The Badgers record for interceptions in a game in seven, set back in 1954. Again, Wisconsin came into this game with no takeaways yet this season and dropped a surefire pick on the first series.
Wisconsin has the ball with 5:44 to go in the third at its own 20-yard line.
The Badgers have the lead again.
Tanner Mordecai took advantage of an opening in the line and scampered through, then found another gear as he raced to the pylon for an 18-yard touchdown, and the Badgers have the lead back against Georgia Southern.
Skyler Bell and Chimere Dike both caught passes on the 6-play, 40-yard drive that covered 1:59. After day-long struggles on offense, Wisconsin appears to have rescued the day with back-to-back drives of under 2 minutes.
Mordecai now has two touchdowns on the ground for the Badgers.
Badgers get it right back on tipped interception and UW fans are back in this
Jack Van Dyke sends the kickoff out of bounds just before the corner of the end zone, giving Georgia Southern good field position at the 35-yard line, but the Badgers got it right back.
James Thompson tipped a pass on 3rd and 5, and C.J. Goetz reeled it in for the fourth interception today. Wisconsin immediately as the ball at the Georgia Southern 40-yard line, looking to retake the lead.
Braelon Allen drags a defender for the final yard to the end zone, and the Badgers are right back to even at 14-14 with 10:53 left in the third quarter. It was a four-yard touchdown run.
Will Pauling's catch and run for 16 yards set up the short-yardage situation.
It's a five-play drive that covered 58 yards in 1 minute and 35 seconds. Hard to tell if that's the spark UW needs, but it sure feels like it could be one.
He hasn't been on the field as much as we've grown accustomed, but Braelon Allen finally got untracked with a big run of 32 yards that sets the Badgers up on the Georgia Southern 20-yard line. The only other time UW got to the red zone today, it scored.
Allen has 54 yards on six carries.
Chimere Dike's 24-yard kickoff return included a late hit out of bounds, so the Badgers get to start at their own 42-yard line. It's been an absolute slog on offense since the touchdown drive that ended on the first plays of the second quarter.
It's indeed a touchdown. Wisconsin loses a timeout and is also losing this game
The extra-point is good, and Wisconsin is now without its challenge (and one timeout) for the rest of this game. The Badgers are losing to Georgia Southern, the team picked fifth in its division of the Sun Belt, with 12:33 to go before the end of the third quarter.
Georgia Southern has gashed Wisconsin for 358 yards. Wisconsin has 155.
It's officially time to start getting nervous about securing the win here
A dangerous pass by Georgia Southern quarterback Davis Brin to Derwin Burgess goes for 41 yards, and then a beauty of a ball to Jjay McAfee for a touchdown from 25 yards out.
UW believes it knocked the ball away, though it appears McAfee was across the line before the ball was jarred loose by Preston Zachman.
If it stands, it's a 13-7 lead for the Eagles with 12:33 left in the third quarter.
Wisconsin goes for it on fourth and gets it ... but gets flagged for illegal formation
Well, it's not getting better right out of the break.
UW thought it had a first down, saw it overturned on review, went for it despite being deep in its own territory and got the conversion negated by a penalty. UW punts and Georgia Southern gets its first crack in the second half, beginning at the GSU 25-yard line. It's still 7-7.
Second half has started, and UW has the ball first
One of the things that did go well for UW today was that they won the coin flip; they deferred to the second half and get the ball to start the third quarter. Third quarters have been Wisconsin's specialty this season.
Tanner Mordecai scrambles for what is ruled a first down on a third-down draw play, but that's under review.
Review says it's short of the line to gain. Fourth and inches from the UW 34-yard line.
The numbers are ugly, and the Badgers simply don't look the part yet
Through five halves of Badgers football in 2023, the team has yet to flash the signs that it will compete with the heavyweights in the Big Ten (namely Ohio State, the biggest one on the schedule).
Wisconsin has three first-half takeaways but no points off those interceptions. Georgia Southern is out-gaining UW, 283-146, with a 6-for-11 mark on third down compared to just 1 of 7 for the Badgers.
Braelon Allen has four carries for 16 yards, and Chez Mellusi has 6 for 17 yards. The running game is basically nowhere to be found. The two backs also have three catches for 16 yards.
Tanner Mordecai is 10 of 18 for 100 yards. On the other sideline, Davis Brin is 22 of 37 for 251 yards and has found some major gaps in the UW secondary.
The Eagles haven't even needed to run the ball to be effective. They have 13 carries for 32 yards (with negative-13 from Brin on sacks).
Derwin Burgess has five catches for 105 yards, and Khaleb Hood has 7 for 61 to lead Georgia Southern.
Wisconsin receivers are led by Skyler Bell (three catches, 26 yards) and Chimere Dike (two for 48).
Hunter Wohler is having a good day on defense with a team-leading seven tackles, a sack and an interception. He's perhaps the lone bright spot.
Michael Lantz came out for Georgia Southern to try a 47-yard field goal as time expired in the first half but it was well off the mark. It's a sigh of relief that Bucky doesn't go into the locker room trailing, but this ... is kind of a disaster.
The Badgers have three turnovers but have converted none of them into points. They are getting crushed on third downs and haven't done anything on offense save for one snappy drive that resulted in points. GSU responded immediately thereafter.
Georgia Southern driving and could take lead right before half
There's 34 seconds left but the Eagles have gotten to the Badgers' 38-yard line, and it's dead quiet inside Camp Randall Stadium. The two teams are tied at 7, Georgia Southern has a yardage advantage of 275-146, and Wisconsin can't get off the field; the Eagles are 6 for 10 on third down.
Yet another Badgers drive quickly dries up
Since the touchdown, the Badgers have had four drives and registered just one first down. UW has to punt it away again after back-to-back passes from Tanner Mordecai were knocked down by defensive lineman Justin Rhodes.
UW punts it away, and Georgia Southern will take over at its own 10-yard line. A good spot for the UW defense, but the offense hasn't been able to move the ball at all.
Another ball thrown right to the Badgers for an interception
The Badgers came into the game with no takeaways; they're going to leave with a boatload, especially if Davis Brin keeps throwing the ball right to red jerseys.
It was 3rd and 11 on the 25, and Brin missed his target, sending a ball right into the arms of Jason Maitre. It's the third Badgers interception today.
Hunter Wohler makes an open-field tackle on quarterback Davis Brin, good for a sack to couple with his five other tackles and own interception here in the first half.
The Badgers have it back with under 3 minutes to go, looking to break this 7-7 tie.
Booing rains down on Badgers after another three and out
Wisconsin found itself in another 4th and 1 deep in its own territory after a pass to Hayden Rucci netted six yards but fell just short of the sticks. UW punts it away again with 6:02 to go and the game still tied, 7-7.
Throw in some fair-catch interference on the Badgers worth 15 yards, and Georgia Southern will have the ball inside UW territory at the 48-yard line.
UW gets its second interception to stop Southern rally
Once again, Georgia Southern was driving with a chance to take the lead and got to the Wisconsin 40-yard line, but Brin Davis overshot Jjay McAfee badly and Ricardo Hallman made an easy interception. He couldn't keep his feet, though, and UW's drive will start at its own 17.
It's positive, but the Badgers have now allowed 4 of 7 conversions on third down (0 for 1 on fourth down).
Wisconsin forces three and out ... but gives it right back
Wisconsin quickly gets the ball back. Georgia Southern dropped a pass on third down, and quarterback Davis Brin took a shot from linebacker Jordan Turner.
But Wisconsin can't move the ball, either. A dangerous third-down pass is deflected and nearly intercepted by Georgia Southern, and Atticus Bertrams sends away his second punt in short order.
It's Eagles ball on its own 33-yard line.
Badgers punt. Too early to start thinking about upset, but it already feels like this outcome will be fraught
Braelon Allen, who's been spotted on the exercise bike trying to loosen up on the sideline, was in on that last series and caught a short pass, but the Badgers had another bad offensive series and had to punt. Georgia Southern will have it on its own 29-yard line.
The Eagles have 168 total yards to UW's 115 and has more first downs, 7-6. Much like the Buffalo game here two weeks ago, hard to imagine UW will actually be in danger in the fourth quarter, but they're sure not blowing anyone out early.
The Badgers defense has just not been itself this year.
A 68-yard pass connection to wide-open Derwin Burgess has the Eagles on first and goal at the 4-yard line, with Travian Blaylock making the saving tackle. Blaylock and Ricardo Hallman were both trailing the play when Burgess got wide open down the right sideline.
Two plays later, OJ Arnold took a pitch, briefly faked a pass, and then ran in around the left edge to score a touchdown and knot the score with 12:11 to go in the second quarter.
Once again, anyone looking for reassurance from this game ... has not found it.
TOUCHDOWN BADGERS, but it was arduous
After Chez Mellusi was stopped short on third down, Tanner Mordecai takes it in for the score, but it wasn't easy. The snap was high, and Mordecai looked like he needed to improvise to scramble for that final yard.
Yikes, not pretty. UW will take the lead, but it took a while to get there.
Badgers knocking on the door as first quarter ends
Now that's what the offense is supposed to look like
The Badgers offense absolutely HUMS on its way up the field, with all 10 snaps on this series gaining at least three yards
Skyler Bell has three catches on this series, including the last one to set up a 2nd and goal on the 2-yard line. That will be the first play after the break.
No score after the first quarter, however.
Notable that Wisconsin had seven rushes in that first quarter and none were by Braelon Allen, who did catch one pass for 4 yards. Chez Mellusi had four, with Tanner Mordecai credited on the other three.
Darryl Peterson sack thwarts 4th down effort and Wisconsin gets it back
Wisconsin has bent but not broken at any point yet today. On 4th and 4, Darryl Peterson just registered a sack that put the ball down on the 30-yard line of UW.
Georgia Southern elected to go for it on 4th and 5 from the 26, but the coverage was excellent and the protection finally broke down.
But can the Badgers finally get something going on offense? There's 3:15 to go in the first quarter and neither team has gotten a snap in the red zone.
Badgers mixing and matching in the secondary
Jason Maitre just got hit with a pass interference penalty that puts the ball right near midfield for Georgia Southern.
UW has been doing a lot of interchanging with ist secondary options. Kamo'i Latu didn't start but is in there now. Austin Brown is in at safety, Nyzier Fourqueran is there at cornerback.
Matire just broke up a shot to the end zone, but the Eagles are on the Badgers' 31-yard line facing 2nd and 10 after a successful third-down conversion made them 3 for 4 to open the game on third down.
Linebacker Maema Njongmeta just broke up another pass and it's 3rd and 10.
Turnover on downs as Badgers offense still not clicking
Jack Nelson, who had a rough week last week, commits a holding penalty, but Georgia Southern declines it to set up 4th and 7 on the 34. UW elects to run a play, and Tanner Mordecai overthrows Bryson Green.
Georgia Southern gets it back. With 6:01 to go, there's no score at Georgia State has the football.
Hunter Wohler with the first interception of the year
The pride of Muskego High School (which beat Mukwonago last night, by the way, in a big game), Hunter Wohler, just brought in the first takeaway of the year. He went up and snared a pass by Davis Brin that short-circuited a productive GSU drive inside the Badgers 35-yard line.
Finally, the Badgers have a takeaway, and it's probably their best defensive player who gets it done.
Then, Mordecai gets a ton of protection and finds Chimere Dike for a 38-yard completion on first down. Another completed slant to Tucker Ashcraft is going to get erased by an illegal formation penalty, but the Badgers are back across midfield.
Another huge pass play for Georgia Southern on third down
The Badgers had a lot of success getting off the field on third down in the first two games of the season, but it's been a different experience today. Jason Maitre just got beat for a 27-yard pass between Davis Brin and Dalen Cobb on third and 6.
Another 14-yard completion on second down, and the Eagles are on the Badgers 34-yard line.
Jjay McGee, one of the three receivers who had eight receptions last week for Georgia Southern, is down and requires some medical attention, leading into a timeout with 9:45 to go in the first quarter. No score, and hte Eagles have a 2nd and 5 upcoming.
Chez Mellusi was bottled up for two short gains, and then Tanner Mordecai was sacked on third down by Davion Rhodes, compelling a punt.
If you were looking for early signs that the Badgers had fixed some of their issues, you probably have not been convinced by what you've seen from this matchup so far.
Also interesting that the Badgers have opened the game with Mellusi on the first series in lieu of Braelon Allen.
Hearing from a couple different people that the volume issue that plagued some fans last week appears to be fixed. In fact, it's relatively quiet altogether given the lack of a full house today (and a half-filled student section).
It's 4th and 24 after Jake Chaney rushed in for a sack on Georgia Southern quarterback Davis Brin. The Eagles had been driving but lost momentum on a holding penalty that erased another good gain into UW territory.
The Badgers will take over at their own 37-yard line.
Badgers miss wide-open shot at first takeaway of season
Wisconsin badly missed a shot at their first takeaway of the season when a pass over the middle went in and out of the hands of Ricardo Hallman and deflected to Travian Blaylock, who also dropped the ball. The defense just can't seem to come up with a turnover.
Then, Georgia Southern completes a pass to Khaleb Hood for a conversion on 3rd and 11 right at midfield. Blaylock was defending on the 16-yard hookup. Hood became the program's all-time leading receiving yards leader last week, and GSU is on the move.
Badgers win the toss, and Georgia Southern will get the ball first
Wisconsin won the toss and elected to defer to the second half, so Georgia Southern will get a chance to receive the opening kickoff. The Badgers are looking for a fast start after slow ones in each of the first two games.
Shouts to Rufus "Roadrunner" Ferguson, a 5-8 dynamo during the early 1970s, as today's honorary captain.
We're under way!
Lightly attended game as we prep for football
With 15 minutes before kickoff, it's definitely a late-arriving crowd, but that's to be expected given the quality of the matchup coming off a loss last week. Prepare yourself for the student-section hot takes!
Nevertheless, the band is prepping those who are here and we're getting close to kickoff at Camp Randall Stadium.
Will we see more Preston Zachman today at safety?
Redshirt junior Preston Zachman saw a big-time increase in snaps as the game wore on against Washington State last year, taking the place of senior Kamo'i Latu. Today, Zachman is warming up with the No. 1 defense, as observed by Zach Heilprin.
The Pennsylvania native Zachman only appeared in seven games over his first three seasons in the program but has made a leap this season.
Latu is still listed as the starting free safety on the depth chart but has struggled this season.
The Badgers have never played Georgia Southern, a squad picked to finish fifth in its half of the Sun Belt. Here are a few notes to ponder:
• Georgia Southern coach Clay Helton used to be the head coach at USC, where he led the team to a Rose Bowl win over Iowa. Last week, Helton and his squad beat UAB, a team coached by Super Bowl winning quarterback Trent Dilfer.
• Receiver Khaleb Hood broke the program's career receiving-yards record with a big day last week. He was one of three receivers to catch eight passes in the 49-35 win over UAB.
• The last time Wisconsin faced a Sun Belt team, it was memorably dicey ― a 23-17 win over Georgia State in 2016.
• After throwing a touchdown to Skyler Bell last week, Tanner Mordecai has now thrown for a touchdown in eight straight games and 27 of his last 28. He'll potentially have a new weapon on the field with Cincinnati transfer Quincy Burroughs taking the spot of Keontez Lewis on the two-deep at receiver. Lewis announced he had entered the transfer portal earlier this week.
• Badgers coach Luke Fickell hasn't lost back-to-back regular season games as a head coach since 2017, his first year at Cincinnati. He's won six straight times coming off a loss.
• The team leader in receptions thus far for UW? Braelon Allen, who has 13 of them. He's the first running back to catch five or more passes in back-to-back games since Brian Calhoun in 2005, who famously has the UW record for running back receptions with 53. But Allen only has 37 yards on his 13 catches.
Here's a look at Jeff Potrykus' four things to watch heading into this game.
The Badgers are still without transfer center Jake Renfro, who has yet to play in a game for UW, and there aren't any surprises on the pregame injury report. Tight ends Riley Nowakowski, Jack Pugh and Cam Large are still out, meaning we should still see a healthy dose of freshman Tucker Ashcraft.
The players listed as out are:
What time do the Wisconsin Badgers play today?
Kickoff for the Wisconsin-Georgia Southern game is 11 a.m. Saturday.
What channel is the Wisconsin Badgers' game on?
The game will air on the Big Ten Network.
Wisconsin (1-1) is a 19 ½-point favorite over Georgia Southern (2-0). What do our reporters think? Here are their predictions for the nonconference game.
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