Jim Polzin grades the Wisconsin Badgers’ performance in their 41-13 loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Soldier Field in Chicago.
The Badgers averaged 2.6 yards per rushing attempt and went 1 of 14 on third down — and that’s not even the worst part. Quarterback Graham Mertz had five turnovers, including four interceptions. UW finally had some big plays through the air — 43 yards to tight end Clay Cundiff, 35 to tailback Chez Mellusi and 22 to wide receiver Kendric Pryor. But there was far more bad on a day Mertz finished with 23 incompletions.
UW allowed 242 yards and only 3.5 per play. Jim Leonhard’s unit was on the field for only two of Notre Dame’s five touchdowns. The Badgers did a solid job of limiting big plays, had six sacks and forced a turnover. UW should have had another one and it could have turned into a touchdown, but safety Scott Nelson dropped a Jack Coan pass in the open field in the first quarter.
Special teams: D-
Returner Dean Engram let a punt go over his head late in the first half and it cost UW 20-plus yards in field position. Collin Larsh made a couple of mid-range field goals but was wide left on a 52-yard attempt that would have made it a one-score game in the fourth quarter. But the biggest play of the game was a 96-yard kickoff return by Chris Tyree that gave the Fighting Irish the lead for good early in the fourth quarter. UW kicked to the corner to try to trap Tyree, but Notre Dame had a field return called and Tyree broke through a huge hole before cruising past kicker Jack Van Dyke en route to the end zone.
Paul Chryst’s offense continues to be a failure. The Badgers have averaged 8.6 points in five losses since the start of the 2020 season. Chryst played it safe early in the fourth quarter, calling back-to-back running plays after UW had gotten to the Notre Dame 11. Settling for a field goal seemed like an OK strategy considering it gave UW a 13-10 lead and the defense was playing so well. But then came a catastrophic breakdown from Chris Haering’s special teams unit.
The worst part about this loss — and safety Collin Wilder said it afterward — was how a close game turned into an embarrassing score line in such a hurry. It was a pitiful fourth quarter from a team that had a signature victory in its hands with 14-plus minutes to play in the game.
BY THE NUMBERS
3: UW's defense only allowed 3 yards rushing. That's the eighth-best effort all-time in Badgers history. The Fighting Irish ran the ball 32 times. The last time the Badgers held an opposing team to fewer yards rushing was Aug. 31, 2000, against Western Michigan, which was held to -1 yard on 20 attempts.
2: Notre Dame returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a game for the first time since 2002 against Stanford.
41: UW's 41 pass attempts were the most since the Badgers attempted 42 in their loss at Northwestern last season.
0: Notre Dame never has lost at Solider Field. The Fighting Irish improved to 11-0-2 at the home of the NFL's Chicago Bears.
Badgers fans can't hide frustration on Twitter after Wisconsin routed by Notre Dame
Big-time let down
😔 the words I gotta hear from my teammates later— F L ⚡️ S H (@Melvingordon25) September 25, 2021
Howling for some help
Is it time to give Wolf a shot next week? What do you have to lose?— Bob Spoerl (@bobspoerl) September 25, 2021
Headed in the wrong direction
It’s time for the new athletic director to take a serious look at the head coach and recruiting. The program is on a downward trend. Worst offense I’ve witnessed at Wisconsin since the late 1980’s. Zero jet sweeps. No passing early on first downs. That’s coaching.— Jeff Ostach (@jeff_ostach) September 25, 2021
Drawing a line in the sand
If the O line doesn't improve quickly this season will be a complete disaster. They control the run game. The run game controls the pass game. Mertz needs to improve a lot too. The D is great. Special teams are a lot better than previous years. They have what it take to win.— Ryan in Mukwonago (@BadgerFan1976) September 25, 2021
Buckle up for a bumpy ride
This is a poor team. Offensive line is one of worst i have seen at wisconsin. QB looks so confused on 90% of plays. No run game.— Nick Conrad (@bigconny019) September 25, 2021
Defense gets worn down.
This is just a very poor team. Going to be a lonnnng year.
Looking for a little flair
Where did the trickery go? The end around or fake end arounds, the crazy amount of pre snap motions. They had one trick play like that today and Mellusi broke it and they scored on that possession.— Marcus S. Horton (@MarkyMark03) September 25, 2021
Just a few minor flaws
We can't run the ball. We can't pass the ball. We hang our defense out to dry. Other than that, we're doing great.— Craig Smith (@smithcp1) September 25, 2021
Trouble from top to bottom
2/2. You never want to overreact to a bad game (or two). But the team I see is predictable on offense and not talented enough to make up for it. The defense is being wasted. Wisconsin’s issues look deeper than weaknesses at one position group.— Joseph Britt (@Zathras3) September 25, 2021
As bad as it gets
I was at the 59-0 loss to Ohio State in 2014. This was ten times more embarrassing.— Bill Pfeiffer (@billt209) September 25, 2021
Aiding the enemy
I was aware Coan played for ND. Was surprised Mertz does also.— Eric (@EricJamesS21) September 25, 2021
Offensive mind wanted
It’s time Chryst brings in an outside mind to be his OC. He simply doesn’t have it in 2021 to coach up the QB’s and game plan a modern day passing attack or scheme that does anything but stress the defense with power runs. Great HC/leader, but not the offensive answer any more— Andrew Zimdars (@andrew_zimdars) September 25, 2021
Both teams would like to have Coan back on UW's roster.— Phil Censky (@CenskyPhil) September 25, 2021
You're not alone
I have been following the Badgers for almost 60 years. Chryst is a good coach. However, I really wish that Coan was still there— John Husmoe (@JohnHusmoe) September 25, 2021
A little slice of home
At least the fans were able to Jump Around.— mike kerry (@BadgerMike) September 25, 2021
You never know what you've got till its gone
I did not appreciate Scott Tolzien enough— Tyler Shulfer (@tylershulfer) September 25, 2021
It comes with the territory
Woof, asking for "thoughts" feels dangerous after this one 🥺🤬— Scott Hettenbach (@Hetty714) September 25, 2021
Your heart goes out
I feel sorry for the D— Fred Ehle (@FredEhle) September 25, 2021
Worst O of the Chryst era
Is chase wolf worse than this?
Ready for a new approach
Major coaching adjustments on offense!— Nate Berg (@bergn65) September 25, 2021
There's still hope, right?
😂— Stuart Henning (@badgerfan82) September 25, 2021
Beware of dog!
Mertz isn’t good, Chrysts play calling isn’t good. Mess— ArtieHo (@ArtieHo2) September 25, 2021
In need of an overhaul
Offense is atrocious. Need a new scheme and QB— Chad Weinfurter (@chadweinfurter) September 25, 2021
Throwing in the towel?
Was it just me or did it look like the rest of the offense was sort of OK with letting that last interception be returned for a touchdown? If so that is the most concerning thing of all in a game with numerous concerns.— Tom Nicholas (@NicholasCSI) September 25, 2021
That is ... correct
Defense gave up 242 yards offense gained 318 and lost 41 to 13 . ND had 3 yards rushing!!!!— marcus (@minkus1818) September 25, 2021
Contact Jim Polzin at email@example.com.