Wisconsin State Journal columnist Tom Oates grades the Wisconsin Badgers' performance in their 49-0 season-opening win over the South Florida Bulls on Friday night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Jonathan Taylor had 128 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. The difference was 48 yards and two scores came on pass receptions. Except for overthrowing two deep balls, Jack Coan in the first half was exactly what UW needs — 14-for-19, 165 yards, no mistakes. Good to see Quintez Cephus back doing Quintez Cephus things.
Zack Baun looked explosive on a sack/fumble that led to a defensive touchdown for UW. Matt Henningsen showed some wheels en route to the end zone, too. Shades of the 2017 season, UW held South Florida to 53 yards on 25 plays and forced two turnovers in the opening half. Suddenly, the Badgers have depth all over their defense.
Special teams: C
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Anthony Lotti averaged 45 yards in the first half but didn't hit either punt well. He was better in the second half. Collin Larsh was perfect on extra points but missed a 30-yard field goal in his first game as the No. 1 kicker. Mike Maskalunas sniffed out a fake punt and delivered a blow. Jack Dunn had a 42-yard punt return.
Besides throwing more to Taylor, Paul Chryst's offense featured a new split-back formation with Taylor and Garrett Groshek. Coan completed a pass to Kendric Pryor after faking a run from that set. Jim Leonhard's 2-4-5 defense matched up well with the Bulls. He shrewdly used Reggie Pearson all over the defense.
UW was expected to beat South Florida, but no one expected a 28-0 halftime score. The Badgers' opener was an unqualified success as the offense and defense played very well and the special teams held their own. Sure, there were first-game mistakes and the Bulls didn't play as well as expected, but UW is off to a great start.