Badgers need more magic from their passing game

Frederic Hewitt, Sports Editor

After a heartbreaking loss to LSU in the season opener, the Badgers prevailed in their second game against Western Illinois.

It was uncertain how healthy Melvin Gordon was going to be after suffering a hip flexor injury during the second half of their first game, but it didn’t stop him from suiting up on Saturday. Another big question for the Badgers was going to be, if Tanner McEvoy would be able to overcome an overall abysmal performance against the Tigers in week one.

In the first half against Western Illinois, the Badgers looked as if they were still trying to recover from the loss against LSU. After the first quarter the only score, by either team, was a safety that went in the favor of the Badgers, because of a negligent error on Western Illinois’ return team on the opening kickoff, leaving the score 2-0. By the end of the first half, the Badgers scored on a 7-yard, McEvoy touchdown run, and Western Illinois was held to a 29-yard field goal from Nathan Knuffman.

After the halftime break, the Badgers came out looking like an entirely different team. At one point, McEvoy had completed 17 passes in a row, finishing the game 23-of-28 passing attempts, 283 yards, along with 3 touchdowns.

McEvoy demonstrated sheer brightness, after an overall dim performance in his first game and a half with the Badgers. His versatility of running and throwing gives a glimpse of what it was like 3 seasons ago when the Badgers were led by quarterback, Russell Wilson. Although, it was only for a single season, the UW-football team saw a lot of success with having a duel threat quarterback like Wilson.

“There was nothing said or no magic fairy dust sprinkled on him. He just started to execute,” Wisconsin coach Gary Anderson said of McEvoy.

Hopefully this is an indicator of what’s to come from the first year quarterback. With Western Illinois stacking the box, trying to prevent the run game from getting started, Gordon was essentially a nonfactor. It seemed like the Leathernecks only objective was to shut him down. While he did have his second career-receiving touchdown, he had only 38 rushing yards on 17 carries. Corey Clement led the Badgers with 57 yards on 9 attempts. McEvoy was second with 9 attempts and 55 yards, scoring a rushing touchdown.

Another big surprise came from wide receiver Alex Erickson, who had 10 receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown. Erickson looked to be McEvoy’s main target, which is good to have someone appear that they’re willing to fill the shoes left by Jared Abbrederis.

The Badgers will host Bowling Green next. It will be interesting to see if the Badgers can continue to execute as they did in the second half against Western Illinois, or if it was just an aberation.