Coach Sean Lewis mentioned that the size and aggression of the Wisconsin offensive line would be the difference in the game during his weekly press conference Monday.
That proved to be true.
Kent State came into Saturday’s game with the 120th ranked rushing defense in the country. The Badger offense averaged 6.3 yards per rush on 55 rush attempts on Saturday. Kent State’s inability to stop the run proved to be the deciding factor in Saturday’s 48-0 loss at Wisconsin. It marked the first time that the Flashes failed to score under Lewis.
Kent State drops to 2-3, 1-0 Mid-American Conference, while No. 8 Wisconsin improves to 5-0, 2-0 Big Ten.
Wisconsin’s offense kept the Kent State offense on the sideline for over 40 minutes, leaning heavily on the run.
“Their ability to run the football and control the pace of the game (was the difference),” Lewis said. “For them to have 75 snaps to us only have 45 is a testament to the style that they want to play. We just have to do a great job getting into the weight room so we can get that strength and that physicality to be able to establish our program.”
Junior running back Jonathan Taylor finished with 215 yards total (186 rushing, 29 receiving). He added five touchdowns (T-school record), including four rushing and one receiving. His performance moved him ahead of Melvin Gordon for third all-time on Wisconsin’s rushing yard list.
“He’s the best running back in the country,” Lewis said.
The Kent State offense sputtered, averaging under three yards per play. The Badger defense sacked junior quarterback Dustin Crum seven times. Crum finished 6-for-8 for 28 yards, a career-low. The Flashes averaged under four yards per throw. The offense converted just 2-of-11 third down attempts.
“They’re the best defense in the country,” Lewis said. “They’re very physical, very disciplined and very sound. You can tell that (defensive coordinator) Leonard does a great job with that group. Regardless of the conditions or the game or the opponent, they go out together as a team and execute at a very high level.”
The Flashes’ rushing attack relied on true freshman Joachim Bangda instead of senior running back Jo-El Shaw. Shaw entered Saturday’s game with a team-high 278 yards (5.1 yards per carry). Bangda finished with four carries for 32 yards, while Shaw finished with six carries for 20 yards. Shaw’s first carry came with about one minute left in the first half.
“We have a good group of guys, a good stable of backs where between the two of them (Shaw and Bangda) and Xavier Williams,” Lewis said. “We feel blessed that we have three guys that we feel can do a really good job for us at this level. That allows us to share the workload between those guys. Having that depth allows us to manage those carries, spread them out a little bit to keep everyone healthy for the long haul.”
Junior quarterback Woody Barrett saw the field in the second half, which has been the case against every Power 5 opponent this season. He finished 4-for-9 for 36 yards. He completed a 28-yard pass to sophomore receiver Raymond James, which proved to be the longest play from scrimmage for the Flashes.
“Dustin Crum is our starting quarterback and he will continue to start and lead us,” Lewis said. “But those guys are out at practice continuing to push each other and getting better each day.”
Kent State's next game is at Akron. The Zips are 0-5, 0-1 MAC. Kickoff is set for Oct. 12 at 3:30 p.m.
Contact Ian Kreider at firstname.lastname@example.org.