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Wisconsin takes new-look backfield into meeting with Rutgers

Wisconsin will look to maintain momentum after a week off when it faces Rutgers in a Big Ten Conference matchup in Madison, Wis., on Saturday.

The Badgers (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) had a bye last week after opening their conference schedule with a 38-17 victory at Purdue. Rutgers (4-1, 1-1) is coming off a 52-3 nonconference rout of Wagner, bouncing back from a 31-7 loss at Michigan.

Wisconsin’s victory at Purdue was costly, however, as running back Chez Mellusi was lost for the season with a leg injury.

With Mellusi out, the bulk of the ground game falls on Braelon Allen, who has a team-high 371 rushing yards at 7.1 yards per carry with six touchdowns. Redshirt sophomore Jackson Acker, who has 31 yards on eight carries, moves into the No. 2 spot.

“Both those guys’ roles are going to be increased,” Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell said. “I don’t think it changes who we are and what we do. And I even told Braelon the same thing: It doesn’t change. I think it puts a little bit more on Braelon’s plate, not just carrying the football, but the leader that Chez was.”

Quarterback Tanner Mordecai, a redshirt senior transfer from SMU, completed 17 of 27 passes for 174 yards vs. Purdue. Mordecai has completed 85 of 128 passes (66.4 percent) with two touchdowns and three interceptions on the season, averaging 219 yards per game. He also has rushed for two scores in each of the last two games.

Wisconsin averages 427.5 yards per game, while giving up 375. The Badgers average 33.3 points per game, allowing 19.8.

“It’s a big game,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. “I’m very, very careful of looking at that and saying this is an iconic brand, or this is a big win, or whatever you want to call it. We have one goal: That’s to be 1-0 at the end of this Wisconsin season. And it’s hard. We got a lot of work to do.”

Rutgers piled up 436 yards in the win over Wagner, while allowing just 106 — including 23 yards passing. It was the third time this season the Scarlet Knights had held opponents to seven points or fewer.

Gavin Wimsatt has completed 57 of 106 passes (53.8 percent), with five touchdowns and just one pick, averaging 146.6 yards per game. Christian Dremel has 14 catches for 195 yards and three touchdowns.

Kyle Monangai leads the ground game with 471 yards and six touchdowns. Wimsatt is second with 187 yards and four rushing scores.

Wisconsin is 4-0 against Rutgers since the series kicked off in 2014. The Badgers won the last matchup 52-3 in 2021 when Allen ran for 129 yards and a TD.

–Field Level Media

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