Cotton Bowl: Wisconsin 24, Western Michigan 16, 5 Things That Matter, What’s Next For 2017?
Wisconsin ground its way to a tough 24-16 Cotton Bowl win over Western Michigan. What does it all mean? What’s next for 2017?
It all came down to two great targets
Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli let a touchdown bounce off his hands, but he caught six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown, with no grab bigger – and this includes his scoring catch, and a brilliant one-handed play – than the one that sealed the win on third down on the Badgers’ final drive.
There aren’t any dangerous receivers or playmakers in the Wisconsin receiving corps, but Fumagalli turned out to be unstoppable.
Meanwhile, the Badgers did everything possible to slow down Western Michigan star Corey Davis – and they did, for the most part.
But he still came up with six catches for 73 yards and a score – an amazing touchdown play to keep the team in the game – and took the heat off. He was slowed down, but he still did his part.
For Wisconsin, though, this game showed …
The Badgers DESPERATELY need a wide receiver
Troy Fumagalli – six catches for 83 yards and a score. The Badger RBs – four grabs for 56 yards. The Badger WRs? Three catches, 39 yards.
As good as Wisconsin was all season long, it was always missing the one dangerous deep threat option to get the passing game moving down the field to open everything up. This is always going to be a bruising, tough team that pounds away, but to take that one extra step, it’s going to need to do more offensively. That means Bucky needs wide receivers when the ground game isn’t working. And it struggled to work because …
Western Michigan proved it was for real
The Badgers gashed the Broncos on the opening drive, and Jazz Peavy tore off a 51-yard run – and that was it.
They came up with five runs that combined for 124 – and the other 33 went for just 60 yards. Western Michigan sold out a bit, but the defensive line more than held its own, while the secondary didn’t have to worry about anyone but Fumagalli.
Meanwhile, the Broncos were able to rip up the running game at times as the offense was able to keep the ground attack moving just enough, with Jamauri Bogan and Jarvion Franklin combining for 111 yards. The Wisconsin combination of Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale ran for 93.
Western Michigan was still alive against the big, bad Big Ten team and had its chances late. It didn’t wear down, it moved the ball well in the second half, and it came up with a great effort and a strong performance.
What’s next for Western Michigan in 2017?
P.J. Fleck is still going to be the head coach. That’s a massive first step.
Star WR Corey Davis is gone, along with heart-and-soul QB Zach Terrrell, but the running back combination of Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan are back behind a great-looking O line. Taylor Moton is done at right tackle, but the other four starters return. Tom Flacco – yeah, he’s related – will take over at quarterback, but he needs targets to throw to.
The defense has to find a new end for Keion Adams, and David Curle is done on the nose, but the other nine starters are back. This isn’t just an experienced D; it’ll be loaded with at least six seniors. The secondary should be dominant, while the linebacking corps is loaded. Consider WMU the runaway preseason favorite to win the MAC again.
What’s next for Wisconsin in 2017?
It’s Wisconsin. You know what’s coming next.
The O line is going to be an absolute killer with four starters returning, and that’s assuming Ryan Ramczyk is off early to the NFL. Alex Hornibrook is the sure-thing starter now – there’s no rotation with Bart Houston anymore. Corey Clement and Dare Ogbunowale are done, and now it’ll be the combination of Bradrick Shaw and Taiwan Deal taking over the running game.
You thought the defense was good this year? It loses LB Vince Biegel, S Leo Musso, and CB Sojourn Shelton, and it’ll almost certainly lose T.J. Watt early to the NFL, but that’s it. The entire front three is back, all the key backups in the rotation return, and the linebacking combination of T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly on the inside should be a killer. Expect more of the same.