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Halftime observations: The reason the Badgers offense is struggling and how it is impacting the defense

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As many expected heading into the game, the University of Wisconsin football team and Notre Dame are locked in a tight battle at Soldier Field. But a turnover by the Badgers gave the Irish the momentum and lead late in the second quarter.

Notre Dame leads 10-3 after a sluggish start from UW’s offense and a 36-yard touchdown pass from Irish quarterback Jack Coan.

Here are three observations from the first half.

1. Offensive line allowing too much penetration

The Notre Dame defensive line has to feel good about what it’s doing in the run game so far.

The ESPN show broadcast from outside of Soldier Field on Saturday ahead of the matchup between the 18th-ranked University of Wisconsin football team and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Chicago.

It has a tackle for loss from Howard Cross on the first play of UW’s second drive to put UW behind the sticks — something it hasn’t shown the ability to overcome this season. The Badgers have 17 yards rushing in the first half

UW put its second offensive line group — left tackle Logan Brown, left guard Cormac Sampson, center Kayden Lyles and right guard Michael Furtney to go with starting right tackle Logan Bruss — into the game on the third series. The group held up well to allow Graham Mertz to throw down the field to Clay Cundiff for a 43-yard gain, but Brown then was beat on fourth-and-1 and his man made the tackle in the backfield to stop the drive.

The Badgers have to run the ball to win this game. The offensive line has to do more in the second half to make that happen.

2. Henningsen too much for Baker

UW defensive lineman Matt Henningsen tallied a sack and was in on another UW pile atop Notre Dame’s Jack Coan in the first quarter.

The University of Wisconsin mascot has fun on Saturday outside of Soldier Field ahead of the battle between the 18th-ranked Badgers and 12th-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Chicago.

In both instances, Henningsen overpowered the Irish’s freshman left tackle Tosh Baker, who is making his second consecutive start. Baker simply can’t handle the bull rush from a big, strong veteran like Henningsen. Henningsen appeared to be lined up a little bit wider than usual in UW’s nickel packages, almost head to head with Baker on multiple snaps.

UW clearly has the advantage in that matchup and is looking to use it, but what could be interesting going forward is the blitzes the Badgers bring elsewhere knowing that Notre Dame is going to have to start helping Baker with slide protections and extra blockers.

Joe Alt, a tight end on the ND roster who’s been made into the backup right tackle, replaced Baker at left tackle in the second quarter.

UW has four sacks, and essentially a fifth when Coan tripped and fell while trying to evade the rush in the first half.

3. Defense has been on the field too much

Notre Dame has run 44 plays to UW’s 24, a bad omen for the second half for the Badgers defense. The defensive unit is playing well, but after Mertz’s interception in the second quarter, Notre Dame took advantage and finally connected on a deep pass.

The Badgers have had big pass plays early on multiple drives but can’t run the ball enough to sustain anything, which is putting the defense in difficult situations. The offense has to help out the other side of the ball.

Injury update

Here’s a look at the Badgers’ injury situation at halftime.

Ruled out before the game

UW does not give reasons as to why players are unavailable on their status reports.

RB Braelon Allen

FB Quan Easterling

TE Jack Eschenbach

S Tyler Mais

ILB Mike Maskalunas

ILB Jordan Turner

OLB Aaron Witt

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