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Instant analysis: Badgers football takes big step backward in brutal loss to Notre Dame

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The 18th-ranked University of Wisconsin football team fell to 1-2 with a 41-13 loss to No. 12 Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon at Soldier Field in Chicago. Here are my three thoughts on the game:

Going backward

Las Vegas may not have seen it, making UW a six-point favorite, but this loss was predictable. I was on the record saying the Badgers would lose 16-13.

I just have zero faith that this program can beat a good team right now. I didn’t feel great about its chances even after UW took a 13-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. Even with Notre Dame on its backup quarterback.

That’s seven consecutive losses to ranked opponents for the Badgers dating to late in the 2019 season. They’re 1-2 for the first time in 20 years and 5-7 over a stretch of 12 games.

I’ll be writing about this in my column coming later this afternoon, but this program had hopes of making the step from really good to great. It instead has regressed to mediocrity.

Not very special

What a huge letdown by UW’s kickoff coverage unit.

The Badgers had a three-point lead, their defense was playing great and Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan was sidelined with a right knee injury.

So what happens? Jack Van Dyke can’t get his kickoff to the end zone, a massive hole opens up for Chris Tyree and he takes it to the house for a go-ahead touchdown.

Just brutal.

More Mertz struggles

Let’s start with some rare good news for the offense: UW finally had some big plays in the passing game. A 22-yard connection from Graham Mertz to Kendric Pryor on the first offensive snap of the game, a 43-yard reception by tight end Clay Cundiff two series later and a 35-yard gain by tailback Chez Mellusi on a shovel pass.

That’s 100 yards on three plays, which is great. But other than that, Mertz had 140 yards on his other 38 passing attempts. And he threw four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns in the fourth quarter. That’s six picks through three games.

Not that UW’s running game was anything to write home about. The Badgers finished with 71 yards on 27 attempts.

Contact Jim Polzin at


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