Washington State coach Jake Dickert has a pretty good idea of what to expect Saturday when his Cougars travel to his home state to take on 19th-ranked Wisconsin in Madison.
Wisconsin and Washington State each opened with non-conference victories over FCS teams last weekend. The Badgers dominated Illinois State 38-0, and the Cougars overcame a 10-0 deficit and held off Idaho 24-17.
Wisconsin dropped one spot in the AP poll despite its victory.
Dickert grew up in Wisconsin and played college football at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where he also began his coaching career as a grad assistant.
“I think when you grow up there, there’s a few things that are in your blood, right? Beer, cheese and Packers and Badgers and Bucks and Brewers,” he said. “I’m a product of Wisconsin.
“Our team is ready for this environment and in what that’s going to mean going on the road and trying to win against a really good football team,” Dickert said. “That is the focus. Period.”
Against Illinois State, the Badgers got a school-record 100-yard interception return for a touchdown from John Torchio for their first score. On their next possession, Braelon Allen scored on a 96-yard run, and the Badgers were in control the rest of the way. Wisconsin led 17-0 at the half and 31-0 entering the final period.
Allen, who rushed for 1,268 yards last season as a freshman, carried 14 times against Illinois State with 148 yards and two TDs. Graham Mertz, who was inconsistent last season, completed 14 of 16 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown.
“I got to grow up in the Ron Dayne era,” Dickert said of the Badgers’ running back great. “The history of Wisconsin at tailback and Braelon Allen is probably, if not, maybe going to be the best one ever to come through there. I’ll let those fans decide that. But he’s a physical talent, he’s amazing, and he reminds me a little bit of Ron Dayne.”
Against Illinois State, the Badgers allowed four passes of 23 yards or more but also had two interceptions and four sacks. Wisconsin was penalized five times for 51 yards.
“I liked a lot of what we did,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “I thought the effort and the way they went about things was good. And you look at the film, and each individual, each group, and yes as a team, there’s areas where we need to get better and can get better.”
Cameron Ward, a transfer from Incarnate Word, threw three touchdown passes in his debut for Washington State. He completed 25 of 40 passes for 215 yards without an interception. Ward led the Football Championship Subdivision in touchdown passes last season with 47 and was third in passing yards with 4,648.
The Cougars ran for 143 yards last week, 5.7 per carry. Nakia Watson, who transferred to Washington State after two seasons at Wisconsin, ran for a team-high 117 yards on 18 carries.
Washington State held Idaho to 62 yards on 34 rushing attempts, and no touchdowns. Idaho managed 212 yards through the year but the Cougars also picked off two passes and had seven sacks.
The Cougars fumbled three times and lost them all, with the first one returned 45 yards for Idaho’s first touchdown.
“At the line of scrimmage is where Wisconsin has been tremendous for a long time, and that’s their calling card,” Dickert said. “The challenge is to make sure we keep Cam upright.”
Wisconsin and Washington State have met just once, with the Badgers winning 42-21 at home in 2007.
–Field Level Media