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Luke Fickell must have listened to me last week, because the Wisconsin Badgers ran the ball more than they threw en route to a 38-17 rout of Purdue. Despite the big win – Wisconsin’s 17th straight over Purdue – stud running back Chez Mellusi fractured his fibula late in the 4th quarter.

The injury is expected to keep the fifth-year senior out for the rest of the season and perhaps end his career at UW. It’s a huge loss for the Badgers who had hoped their two-headed running attack with #0 Braelon Allen would plow through the Big Ten season.

Allen is expected to pick up the majority of the carries, but the Badgers need to find a second option to spell the 19-year-old Fon du Lac native for the rest of the season. 

So who will it be?

Jackson Acker

Badgers Jackson Acker
Jackson Acker – Credit: UW Badgers

Acker is a redshirt sophomore running back from the Madison area, joining the team after dominating at Verona High School. At 6’1,” 235 pounds, his physique is more similar to Allen’s than Mellusi.

The power running back — and nursing major — chose to redshirt as a freshman in the 2021 season, but still recorded a touchdown in garbage time against Rutgers.

As a sophomore last year, Acker played more fullback than running back, suiting up in every game without recording a single rush. He made up for it in the receiving game, catching five passes for 73 yards and a touchdown.

So far in 2023 Acker has touched the ball nine times for 31 yards rushing and 3 receiving. He played as a third back when the Badgers went up big against Buffalo and Georgia Southern, but didn’t feature in the Purdue game. 

He wouldn’t provide tons of speed, but he certainly has the body to wear down defenders as the game goes on.

The Badgers need to throw the ball more

I know I said the exact opposite thing last week, but if another running back can’t step up and produce right away, the answer might be sixth-year senior quarterback Tanner Mordecai throwing the ball more. It would fit Fickell’s idea for an air raid offense at Wisconsin, and Mordecai is talented enough that the Badgers might get away with it.

I think the Badgers are at their best in a balanced offense, but eventually, Fickell must make the transition to a true air raid, so why not now?

Wisconsin has a weak schedule from here on out – their only ranked opponent is against No. 4 Ohio State on Oct. 28, and honestly, what do the Badgers have to lose in that game anyway?

It might be time to uncork the offense, and just eat those 12-15 carries Mellusi would have had with passes instead. It would still do the job of freeing up the front eight for Allen and would force Wisconsin to grow into a new system.

We could see an ugly loss or two this season but could be worth it in the long run when the College Football Playoff expands to 12 teams next year.

By Nathan Denzin, BADGER STRIPES

Badger Stripes is a sports news organization that provides in-depth coverage of Wisconsin athletics. Follow us on Facebook.


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