Mellusi powers No. 18 Wisconsin past Eastern Michigan 37-7

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MADISON, Wis. (AP)Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson likes the direction that the Badgers’ running backs are going.

And, he thinks Chez Mellusi is similar to former Badgers backs.

Mellusi ran for 144 yards and a touchdown as No. 18 Wisconsin routed Eastern Michigan 34-7 Saturday night.

”Chez is just that new edition,” Ferguson said. ”He runs hard and reminds me of Garrett Groshek and Jonathan Taylor at the same time – kind of shaking off a couple tackles and getting some extra yards.”

Wisconsin (1-1, 0-1 Big Ten) piled up 352 rushing yards and also dominated on defense against Eastern Michigan (0-2), which had 92 total yards on offense. The Eagles had three first downs.

Wisconsin controlled time of possession for 40 minutes.

”Offensively, we couldn’t get any kind of breathing room,” Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton said. ”We couldn’t get anything going offensively, so our defense was on the field forever.”

Mellusi, a Clemson transfer, became the first Wisconsin running back to record consecutive 100-yard rushing games in his first two contests since Corey Clement in 2013.

The Badgers, typically known for their explosive running, also had breakout performances from Isaac Guerendo and Jalen Berger. Berger, who missed the opener, had 15 carries for 62 yards and one TD.

Guerendo got to the edge and ran 82 yards for his first career touchdown that increased Wisconsin’s lead to 24-0 with 4:40 left in the first half. Guerendo, a junior, posted the eighth-longest TD run in program history.

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said he thinks the running back group can gain consistency with time and experience.

”I don’t think you have to change what you’re doing – you can’t call this or should call that,” Chryst said. ”As we go through this season, we’re going to need them all. They have their style; we need to keep getting better and keep growing there.”

The Badgers excelled on defense, even though two veteran starters didn’t play.

Safety John Torchio made his second career start in place of senior Collin Wilder, who was out. Alexander Smith was inserted at cornerback due to the absence of fifth-year senior Faion Hicks.

The Badgers defense held the Eagles defense to 13 rushing yards, one week after allowing 50 rushing yard against Penn State.

Chryst said he was pleased to see the focus continue on the Eagles.

”We had a good plan,” he said. ”I thought guys were attacking, and obviously, it takes the front seven, and the safeties are involved in that. I thought they were really good in impacting the passing game, too.”

But mistakes, like the ones in its 16-10 loss to Penn State last week, were still frustrating for Wisconsin.

The Badgers failed to score inside the Eagles’ 10-yard line on their first series. Mellusi tripped on a handoff from Graham Mertz on first down and then the Badgers didn’t score on three runs following that miscue.

A holding penalty down field by Wisconsin wide receiver Danny Davis negated a 36-yard TD pass by tight end Clay Cundiff in the first quarter.

The lone highlight for Eastern Michigan was a 98-yard interception return for a TD in the fourth quarter by freshman defensive back David Carter, who picked off Badgers reserve quarterback Chase Wolf. The score was a career first for Carter.

Mertz returned in the fourth after Wolf’s interception.

Creighton said he was disappointed that Eastern Michigan didn’t make more of an impact.

”Coming in, I thought this was the best team I coached against and I was right,” Creighton said. ”We expected to do a lot better than we did.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Eastern Michigan: The Eagles need to find stability on offense, and that starts with settling on a starting quarterback. Junior Preston Hutchinson and senior Ben Bryant split time at QB at Wisconsin. The pair combined for 76 passing yards. Hutchinson had three rushes for 16 yards.

Wisconsin: Badgers receivers saw some action Saturday. Kendric Pryor led receivers with 54 yards, while Davis had 30.

Quarterback Graham Mertz completed 14 of 17 passes for 142 yards and no interceptions in three-plus quarters.

SOME BERGER FOR BADGERS

Berger received his first snaps of the season Saturday. Berger, a redshirt freshman didn’t play in Wisconsin’s season-opening loss to Penn State.

Berger, a preseason Doak Walker candidate, rushed for a team-high 301 yards in four games last season.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Wisconsin will hold steady or move up a couple spots just outside the top 15.

UP NEXT

Wisconsin: Off next week before a marquee matchup against No. 8 Notre Dame on Sept. 25 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Eastern Michigan: Visits UMass on Saturday.

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