Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 9/22/12

Jared Abbrederis caught six passes for 147 yards and a touchdown to lead the Wisconsin Badgers over the UTEP Miners by the score of 37-26.

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Badgers’ (3-1) offense looked a lot better than they did in their previous three games. They racked up a season-high 423 yards of total offense and produced 213 rushing yards despite losing running back Montee Ball in the second quarter.

What It Means: In regards to Big Ten play starting a week from today, it’s extremely difficult to think the Badgers are ready for the conference season to begin. Head coach Bret Bielema acknowledged that his may be the toughest non-conference schedule he’s ever played, but that’s not saying a lot seeing that only one game came against a team from a BCS conference. Wisconsin now has eight games left on the schedule against Big Ten foes and the Badgers still have a lot of question marks.

What we do know is that the offense looked significantly better against the Miners (1-3). Joel Stave (12/17 for 210 yards, a touchdown and an interception) definitely made more good decisions than bad and the return of Abbrederis seems to be the cure for whatever was wrong. In place of the injured Ball, James White (15 carries for 65 yards and two touchdowns) and Melvin Gordon (eight carries for 112 yards and one touchdown) were spectacular, taking advantage of the offensive line who’s vastly improving with each game.

For the most part, Wisconsin’s defense played the way they needed to play. They finally recorded their first takeaway on a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter and received impactful play from linebacker Chris Borland (12 tackles and two sacks). Going into conference play, I wouldn’t worry about the defense, but hope the offense has made enough progress to compete.

Mont-AY Heisman Watch: The decision to return for his senior season has turned into anything but a successful Heisman campaign. After nine rushes, 40 yards and a touchdown, Ball was forced to leave the game with what’s being called a head injury. If it’s indeed a concussion, this will be Ball’s second in a matter of a couple of months. Consider this section of Badgers’ recaps done for the season. Farewell #ThisFallBelongstoBall.

Player of the Game: WR Jared Abbrederis (6 catches for 147 yards and 1 touchdown)

After missing the game against Utah State, it was refreshing to see Jared post a career-high 147 yards, surpassing his mark of 113 yards against Ohio State last season. He and Stave connected on a couple of deep throws, providing the Badgers offense with that missing spark which enabled the run-game to have a big day.

We might have concerns for Wisconsin going into conference play, but Jared doesn’t:

“I think we’ve grown up a lot. We can obviously keep improving – there are things we need to fix up as we go onto Big Ten play – but I think we’ve grown up a lot these past four games, and I’m excited for what’s in store for us.”

Highlight of the Game: The most impressive play was a simple check-down from Stave to James White in the fourth quarter when UTEP was in control of the game. Stave went to throw a deep ball to Abbrederis in double coverage, but tucked it in and instead went to a wide-open White down the sideline for 14 yards and a first down. The drive resulted in a touchdown, extending the Badgers lead from four to eleven.

Stat of the Game (2-of-8): The Badgers most glaring weakness is their in-ability to convert on third down. On the season, they are an atrocious 16-of-53 or 30 percent. Lucky for them, they are holding opponents to an even lower mark, 19-of-65 or 29 percent.

What’s Next: Let the conference season begin with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Cornhuskers (2-1) played their first Big Ten game ever at Camp Randall last season, losing by the score of 47-18. This time, the location is flipped and Nebraska welcomes the Badgers in to the most hostile place they will play all year. How Wisconsin performs will help build a road-map to where the Badgers end up during bowl season.

What did you think of the Badgers’ win over UTEP? Did they alleviate some of your concerns or are they still there? Let me know by commenting below.

Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice and pretend to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best. If social media is not your thing, shoot him an email at grays@uwalumni.com.

Pictures courtesy of Wisconsin Football official Facebook page.

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