Badgers? Thank Heavens for Golf
The most enjoyable part of the Wisconsin – Ohio State game this past Saturday were the 6 birdies in 8 holes streak put together during The President’s Cup by Steve Stricker. I really, really needed The President’s Cup late Saturday afternoon.
The Badgers had the ball for almost ¾ of the game, held Ohio State to 87 yards passing, and moved the ball throughout both halves of the game. They also gave up two interceptions for touchdowns, a kickoff return for a touchdown, and missed two field goals (albeit one was from 58 yards). They lost 31-13.
Matt LePay, Wisconsin’s fine play-by-play announcer, said it best midway through the second half. To paraphrase, the Badgers never gave themselves a chance. Big plays once again have become the Badger’s bugaboo. Long returns, long pass plays, and turnovers at inopportune times have been a pattern the last two years. Although 5-0 coming into this past weekend, game-changing plays by the opponents in wins over Fresno State, Michigan State, and Minnesota were proof that the big-play virus had not been cured. The Ohio State game confirmed that the bug is back.
Most disturbing was the play of the special teams. Long returns limit what the defense can do against an offense. Minnesota was on the brink of returns for scores numerous times a week ago and Ohio State finally made it happen. The kickoff team requires an overhaul. ..period. ..with changes to personnel, scheme, or coaching needed. The Badgers have a few playmakers on defense…it is not a great defense but it is pretty good when not put in difficult situations. Better special teams play can help this group be more than pretty good.
Scott Tolzien is no longer considered a Heisman Trophy candidate, and I think we can all breathe easy that he will not be declaring for the draft at the conclusion of the season. Still, he is better than most Badger quarterbacks over the past 20 years and he does give the team a great chance to win every week.
The Iowa game this coming week signals a true crossroads for the rest of the season. With a win, the Badgers have an excellent shot at playing on New Year’s Day. With a loss, eight wins may be difficult to come by. Take care of the ball, Bucky, and I see a 16-10 win.