How Wisconsin lost the Rose Bowl

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I generally refrain from commenting on games I did not witness in person, but the general analysis I am hearing about why Wisconsin lost is driving me bonkers.  The defense was not the unit at fault.  Admittedly they started poorly, but after the first quarter they gave up at total of seven points.  Once again they smoke and mirrored a scheme to hide a pretty miserable secondary.

No, the game was actually lost during the Badgers first possession of the 4th quarter when they ran FIVE straight pass plays – approximately a fifth of all all the pass plays they ran the entire game.  They panicked.  It was late in the game and they were trailing so they went totally against their strength and tried to move the ball quickly when they did not need too.  They were only down one score and had plenty of time – and had in fact been moving the ball well on the ground.  They should have kept pounding it at TCU’s defense (also unless John Clay was more hurt than I realized, he should have seen the ball more).  It worked the next drive, but when they missed the two point conversion it was too late.  I understand the mentality of thinking you need to hurry up if you are behind, but what you do best is run and that’s been working you have to stick with it.  In 2006 title game OSU ran right through Florida to pull within seven in the second quarter, but then abandoned the only thing that had worked for them on offense for the rest of the game.  They may not have one, but if they kept running they might have kept it closer (and given their defense some time to regroup on the sideline).

Also the two point conversion play wasn’t bad.  Spreading the field actually worked against their secondary – Tolzien’s intended target was open – their linebacker just made a great play.  Anything can happen on a single play.

One last aside.  I never blame any football player for going pro early, the game is too violent to come back and just assume you won’t get hurt for a year.  And John Clay probably has enough draft stock to go pro – he’ll be picked high enough to get a nice little check.  But he won’t be much of an NFL back.

Overrated State University

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I am completely willing to admit I was surprised by how the Badgers just handled Ohio State.  And I don’t think I am the only one – even in the stadium people were saying the game was going better than they expected, 21-0 will do that.  I will say that if you asked me how the Badgers could win the game I would have said more or less what happened – jump out early, keep the ball by running it frequently, and don’t make mistakes because the margin for error is virtually nil.  I’m not sure they would win again if they played a second time – but then I didn’t think they would win this one, let alone just flat out push the Buckeyes around.

I had good seats

I had good seats

 

QB: Scott Tolzein (16) did not do anything special, but he completed passes when they need him too.  The interception was bad, but overall he was pretty efficient in running the offense.  He was asked to not lose the game, to be a role player – not to win it, but he did his job.

GRADE: B+

 

RB: I saw Montee Ball (28) shortly after the game, but was happy not to see him on the field.  John Clay (32) and James White (20) did well splitting the load, both showed speed and shiftiness, but they are still not breaking tackles.  Almost always the first guy to touch them brings them down (to be fair sometimes a few yards downfield).  They did not do much in the passing game either.  Still they did churn out the yardage.

GRADE: B+

White White Baby

Everyone loves James White

 

WR: Nick Toon (1) picked the right game to come alive.  He was key to our passing game – those deep crosses and catches on the sideline burned OSU a few times.  They were up playing the run and got stung and then had to back off.  Plus those big pass plays were needed for the long drives or to change field position.  However besides Toon the receiving corps had a quiet day, but I would say that was by gameplan so long as they were running successfully they weren’t going to take to the air.

GRADE: B+

 

TE: With Lance Kendricks (84) hurting the focus on the running game basically meant that all the tightends were doing was blocking.  But they helped push the Buckeyes off the line very effectively.

GRADE: A  Yes they combined for one catch, but their run blocking was crucial for the victory.

 

OL: As I have said prior when I got here everyone was talking up the Badgers and their players – and in general they have not lived up to their reputation (although the team as a whole has been improving).  The one area they have?  The offensive line.  Basically all the success they have had stems from the outstanding play of the line.  Tolzein frequently has time to throw, but more importantly our backs are usually three yards downfield before contact.  From the start of the game to the end they imposed their will on OSU.  When we got down by the goalline we just lined up and punched it in.  Our defense did not so much stop OSU as our offense put drives together to keep them off the field (in the first half we had a big lead in time of posession)

GRADE: A+ One of the finest offensive line performances I have ever seen in person.

 

ST: An opening kickoff return for a touchdown is not as impressive as you might think (ask OSU or the Chicago Bears if that helped secure a title in 2006), as after all the other team has fifty-nine minutes to make it up.  But this one was big – it heartened the stadium and helped build in early lead.  That was the only memorable special teams play in the game, save their missed fieldgoal (just hooked – not blocked), but given how “exciting” special teams play has been so far this year I’ll take it gladly.

GRADE: A-

 

DL: They were adequate.  OSU found running room, Pryor was able to scramble for big yards, and there was by no means consistent passrush.  But they got some big sacks late and were not destroyed.

GRADE: B-

 

LB: Given how poorly the secondary played and how much Pryor struggled passing I have to say the linebacking corps stepped up well.  And that isn’t just inference either – OSU completed just 4 passes (for 24 yards) to non-WRs.  They were in the passing lanes underneath all game.  You could make an argument for Blake Sorensen (9) to be the player of the game.  Not only did he have the interception that helped clinch the game, he also had a big play early on (snuffing out a short pass to the right) that helped the Badgers dominate early.  Quite frankly you could make a legitimate argument that he has been the best defender this season over DE J.J. Watt (99) – although I would not go quite that far.

GRADE: A-

 

DB: No unit played above its head more than the secondary this game.  They were not spectacular – there were times when Pryor was lighting them up moving the ball up and down the field (see quarter, third), and they gave up several big passes on third downs, but they were able to do enough to hold Pryor to 50% completion when he is 66% for the season.

GRADE: B/B+ (just judging by this game)

 

Flow of game: I’m not sure exactly when to say it so I will make a new section.  As much as anything else the Badgers were helped by the flow of the game.  OSU struggled early and because we were running the ball so well their offense was so rarely on the field that they struggled to find their rhythm.  When they did and went on a run to close within three points the pressure was on them.  I think having to play catchup tires a team out more than just regular play.  Plus when Wisconsin finally countered in the fourth quarter OSU just did not have much left – their margin for error was spent.

 

Coaching: They weren’t flashy or that tricky, but the Badgers were ready to play.  Having Bret Bielema do that confident walk at the head of the team to start the game helped give the team and fans some confidence.  And in a big game the Badgers were not tight or sloppy – only had three penalties all game.

GRADE: A  One of the greatest wins in UW history.

 

Fans:  I will give some credit where it is due, they were better.  They weren’t great, but they were better.  I took advantage of the first come first serve seating to get 6th row seats – and only needed to show up minutes before the gates opened to get them (this was an hour forty-five before kickoff).

Waiting on line pregame for good seats

Waiting on line pregame for good seats

In Gainesville showing up 6 hours early would not get you those seats.  And they were pretty loud, only occasionally being distracted by some of their cheers and not screaming on defense.  They did less side cheers too.  They could not pull off the special wave this time – and they were pissed about it.  This was how I figured out that they do the Gator Chomp towards people they are upset with as they did it toward the non-student sections that dropped the wave.  I’m not sure what it is suppose to mean.  To their credit they gave up on the wave pretty quickly to focus on the game.  With a big game atmosphere some of their act was less annoying – saying “First and Ten Wisconsin” for every first down for example.  Also some students near me did some weird dance to the quick melody the band plays every first down (which I had not noticed before – bad form), vaguely reminiscent of krumping.  It annoyed my 71 year old father so we switched seats.  They also chanted to themselves “we got first down!” (not “We got A first down”) when they dance – some other students would shout out “Who got first down” to play along.  If you can actually dance, it doesn’t look half bad.  They also have a new thing where when James White touches the ball everyone holds up a (white) sheet of paper.  It looks not bad, but they need bigger pieces than 8 ½ by 11 to make it strong.  On the plus side it only took 2-3 plays for everyone to figure out to it after the play and not during so people could see.  I do find it a little interesting that White has gotten so popular – I think fans soured a little bit on John Clay.  Which was a pretty quick turn on a guy coming back from injury given how much they hyped him in the preseason.   White is good, but I’m not sure that much better than Clay.  White is faster and a better receiver, but they have a similar running style and given how much bigger Clay is (50+lbs) it makes sense for him be the primary back so White can be fresh for a chance of pace role.

 

Charge!!!

Charge!!!

This was my first time ever rushing a field and even if I am not the biggest Badger fan ever it was still amazing.  As the game was winding down people were talking about it and then a couple of guys (just fans) walked up and down between the rows encouraging people to go.  Then they came over the PA system to tell people to stay in the stands, which was a big mistake because everyone booed letting people in the front rows know if they went they would not be alone.  When I first got on field there were still players around – Lance Kendricks seemed nervous.  There were some nerves about people get crushed in the stands, but that never came to pass (it did happen in Camp Randall Stadium in 1993), possibly this why the cops made little effort to stop anyone (they did eventually set a permiter around the goalposts, which was good as those coming down have killed people in the past.  This is how I hope to go out).  Eventually the field was simply packed – you really could not move and then everyone pretty quickly turned around and left – but leaving took longer because everyone took the stairs rather than trying to make it back over the fence (I did go back once over to check on my dad, who then came to the field via the stairs).  It was a pretty intense experience – one every fan should have it once.

Everyone into the pool

After I started climbing out

GRADE: B+/A-  Still not SEC or true football fan caliber

 

Player of game: Without a doubt the offensive line.

 

Play of game: Also without a doubt the fourth quarter toss to Jacob Pederson (48).  After OSU scored their second touchdown there was some serious fear going on in the stands.  We got the ball back and were running well, but it was not clear we would be able to drive the field on the ground – especially not if OSU sold out against the run.  So instead the coaches made a great call (and not really that risky) to throw it.  I’m not sure Pederson was the primary receiver – third string freshmen tightends with five catches all year and no catches in two games, including the week before rarely are – but it could not have worked out better.  Even if nothing had happened after that play (and the way they were running you had to be pretty sure they were going to get at least a field goal attempt with a solid kicker in Phillip Welch (18)) they had at least flipped the field.

 

Football 101: Flip the field.  Football is often about position you want to try to pin the other team deep when they start their drive because it is tough to move the ball the whole length of the field.  For the same reason you want to start your drives close to midfield or in their territory.  Field position is so important that even a drive where you start deep in your own end and just get a few first downs so the other team is now pinned deep when you punt is still a successful drive.  This is called flipping the field.  Hopefully if your defense plays well so they have to punt from deep in their end so you get good field position.

 

Bottom line: They are perhaps a better than I gave them credit for and have a legitimate shot at a BCS gave as an at-large (can’t win the Big Ten unless Michigan State losses twice, which seems unlikely).

Return of the Purgolder

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I saw my second Madison East Purgolder game this one against Jainesville-Craig (the same team I saw lose to La Follette).  It was Homecoming so the crowd was bigger, they had a band (alumni), and a bigger cheerleading squad.

They also had a smaller squad.  I’m not sure why, it might have been injuries, although there was no one in civies and a jersey on the sideline.  Perhaps players walked away from the frustration of a one win team.  For example the stating NT from the last game, Steven Williams (35), was not listed on the roster.

There were some players I remembered from the previous game.  Their best tackler Austin Knorr (80) now only plays receiver – he did get under a deep arching pass for a great TD catch in the first half.  Speedy Amara (22) is now splitting time with Tyrone Galvin (21), who was pretty effective carrying the ball.  There was also another new wrinkle with Gabe Surges (11) coming in as a running QB.  Overall the offense was much more effective, the line blocked better and they moved the ball quite well, but kept killing themselves with turnovers.  Meanwhile the Purgolder defense, missing several key starters, had seriously declined so the Craig Cougars were able to the move ball just as effectively, but without the turnovers – thus giving them the “W.”

Escape from Arizona State

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Holding on to beat one of the worst teams in the PAC-10 by one a home is not impressive.

QB: Scott Tolzien (16) looked sharpe.  There was actually some semblance of a passing offense as Wisconsin abandoned the run for a while (oddly as they were running pretty well) but they were still able to move the ball.  He wasn’t perfect – he led Kyle Jefferson into a hit.

GRADE: A  19 for 25 (76%) for 246 yards (a healthy 9.8 yards an attempt)

RB: John Clay (32) made some moves this game – fluid running that got him extra yards.  However no running backs broke any tackles.  Every time the first guy to touch a running back brought him down.  James White (20) made a handful moves too, but less.  Montee Ball (28) should be on the bench.  None of them are really threats in the passing game.

GRADE: B/B-  You could argue I am being a little harsh because of John Clay’s reputation when if he was a no name I would be more charitable.  I wonder a bit about myself, but you have to break tackles occasionally – was team from the defense free PAC-10 – plus that grade included everyone (Clay would have gotten at least a “B”).

WR:  With both starters out someone had to step up and that someone turned out to be Isaac Anderson (6).  He got open repeatedly and caught the ball well.  Jared Abbrederis (4) snagged a few as well – not bad for a walkon redshirt freshman.

GRADE: B/B+  They deserve credit for filling in as backups, but at the same time they were not super-spectacular

TE: Lance Kendricks (84) was the player of the game over Tolzien by a hair.  He got several big receptions when he got deep on the defense (I would say a defense break down, but that was at least three times in two games.  Had a hard catch for a TD.  He also caught a big thirddown conversion on the same delayed run against the grain play he scored on last week (see Play of the Game vs San Jose).

GRADE: A+

Offensive Line: Josh Oglesby (67) played after getting hurt last week.  And got hurt again.  However the line control the line of scrimmage most of the time both running and passing.

GRADE: A

Special teams:  Horrific, game up a kickoff return for TD, a punt returned for a TD that they were lucky to have it called back, another kick return to the one that did not turn into points only because it was the last play of the half, gave up another 25 yard punt return, and missed a makeable field goal.

GRADE: D  Not an F only because they blocked a PAT in a one point victory and covered a punt on the one.

Defensive Line: They stopped the run – but ASU is a poor running team and broke a few – and got a little pressure here and there, but ASU was able to pass for a bunch of yards and that was in part due to a lack of pressure.  Plus some of that pressure came when they had bad snaps.  Louis Nzegwu (93) made some good tackles against the run in the hole.

GRADE: B

Linebackers: They helped stop the run, but did not do much against the pass.  They made no noticeable big plays.

GRADE: C  Hey, a C is average – they were average.

Secondary:  Got absolutely lit up.  They were lucky ASU is not better than they were because there were several times receivers were running free through the secondary but the pass was off target.  They also got two no-calls that should have been pass interference – including an egregious one in the endzone that had it been called correctly might have led to ASU winning.

GRADE: F  ASU completed 64% of their passes.

Coaching:  There were no real big decisions in this game, but when a team plays this poorly you look at the coaching staff.

GRADE: C/C-

Play of the game:  I could say Jay Valai (2) for blocking the PAT, but instead I will give it to Shelton Johnson (24) for not giving up on the kick return and tackling the kick returner at the one which combining with the clock running out saved a touchdown.

Fans: They are still annoying.  In fact they are so annoying I having difficulties rooting for the Badgers.  I don’t dislike the team, but the fans are so oblivious to the game is it annoying and makes me want them to be disappointed.  New crowd features: They put their hands in a safety position (the football signal) and rub them when they pin the team deep on a punt.  I like that.  I still like the wave pattern they do – although this game they did it during the game.  It is long, wait for a TV timeout.  Also it also means they only do the wave once a game (it seems to start the same place every time).  How could they do it more than once, they are too busy with their other mind-numbing activities?  I also somewhat enjoyed when the entire student section pointed with a first down motion at ASU fans in their midst and chanted “asshole.”  They also chant U-S-A!! after the national anthem (they did it last week too, but I thought that was because it was Sept. 11).   Late in the game when the Badgers needed to burn the clock to hold on they were watching the mascots have some weird fight skit.  They also shouted “you fucked up” when an ASU kick return came up a yard short as the half ended which was just moronic – the Badgers were just the ones making a bad play.

Football 101: Have three this week:

1) When a quarterback leads a receiver into a hit he throws the ball in front a receiver (he is running in that direction) so it leads the receiver to a place a defender can deliver a big hit.  It he throws high so a receiver jumps and the hit is worse that is “exposing a receiver.”  Ideally you do want to lead a receiver so he catches the ball while running and can immediately run for more yards without having to slow down or change direction (this is called hitting a “receiver in stride”), but not if that means they might get hurt.  You are better off throwing low so they will naturally get low before the hit.

2) When a receiver is “running free” it means the defense has broken down and the receiver is running alone with no defender anywhere near him to prevent him from catching the ball.  This is bad.

3) Burning the clock is when you are winning late the game and want to keep the ball so the other team doesn’t have a chance to get the ball back and score.  So you run the ball (as incomplete passes stop the clock) and snap the ball as late as possible (teams have 40 seconds to start the next play before there is a penalty) so if you are stopped there is a little time as possible left for the other team.

Bottomline: This is not a good team – they might lose before OSU even gets here.  Can they go into East Lansing and win?

Thursday Night Lights – La Follette

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My observations from watching the La Follette Lancers take on Craig High School from Janesville on a Thursday night special (because of Yom Kippur!?!)

On offense the Lancers looked very sharp – they have a big offensive line that proved very affective in run blocking a pretty good in pass blocking too (although I suspect this is not their strength given how often they moved the pocket when they passed).  To give some props to the little recognized: tackle Kevin Little (64) was one tackle, others on the line included Alex Kiefer (77), Paul Bernhagen (66), and Joey Foerster (55).  Playing behind that line quarterback Nick Anderson (14) didn’t throw much, but had good mechanics and got the ball out in good time when did.  One player he was throwing to was Justin Tobais (9) who made an amazing catch when a Cougar DB knocked him back as the ball went past him (flagged), but he extended his arms to snatch it out of the air.  However the star of the team was running back Jaylen Plummer (4) who ran all over Craig.  He is good at finding holes in tight traffic inside and had the speed for a breakaway 69 yard touchdown.

Special teams were tough to judge because they were barely on the field.  There was only one punt in the entire second half – and that was from Craig.  The Lancers also only tried one PAT and missed it so badly they went for two on their next touchdown when they were already up by eight late (so a PAT would have put them up by nine – 2 scores).

As you can probably guess from the one punt comment the defense did not play as well as the offense.  The player who stood out the most was their big defense tackle Jon Wade (72).  And I do mean big – 300lbs according to the little roster sheet they hand out at the game (which is big for high school, this isn’t the NFL).  He’s surprisingly effective the passrush, actually the whole D-line was.  They also occasionally blitzed linebackers to make it even tougher on their quarter.  However they were surprisingly easy to gash with the run.  The line wasn’t blown off the line most of the time, there were just cutback lanes while the linebackers were nowhere to be found.  This might be a systemic flaw – the defense was more likely to slash into the backfield and get a tackle for a loss than stuff the Cougars at the line – which makes me think they run some sort of penetrating one-gap defense (just not well).  Between the ability to run and passrush Craig barely got the ball in the air so I can’t access the secondary.  The defense have an interception, but that was a linebacker cutting underneath a late throw.  Incidentally that was on a two point conversion attempt – which apparently the defense can’t return 100 yards for two points of their own un Wisconsin High School rules because the refs blew the whistle almost the second the guy secured the pick.

Take all of this with a grain of salt though, they entered 0-3 and beat a Craig team that had just one win itself.  They probably would not be as good against better competition, but the Lancers looked pretty polished – much more than East (to be fair I saw their first game of the season – but by the same token the said could be said for their opponent that night and East is also currently 1-3).

Football 101:  An impressive two come out a highschool game

1) When an offense “moves the pocket” it has the quaterback move to one side of the field so passrushers on the far side of the field have a long way to go.  If you do it intermittently it can slow down a passrush – and it is usually used if the DL has been hitting the QB.  It’s weakness is it cuts down the field for the passing game because you won’t have your QB throw back across the length of the field (those balls take a while to get there and often result in picks).  Sometimes teams with inexperienced quarterbacks will move the pocket for just that reason so the QB has easier reads.

2) A “One Gap Defense” is one where defensive linemen pick one hole (hole = spot between their offensive linemen – so the gap between guard and the center for example) and blast through it.  In a two gap defense the defensive linemen are responsible for two gaps – so they have to stand up the blocker (usually an offensive lineman) watch both sides and close down the gap the offense is trying to go through (on a run).  One gap defenses will lead to more penetrations and thus tackles in the backfield (and passrush), but also more big plays when a runner blows past linemen moving quickly upfield.  It also means the linebackers have to play closer to the line a little – opening up passing lanes behind them (but also there is more passrush).  3-4 defenses require their linemen to play two gap.  Most defenders prefer to play one gap as they are more active and take less of a beating battling with blockers.

Fans: The Lancer drew a bigger crowd than East.  You could say that its because Lussier Stadium is by La Follette High, but East is a ten minute drive away.  East’s students all sat in one section and did rehearsed cheers – I don’t think led by formal leaders.  It was impressive – I had never seen that before.  As an added bonus it kept the students segregated away from the crowd, which was nice because at La Follette they were all over the place.  For most high schoolers no on the team a game is a social event, so they run around and can be distracting.

The Lancers had a bigger cheerleading squad and a separate dance troupe.  Which performed only at the half.  For one five minute song.

Learning from San Jose

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Last week San Jose State lost 48-3 to Alabama, so 27-14 seems less impressive.  You have to consider who you are playing.  If you know what you are looking for you can see issues that will be more apparent against tougher opponents.

Quarterback: Scott Tolzien (16) was okay.  He has fairly good pocket presence – at least twice he understood the pocket was breaking and scrambled for yards before it was too late.  He did fumble two snaps (one on fourth as short) – not sure whose fault that was – and had the ball knocked out of his hands by a rusher from the blind – that was the right tackle’s fault.  His interception was ugly and he missed an open receiver or two.  He is more of a game manager, when they ran the two minute drill at the end of the first half it was clear he’s not the type who can throw it all over the field in a shootout.  The passing game is fairly basic – it is not a prostyle offense.

GRADE: B/B+  He did what the offense calls for him and played smart

Runningbacks: I heard all about John Clay (32) and how he was a stud and had great backups.  Well you know what?  He’s not.  Yes he picks up yards, but that is the offensive line.  He put no moves on guys and broke no tackles until the last drive of the game when the fight was out of the Spartans.  All the backs are doing is running through big holes.  None of the backs were making people miss – Montee Ball (28) looked absolutely average.  James White (20) fumbled out of the endzone for the a touchback, but that was more a great play the defensive back who knocked it lose.

GRADE: C  An average grade for average backs

Receivers: The #1 receiver Nick Toon (also #1) was out hurt and the #2 guy, David Gilreath (85) got knocked out (literally) on a punt return.  So the backups got some time and did not look too bad.  Jared Abbrederis (4) looked okay.  Kyle Jefferson (3) made a quality play – but he’s a senior so he’s not going to be a future star.

GRADE: B

Tight end: If John Clay did not live up to the hype Lance Kendricks (84) did show up with two big plays and was open another time on a bad throw.  It’s tough though because they did not throw that much – he’s a fifth year senior so you do expect him to make plays.  Jake Byrne (82) came in to block quite a few times.

GRADE: A  Had the two biggest receptions of the game.  And helped open big holes for the running game.

Offensive line:  Did a great job opening holes for the running game – although got stuffed once or twice on short yardage – but San Jose did get some pressure in the passing game now and again.  The right tackle, Josh Oglesby (67) was the weakest player.  He was being pressed by his backup according to sports radio and given he went on to get hurt, he might be replaced by Ricky Wagner (58).

GRADE: A-  They did really pushed the DL around.

Special teams: Blocked a fieldgoal attempt (I think by JJ Watt), gave up an onside kick (called back for offsides), nothing much happened in the return game besides Gilreath getting hurt.  Not many chances on punt returns because their punter was absolutely horrific – worst college punter I have ever seen.  Phillip Welch (18) blasted a 45 yard field goal and appears to be real weapon.

GRADE: B+

Defensive line: They did not get much passrush given that they were playing a WAC team.  The big name DE JJ Watt (99) did get some pressure and disrupt a few passing plays (causing one of the interceptions), but that was it.  They did shut down the run save for their QB scrambling.

GRADE: B-  Have to consider the competition.

Linebackers: They played pretty well and were missing their big name in Chris Borland (44).  Blake Sorensen (9) had a pick and made some plays elsewhere.  No one else was especially noticeable.  They deserve some of the credit for the tough running defense and blame for the soft pass defense.  At least one backer was one of the four missed tackles on their first touchdown.

GRADE C+

Secondary: When a WAC team lights you up for 250+ yards you’ve had a bad day.  Listen to these two stats: San Jose only average 2.8 yards rushing – but had twenty-eight minutes of possession.  That means bad pass defense.  Their interceptions were more throws into coverage than great plays and they had a terrible pass interference in the redzone (by Antonio Fenelus (26) I think) when they just clubbed the receiver on a throw that was well off target.  They were also beaten on several passes that were open but the ball was off target (most noticeably on the lateral to a WR who chucked it).  San Jose did hit one deep one over the middle when safety Jay Valai (2) let the play get behind him.

GRADE C-  There is going to be trouble against good teams.

Coaching:  If there was a game plan other than just beat up an inferior team I did not see one.  There were no tough decisions to make.  The team was a little sloppy at points.

GRADE: Incomplete

Bottom line: Unless they get better quickly forget about the Rose Bowl.  You can say it is the start of the season, but at some point you have to make those plays.  If you can’t make them against bad teams, how you expect do you expect them against good teams?  These games can be very indicative, trust me I have been doing this for a while.  Everyone seems a little too calm about this, you don’t win titles by not addressing glaring failings.

Player of the game: the offensive line from left tackle to right guard

Play of the game: the Kendricks touchdown was a beautiful design.  The whole offense moved to the right, the TE Kendricks blocked for a moment and then ran from the right of the line across of the flow of the play and was wide open for an easy throw.

Not the play of game: On San Jose’s first touchdown a short pass became a 37 yard touchdown pass as their receiver broke FOUR tackles on the way.  It was a pretty for them as the Kendricks touchdown.

Football 101: A prostyle passing offense is one that passes around at least half the time.  Rather than being an offense that throws an occasional pass to keep the defense honest or try for a big play, the offense uses passes to constantly test the opposing defense – uses passes to set up later passes or runs, etc.  A prosytle offense (rather than prostyle passing offense) refers to the formation, personal, and playcalling.

Fan experience:  This was my first Badger game.  Other than the Swamp I have only ever been to Division I-A home games for Navy and Central Florida.  I went with someone who’d seen plenty of games at Penn State.  First off all Camp Randall Stadium is pretty nice – nicest college stadium I have been in.  It’s smaller than the Swamp, Mr. Internet says it still holds 80,000.  The student section (mostly just the endzone) is smaller (and season tickets cost $150) and is first come first serve.  You get in with a voucher and they give you a ticket but then you just stream in and take the closet seat in the section.  I like this – hardcore fans are close, fans who show up late get nosebleed.  I’m willing to show up earlier to get good seats.  Everyone also just immediately steps up on the seats.

They also have a ton of cheers – they wave keys for kickoffs, they rock back and forth and clap when they score then count off as the mascot (Bucky the Badger – good dancer) does pushups.  If the opposing team gets a penalty they chat “you fucked up” if they score they chat “you still suck” there were several songs that they all sang along with and knew the words (“Build me up Buttercup,” etc), they have some basic movements for several of the songs the band plays, they do the chomp sometimes (not sure why), they form their arms in an “O” (think YMCA dance) when they yell on defense.  They also have chant where the spirit squad holds up signs for them to chant “We want more” and then they add “beer” – that’s by design, there is no other sign.  They also have little chants they add when the band plays quick melodies.  They kowtow to big name people they like (Barry Alvarez).  They shout “First and Ten Wisconsin” for every first down – which is even more annoying than it sounds.  At half time they put their arms around each other and sway for the Varsity, the band takes the field for the 5th quarter after the game.  They have a classy tradition of shouting “Eat Shit” and “Fuck you” back and forth in the student section.  It’s almost as classy as well some people shouted “Shoot him like a horse” when a Spartan was injured (to be fair more people clapped when he got up).  If this sounds like a lot of activity it is – they don’t actually watch the game that closely.  They shout maybe half the time when the other team has the ball, often make noise on offense, sometimes pay more attention to these various activities than the actual game, and are just not the most football savvy crowd in general.  They’ve made it an experience, but too much of one so it detracts from football.

Their most favorite moment is when they play “Jump Around” at the start of the 4th quarter (they have shirts for it).  They just sort of bounce around and occasionally fall off the benches.  It sounded lame to me play a standard stadium song, but I was told it was cool.  It’s not.  They do however have the coolest wave ever.  They do it super slow, then fast, they reverse its direction, and then split so two waves go in opposite directions that hit each other.  But they only do it once, so it gets lost in midst of their general lameness.

GRADE: D+  Everyone says it is the best fan experience.  It’s not, it’s just a lot of activities.  I would call it the best non-football fan experience you can have at a football game because if you are just there to socialize and know nothing about the game there is always something for you to do.

Final notes: the Spartans were feisty.  They AND their coaches danced around to Jump Around and there were close to half a dozen times their coaches jumped (and I mean JUMPED – clearing a couple of feet) when they made a play.  Also, SEC teams are noticeably a little sharper, crisper, quicker.

Fight Night Lights Bonus!! Eastside Purgolders

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I saw the East Madison High School Purgolders play the James Madison Memorial Spartans.  What is a Purgolder you ask? It’s an abbreviation of Purple and Gold – their colors.  They do have “Pepe the Purgolder” as an indistinguishable animal on a few fan shirts.

The Purgolders are a small roster, both in terms of numbers and roster size.  This is especially noticeable on their offensive line where they could not provide time for their QB to pass.  They also often just blew assignments and let rushers come free.  They were even worse on special teams where the longsnapper missed so many hikes they pulled him.

The Purgolders big star is runningback/returnman Ebrahim “Speedy” Amara (22).  But the line could not open many holes for him to get him in the open.  And they overuse him.  The coaches need to get a little smarter with him.  For example they put him the Wildcat for a whole series rather than a play, but did it deep in their own end so the Spartans had time adjust before they got a score – why not spring that when you have a short field (which they had earlier in the game but came away with nothing – and were shutout in the game)?  Their defense also looked lost lining up a few times – the coaches were screaming from the booth above me.

A few other players other players stood out.  Jordan Daminguez (3) made few good plays as a DB, but was erratic.  Steven Williams (35) on the DL – mainly nosetackle in a 3-4, which worked fairly well – got good penetration one several plays.  So did Max Larson (8).  Their grittiest player was Travis Turnquist (26) who was one of, if not the, best receivers they had (because the other guys dropped several balls) as well as one of their best/most consistent defensive backs.

But their most impressive player was defensive back Austin Knorr (80) who was a great tackler.  He got everyone to the ground in an instant.  And he’s not that big – listed as 5’11” 150.  But he had the best fundamental tackling skills I have ever seen on a high school field.

Memorial’s quarterback, Joe Ferguson (6), was a good scrambler.  There best offensive play was when the passrush forced him to scramble.

Overall neither team was very impressive, I’ve seen several high school teams in Maine and Florida that were noticeable better.

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