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).

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