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Wisconsin Sport and Culture

UW-Iowa…random thoughts.

Here are some things you may have thought about or noticed from Saturday’s game:

  • On Scott Tolzein: “I take it all on myself,” Tolzien said. “Protection was good. Just bonehead decisions.”  Here is a quandary.  We’ve all been fascinated by this story–cool kid (check out story about his relationship with an Appleton Youth in the JSOnline).  However, he beat out Curt Phillips who is obviously more gifted physically because of his cerebral decision making.  Count me as one person amongst many who now believe that Phillips should be given a chance to start.  Ala Bollinger relieving Scott Kavanagh in 2001 against Michigan.  It is time.

    Like Curt Phillips, Brooks Bollinger was known primarily as a running QB early in his career.

    Like Curt Phillips, Brooks Bollinger was known primarily as a running QB early in his career.

  • On Bret Bielema: the decision to assert Phillips in the midst of momentum–boneheaded.  His assertion that it was planned?  Great call.  So if you are planning not to meet a beautiful women and lo and behold the opportunity presents itself…do you turn your back on said women because it wasn’t part of the plan?  No.
  • On Bielema: he has now been running UW’s special teams for about a year.  His performance in that regard has been putrid.  UW’s kick return unit is the worst specialist unit in the conference.  Their motto?  “Thank god for our kick coverage unit”.  Not sure if you noticed how many core players are on that kick coverage unit…try O’Brien Schofield, Chris Borland, Chris Maragos, Jay Valai, and Antonio Fenelus.  This isn’t a unit consisting of reserves, these are defensive regulars, and the result: hideous.  Considering his poor run as a recruiter, I am of the opinion that after 2009 it is time to move on.  I also had a dream that Alvarez pulled the plug and stepped in…that was a good dream.

 

Bret Bielema's latest special teams initiative.

Bret Bielema's latest special teams initiative.

  • On Schofield: wow.  That’s about all I can say.  I forgot about Tom Burke in praising him the other day.  Next time I’m in Poplar, I’ll drop in to apologize for that omission.  Schofield is putting himself in position to play on Sundays.
  • On Chris Borland and assignments: Borland is in, doing what he does…which is make plays.  He is removed in favor of the more assignment sure Blake Sorenson–next play Sorenson vacates his gap Adam Robinson scores the key touchdown.  Sometimes you ignore your instincts and follow realism.  The kid just makes plays, case closed.  It may not make any sense to see him doing it given his height and age, but he does…so go with it.  He may have to kick, as we’ve read he was quite the jack of all trades.  Since Phillip Welch’s struggles, he may have to give it a go.
Given Phillip Welch's recent struggle Bret Bielema may end up doing some of the teams shorter field goals.  Given his special teams prowess...what might we expect?

Given Phillip Welch's recent struggle Bret Bielema may end up doing some of the teams shorter field goals. Given his special teams prowess...what might we expect?

  • On UW receivers: time to look at frosh Kraig Appleton.  Maurice Moore proved that he can do a great David Gilreath impression–be a non factor and drop passes.  Let’s go with the young kid see what he can do.  Big, fast, and highly touted…better than small, slow, and drops.
  • John Clay: was he walking to holes in the second half?
  • Antonio Feneuls: the ball is that oblong shaped object with the half stripes on it…look for it.
  • My thoughts on Kirk Ferentz and Norm Parker…right on.
  • Remember UW football when they would pound you physically with Wisconsin kids in the trenches, beat you with superb special teams, and refuse to yield defensively?  Now our special teams are the worst in the conference, they affect the outcome adversely each week, and we can’t get off the field on third downs.  Pretty easy to see why we fail in games against superior opposition.
  • On Wisconsin.
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October 19, 2009 Posted by | Badgers | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wisconsin v. Iowa

The Heartland Trophy

The Heartland Trophy

Wisconsin has a very friendly November schedule.  The key to their season is this Saturday is a tough test v. Iowa.  Wisconsin closes with the bottom of the Big Ten and doesn’t have to face Penn State who has woodsheded them their last 3 meetings.

What to look for this Saturday.  Unfortunately the game is at 11:00 which means the students won’t be there until 12:15.  I find this an embarrassing tradition.  Everyone from Bielema to Ryan to Barry Alvarez has addressed this issue, it needs to change.  I recall a story about this blog’s editor playing a round of golf at 6:00 am after 15 drinks.  He shot a 79.  UW’s students need to shoot a 76 and get their by 10:30.  Make this a a game resembling the old days, when yours truly had season tickets and the games were madness.  Yeah we get that the students drink too much, but suck it up and get out of bed.

It's called a hangover.  Toughed up!

It's called a hangover. Toughen up!

On Iowa.  I am of the belief that Iowa has the Big Ten’s finest two coaches.  Norm Parker runs a defense that is never out of place.  They have significantly less ability on the field than OSU but it is reasonable to say their defense is better.  They are not as fast, they are just smarter.  Norm Parker is the reason.  He is a sensational Defensive Coordinator.  Iowa’s strength is their front seven, if you watched the PSU game, you saw Iowa pummel the Nittany Lion offensive line.  This front seven is the equal of OSU.  Hopefully playing at home will solve some of UW’s woes.  If Josh Ogelsby does another turn-style impression UW will have no chance and Scott Tolzein will watching from the hospital on Regent St.  As good as the Iowa defense is…they had a streak end Saturday in which they hadn’t allowed a rushing TD in 33 quarters.  Yeah, that’s good. 

Norm Parker, a greying Newman.  NEWMAN!

Norm Parker, a greying Newman. NEWMAN!

They can be thrown on as their secondary is not the equal of their front seven.  Tolzein, Toon, and Graham can have some success if they are given a chance.  Kirk Ferentz the other half of this equation.  I have admired him from afar and have felt that since Barry Alvarez left he has had a firm grip on the Big Ten’s best coach.  He doesn’t have 1/2 the personnel and recruiting advantages that sweater vest has and is right there in results.  I’m surprised the NFL hasn’t wised up on him yet.  Iowa never beats themselves, they have spectacular special teams, and they play great defense.  Sounds like a familiar equation for us Badgers.

How I see it?  I see UW having difficulty moving the ball.  I see UW’s defense which has really emerged in 09′ causing troubles for Iowa.  In the end I think the game is decided by three simple factors as the matchups are really pushes across the board.

1.  UW coverage units v. Iowa return units.  Iowa’s returner has been lost to an ACL injury, so they’ll be breaking in a new man.  Wisconsin’s coverage units have been abysmal.  (that may be a compliment).  If UW can dictate some field position and Nortmann has a solid day, they are in good shape.  I wouldn’t expect UW’s special teams to do anything.  Not sure if you noticed but it has been announced that David Gilreath will lose reps to little known Maurice Moore on returns.   We just went from bad to worse in the return game.  Can our man Chris Borland return kicks!

That's more like it!

That's more like it!

2.  Crowd: can they get there by lunchtime?  Doubt it.  Iowa will probably get 4 possessions facing a 1/2 empty student section.  Big difference.  Shame on the no-shows.  Send your tickets to ROTQ, we’ll see they end up in the hands of someone who gets there on time.

3.  UW’s OL.  John Moffitt and Josh Ogelsby have been atrocious.  If they play like they did last week Wisconsin will lose this game by 3 touchdowns.  If they play as they can, UW will hang in there and provided they win the turnover battle they’ll win the game.

Other thoughts:

1.  Will Montee Ball start now that Fumble Brown has a concussion?  Will UW go empty on the first play just to tell John Clay he isn’t starting.  Ball looks like he has a shot to be a player.

2.  Garrett Graham.  Big bounce back week.  I expect him to play very well.

3. Borland.  First week he didn’t make a huge play.  Anyone betting against him starting a new streak?

4.  Isaac Anderson…I dropped my thought, I can’t remember what I was typing.

5.  O’Brien Schofield is quietly putting together an All-American season.  He has been UW’s best defensive end such Tarek Saleh.  Saleh was more consistent than Jonathon Welsh and Erasmus James.

Prediction: last week I predicted in this space that UW would lose.  I am going to reverse field.  UW beats an Iowa team that is frankly better than OSU.  UW won’t turn it over, Iowa will and in-spite of the lame student section, UW wins 20-17.

October 14, 2009 Posted by | Badgers | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wisconsin v. OSU revisited

MJS uwgrid11 2ofx wood uwgrid11What can be said?  Take away 4 plays and maybe 25 seconds and Wisconsin beat OSU.  Unfortunately they play full games and you can’t take away 25 seconds.

Good:

1. UW’s defense was physical and assignment sure.  They turned the Buckeye’s over and deserved a better fate.  You won’t bottle Pryor up for an entire game, he hurt them at inopportune times.

2. John Clay.  Numbers weren’t there.  He was a load and made something out of very little on nearly every carry.

Bad:

  1. Isaac Anderson.  I’m Bret Bielema, Anderson is now my 6th receiver.  Two monumental drops.
  2. Josh Ogelsby.  Only a die-hard fan will remember that when he committed, he promised a national championship.  Proves yet again that recruiting is a complete crap shoot.  #1 tackle in America and is on the verge of losing his position to a lightly recruited walk-on.
  3. Is Bret Bielema the worst special teams coach currently working at any NCAA school?  The only thing they can do with regularity is get a snap back to the punter.  Kicks are an adventure, kick coverage is poor all the time, worst return game in Big Ten.
  4. Scott Tolzein trying to throw under duress.  Not pretty.  Not sure it mattered if it was Tim Tebow or Scott Tolzein, the line was humiliated.

October 14, 2009 Posted by | Badgers | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wisconsin v. Ohio St.

badgersatosuI distinctly remember watching two of the great OSU-UW games in recent history. 

The first was in Mazamonie (hometown of Mike Wilkinson).  I recall watching OSU jump out to a 17-0 lead, only to see the Badgers roar back behind Ron Dayne and pummel the Buckeyes at the shoe with 42 unanswered points. 

The second was as a spectator at the Camp in 1993.  I recall a fiercely contested game that a blown coverage by Donny Brady led to a late OSU touchdown. I recall about 92 tackles by Alonzo Styles.  I recall a block by an OSU DB named Marlon Kerner of a late UW FG to seal a tie.  In the wake of the infamous Michigan trampling game, this was a huge game.  UW went on to win the Rose Bowl over UCLA that year.  That remains the greatest game I ever saw live. 

In short, OSU and Wisconsin is a special rivalry.  We all get annoyed by the “The Ohio State” nonsense.  We get annoyed by their BCS shortcomings.  But the bottom line is this is a hardnosed defensive orientated football program with whom Wisconsin has had epic battles.  I expect Saturday to be no different.

 

My five keys to this game:

1.  UW has been tremendous in having offensive balance in 2009.  This must continue on Saturday.  I feel like Paul Chryst will invert his offensive approach by opening throwing to set up the run.  If Scott Tolzein is successful in doing this, UW has a chance to be very successful.  Scott can expect the best front seven and an aggressive athletic defensive backfield awaiting him.

2. Tight Ends: It is no secret that UW has arguably the best program for developing and using this position in the conference.  They are masterful at isolating their skilled TE’s in advantageous positions.  UW will see that this OSU backfield is much better than any than they have seen.  Should Kendricks, Graham, and Turner find success on third downs, UW has a chance to stick around all afternoon. 

3.  Clay: despite the strange insistence on not starting him (Zach Brown is starting despite his fumble woes), John Clay is a unique player OSU has acknowledged concern about.  Reading Jim Tressel talk about John Clay, you’d think it were 2000 and he were talking about Ron Dayne, a developing force as a big back.  Clay has a unique ability to drag tacklers, he has embraced his role as a punishing back rather than trying to run away from defenders.  Should he be able to find seams against this OSU defense as a result of Tolzein’s efforts, UW can win this game.  OSU’s defense has been stout as they have allowed only 1 100 yard rusher all year; Joe McKnight of USC.

4. Bielema: Bret has grown up this year.  He seems to be relying more on gifted coaches.  There have been almost no gaffes on his part.  He seems in control.  The staff has seemingly built a team that is better than its individual parts (see secondary!).  If Bret can harness these learned lessons Saturday, UW will be the better for it.

5.  Pryor experience: the kid is a stud.  UW fared very well last year until the last 5 minutes.  If they can capitalize on that experience and keep him in the pocket where his throwing has not been as proficient, UW will win.  His targets and run game from last year are gone, the offense at OSU is evolving.  If he is able to create and run freely using his impressive improvisational and athletic abilities UW will lose.  This is obviously a big if.

How I see it?

UW will play valiantly.  I unfortunately feel that Tolzein as good as he has been will make an error or two.  The UW secondary which has been a revolving door, will emerge vulnerable to OSU’s developing receivers.  The special teams at OSU, always a strength will once again contribute to the Buckeyes contolling field position.  UW’s shortcomings in the return game and coverage game will be an achilles heel.

OSU 24 UW 20

UW wins respect on a national scale for battling this talented team, but in the end falls short.

October 9, 2009 Posted by | Badgers | , , , , | 1 Comment