Mondays with Rasty: Wisconsin impressive in win, but Houston must be smarter

Bart Houston has benefitted from a simplified system from Paul Chryst.

Image By: Jessi Schoville

There was nothing particularly remarkable or enthralling about Wisconsin’s 54-10 win over Akron in Saturday’s home opener at Camp Randall Stadium. But considering how other ranked teams fared during Week 2, a low-stress win over an inferior opponent isn’t something that should be taken for granted.

An officiating blunder gave Central Michigan the opportunity to pull off a miraculous Hail Mary and lateral to beat No. 22 Oklahoma State with no time left. No. 2 Clemson offered up a wholly uninspired performance in a 30-24 win over the Troy Trojans. No. 9 Georgia just barely squeaked out a two-point win against Nicholls State, an FCS program that has gone 9-48 over the last five years. But in Madison, the Badgers took care of business, cruising past the Zips and avoiding any potential letdown after the previous week’s monumental win over LSU.

From the opening kickoff, the result never really seemed to be in doubt. On the first drive of the game, the Badgers marched down the field 83 yards while eating 6:55 of the clock, finally scoring a touchdown on a four-yard run by Corey Clement. After that, Akron never seriously threatened to make it a game and Wisconsin easily pulled away. But that’s not to say it was a picture-perfect performance for the Badgers.

Quarterback Bart Houston had a very solid overall performance—throwing for 231 yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-22 passing—yet he still made a handful of questionable decisions. He threw a pair of passes that could have (and probably should have) been picked off by Akron. While these didn’t cost the Badgers against the Zips—nor did his two interceptions end up resulting in a loss to LSU—Houston’s mental miscues could end up being the difference between a win and a loss if he makes them against a team like Michigan or Ohio State.

The Wisconsin defense continued to look like a force to be reckoned with, though the secondary let Akron receivers get behind them a bit more often than defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox would have liked in the first half. The special teams had a coverage breakdown on a low punt by freshman punter Anthony Lotti, which allowed JoJo Natson to take one to the house from 55 yards out. However, that ended up being the Zips’ only touchdown of the afternoon.

All that being said, this is a lot of nitpicking being done in a 44-point win and the positives greatly outweigh the negatives. Junior wide receiver Jazz Peavy hauled in seven catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns (all career highs and all coming in the first half alone). Clement ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries before being pulled out of the game after rolling an ankle. And in the second half, UW fans got a brief glimpse into the future of the program in freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook, freshman running back Bradrick Shaw and freshman wide receivers A.J. Taylor and Quintez Cephus.

The defense still has only given up a single touchdown this season, the offense looked balanced and the Badgers are 2-0 and all the way up to No. 9 in the most recent AP poll. The fact of the matter is that we really won’t start to get an accurate gauge of how good Wisconsin is until it travels to East Lansing, Mich., in a couple weeks to kick off its brutal conference schedule.

Until then, Badgers fans can kick back, relax and enjoy the ride on the hype train.

Are the Badgers as good as their No. 9 ranking says? Should Houston still be the starter? Can Wisconsin beat Michigan or Michigan State? Let Zach Rastall know what you think at sports@dailycardinal.com. 

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