Sloppy yet successful: UW's first half mirrors Chryst's interaction with fans

Paul Chryst has been inspiring his team to improve in the second half of games this season. 

Image By: Jessi Schoville

Oftentimes, the most consequential moments of your life are the ones you can’t see coming. They come at you out of nowhere, and the fight-or-flight instinct takes over. That’s exactly what happened to me Thursday, when I had the pleasure of encountering Paul Chryst in person for the first time.

I was working at Union South for my other campus job, helping welcome guests of the university. I was standing at the top of the stairwell, directing visitors to their desired destinations. The stream of families had begun to thin out, and I was confident that the remainder of my time there would be somewhat uneventful. An athletic donor event was going on in the area where I was standing, but aside from a few athletes milling about, I hadn’t seen many people of note.

Then, all of a sudden, Wisconsin’s head football coach Paul Chryst turned the corner and sauntered up the stairs. My mind began to racing: “Do I say anything? Do I tell him hi? What do I call him? Do I call him Coach? Coach Chryst? Paul? Mr. Chryst? Dr. Chryst? (Does he have a doctorate? I don’t think so, but if he did it would be in offensive play-calling).” By the time I pulled myself together, the chance had almost been lost. The conversation that ensued is one that future generations will read in history books, a moment in time as significant as July 4, 1776:

“Morning, Coach.”

“Morning. How’s it going?”

“I’m good! How are you?”

“Good.”

One can understand why our fearless head coach was so reticent in this encounter. His laconic demeanor probably played a role. He also can’t be blamed for being a little nervous himself. He was talking to the Sebastian van Bastelaer, the renowned columnist of “Unopinionated,” the fastest growing column in sports media, recently featured in internet superstar PFTCommenter’s Instagram feed. This was a seminal moment for him too, I’m sure of it. Future historians will certainly wonder about his motives as well.

As I watched Saturday’s game against Northwestern, this exchange was consistently weighing on my mind (as I’m sure it was on coach Chryst’s). The point I’m attempting to make (in an extremely roundabout way) is that the tilt with the Wildcats in many ways mirrored my encounter with our fearless leader: lots of mental errors to begin with, pulling ourselves together and an end result that, while unspectacular, ended successfully.

As has been the case in pretty much every game this year, the performance in the first half paled in comparison to that of the second. The mistakes in the first 30 minutes of the game were shocking; I’d never seen a sloppier performance in my three years at UW. Fumbling was an epidemic, poor blocking pervaded throughout the offensive line and uncharacteristic missed tackles became the norm.

Of course, these errors gave way to discipline and strong play on both sides of the ball in the second half. The coaching staff deserves credit as always for its halftime adjustments, particularly the defense. While its second half shutout streak came to an end, it did just enough to keep control of the game.

As conference play continues, the next challenge is to ensure that the entire team shows up to play from the start. While it’s been enough over the first four games, a quarter or two of inspired, brilliant football every game is not going to cut it down the line. While the forgiving schedule may allow the Badgers to continue on their current trajectory, these habits will catch up to them by the end of the season if things don’t change. Michigan, and a potential opponent from the B1G East in the conference championship game, will not be kind to UW if they continue getting off to sloppy and slow starts.

While it may seem nitpicky to be criticizing a 4-0 team that’s now ranked 9th in the nation this time has shown flashes of dominant play that can, and should be replicated on a larger scale. If this team can channel those flashes and consistently put together more complete performances, the sky remains the limit. And if, maybe if, I ever talk to Paul Chryst in the flesh again, I’ll greet him by saying, “Morning Coach, congrats on the Big Ten Championship.”

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