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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, June 22, 2024

Inconsistency, injuries plague UW’s season

CHAMPAIGN, Ill.'About the only consistent trend the Wisconsin football team has shown eight games into the 2001 season is an innate capacity toward inconsistency, within a game and from game to game.  




To this end, the Badgers' contest versus Illinois can be seen, in many respects, as a microcosm of the season up to this point. 




Coming off a 20-17 victory over Ohio State in Columbus, many on the Badgers bandwagon were beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel after UW was drubbed 63-32 by a lowly Indiana team that has not won outside of that Oct. 6 contest.  




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Saturday's showdown in Champaign had elements of both these bouts as Wisconsin was behind 25-3 with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter only to take a 35-28 lead seven minutes later. From there, UW seemed nearly powerless as the Illini put up 14 points to win the game 42-35. Afterward, the frustration was evident in both the comments and faces of the coaches and players. 




'I can't explain it, I just can't explain it,' Head Coach Barry Alvarez said on his team's incredible swings of momentum. 




The Jekyll and Hyde demeanor of this year's team equally disconcerted offensive coordinator Brian White. 




'Consistency is still an issue, we have a lot of playmakers, but we have to become consistent. I don't think we have really gone through anything as wild as today,' White said. 'Yeah, I think it is hard to explain, if would could explain it we would fix it.' 




One of the rationale that has been offered for UW's seesaw season has been the relative youth and inexperience of the 2001 squad. Saturday, the Badgers started four freshman and two sophomores with the secondary seeing true freshman Scott Starks start while fellow freshman Robert Brooks saw increased playing time due to the flag-plagued play of junior B.J. Tucker.  




Illinois senior quarterback Kurt Kittner took advantage of Wisconsin's suspect secondary to the tune of 401 yards and four touchdowns on 24-45 passing. 




'We have a lot of young guys out there; they have to live and learn,' defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove said about the Badgers' youth movement. 




Further exacerbating the predicament on the defensive side of the ball have been injuries on the UW defensive line. Sophomore defensive end Darius Jones was expected to do big things this season before an arm injury sidelined the Beloit, Wis., native for the majority of the season.  




Saturday's showdown saw the situation worsen as senior defensive linemen Ben Herbert, Chuck Smith and Delante McGrew were added to the infirmary report. While Herbert was in and out of the lineup Saturday, McGrew's injury, which occurred on the first play of the game, is expected to keep the defensive end out for the rest of the season, according to Alvarez. 




'Delante's down, Chuck's down, Ben's down. Nobody can expect three starters to go down,' said defensive tackle Wendell Bryant, who has faced increased double teams due to the injuries. 'We are going to have to step up, some guys are going to have to take notice and play.' 




From here Wisconsin's task is clear if the Badgers hope to be bowl-bound for the fifth season in a row, a time span that includes back-to-back Rose Bowl victories in 1999 and 2000. To become bowl eligible, UW needs victories in three of its final four games.  




The good news is that of UW's final four opponents Michigan is the only team currently above .500 in the Big Ten. 




'It's football'anything can happen, momentum swings back and forth, things happen,' Bryant said. 'All you can do is go out there and play.'

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