The Wisconsin Badgers (1-0 overall) are not concerned one bit.
However, seemingly everyone else is panicking heading into Saturday’s matchup against Oregon State (0-0 overall) in Corvallis, Ore., and for understandable reasons.
Being away from Camp Randall, not having game film of the Beavers from this season, an extremely mediocre performance offensively and not having a defense show up for the fourth quarter last week would worry almost any team, especially if it were ranked 12th in both preseason polls.
Not this Badger team.
Negativity wasn’t even remotely apparent from Badger players and coaches this week after practices. Instead, they all seem to have moved on from the last game and are ready to make a statement. Not a statement just to Badger fans, but to the entire country.
“We definitely just need to show the nation that that’s not what we’re all about,” senior cornerback Devin Smith said Wednesday. “I think this week is going to set the tone for our season and for our defense.”
For redshirt junior linebacker Chris Borland, Saturday’s goal is to simply show up for the entire day and not repeat the dismal fourth quarter that fans had to worry through last Saturday.
“We just have to play well and not give up the few big plays here and there,” he said. “Our main goal is to play the whole game right now.”
Hurricane Isaac cancelled Oregon State’s first game of the season, as the poor weather wouldn’t allow Nicholls State to leave for Corvallis.
Luckily for the Badgers, they played host to the Beavers last season and won 35-0.
“We’re watching all their film from last year and kind of preparing for last year’s team,” redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Beau Allen said. “So we just have to be real flexible and just talk to our coaches on the sideline.”
The problem, though, is that the matchup between the two teams last year was during the second week of the season. Head coach Bret Bielema and other players weren’t afraid to admit that the Beavers, who had 24 first-year players in last season’s game, will be better and more experienced than the team Wisconsin squared off against a year ago.
“I know they’re going to be a better opponent,” Bielema said. “We don’t have to tell any of our kids how good Oregon State is, they know it, they can see it on the film from last year.”
Smith and Allen both noticed a marked improvement—and a change in style offensively—just from comparing the Beavers’ games late last year to their game at Camp Randall.
“They used to be more of a pro-style team toward the end of the season and even in our game last season they were [running] more spread,” Smith said. “We just have to prepare for both.”
Allen also noticed how much more the Beavers put the ball in the air as the season progressed, something that should concern UW after last weekend’s poor pass coverage in the second half.
Many wondered why the Badger defense fell apart after shutting out UNI in the first half. The answer may lie in the fact that the Panthers threw the ball only six times in the first half, completing three of those passes for 27 yards. In the second half, they threw 28 times for over 200 yards.
A possession time of only 6:35 obviously had something to do with the low amount of pass plays in the first quarter last weekend, but the Panthers managed 28 passes in the second half on just over 14 minutes.
UNI simply didn’t realize until the fourth quarter that it could throw the ball at will against a veteran Badger secondary. If Oregon State sticks to its formula of throwing often, the Badgers could very well be playing a game similar to the one fans saw last Saturday in Camp Randall.
“They definitely were pass-happy toward the end of the year,” Allen said of the Beavers.
In the 11 games that Beavers’ sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion started last season (he replaced the previous starter halfway through Week 1), he threw an average of 41.9 times per game, including as many as 66 times in a 35-20 loss to Arizona State.
This, as well as the maturity from the massive amount of first-year starters from last season’s team, is Borland’s main concern heading into Saturday.
“Their quarterback has a full year under his belt (now),” Borland said. “Just their personnel, I think that they have more experience might be a challenge.”
“Young guys with experience is a dangerous recipe,” junior quarterback Danny O’Brien said. “We’re going to have to start well and finish well (on Saturday).”