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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, August 08, 2022
Offensive line

All eyes will be on the Badger offense Saturday as it plays its first game under new offensive line coach Bart Miller, who will have had just five days under his belt as a positions coach.

Badgers ready to roll after rare early loss

The Wisconsin Badgers football team (1-1 overall) now has its loss out of the way.

Senior running back Montee Ball is thankful that the team suffered a disappointing loss this early in the season. All that’s left to do now is put the pedal to the metal.

“It was the best practice we’ve had all year,” Ball said Tuesday. “Today’s focus was unbelievable. And I’m not just saying that, it really was.”

But why did it take so long for this sense of urgency to settle in?

Ball said it has a lot to do with the veteran players growing accustomed to winning almost effortlessly in most games over the last few years.

“It wasn’t there before because I guess all of us players are used to being on top,” Ball explained. “And we’re not really used to building the program. Right now we’re all learning.”

Head coach Bret Bielema had not lost a non-conference game until last Saturday. Additionally, the Badgers have blown nearly every non-conference opponent out of the water over the past few seasons, other than a 20-19 squeaker against Arizona State at home during the 2010 season. In fact, the Badgers have outscored non-conference opponents 352-91 since the beginning of that 2010 campaign.

Now Ball’s explanation of the lack of energy this season doesn’t seem so surprising. The team simply thought this portion of the schedule would be another walk in the park.

“Looking on the bright side, it’s kind of good that we lost,” Ball said. “Now we have that sense of urgency that we’re going to carry forward every game.”

He even compared last week’s loss to the likes of the Michigan State and Ohio State heartbreakers last season, and junior quarterback Danny O’Brien thinks those losses will be beneficial to the situation that Wisconsin now finds itself in, despite joining the Badgers just a few months ago.

“This group, they went through a lot of adversity last year,” he said. “I wasn’t a part of that but I underwent a lot of adversity myself. So these guys are battle-tested and know how to bounce back.”

Wisconsin likely had a case of being taken aback by Oregon State scoring first last weekend. That surprise, first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada said, had a little to do with straying away from pure Wisconsin football last weekend.

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“Saturday, we got off track,” he admitted. “We got down a couple of scores, time got into the game a little bit.”

Establishing the run game has been an extremely easy task and has been so instrumental to Wisconsin’s success in past years, so it’s no wonder that the team wants to get back to that formula and keep the ball on the ground as much as possible.

“We want to run the ball,” senior tackle Rick Wagner said, who was the lone offensive lineman available to press after Tuesday’s practice in the wake of the firing of offensive line coach Mike Markuson. “We had way too many passes [last weekend], and for O-linemen we don’t like that. We want to run the ball on Saturday.”

“We have to establish the run game,” Ball said. “We just have to make sure we play our style of offense.”

He also admitted that there has been frustration—even this early in the season—with his numbers, which many expected to be nothing less than Heisman-worthy. He has reiterated that it is still early in the season and that a slow start like this year’s is nothing new to him.

“[I’m] a little frustrated, but it motivates me,” he said. “Just like I said to a couple of people, it took me five games last year to sneak in and we have 10 [games] left guaranteed.”

Wagner is also using the adversity to his advantage, welcoming the added pressure that has come along with the 1-1 start.

“We’re used to having all the pressure on the O-line,” he said. “That’s what we want, that’s when we strive.”

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