Wisconsin hangs around in tough games.
It’s been three years since the Badgers have lost by more than seven points, a statistic that masks the fact that most of Wisconsin’s losses come in heartbreaking fashion.
One play can—and often does— make or break those sorts of games. It’s tough on an athlete mentally to endure those sorts of losses, but often times there’s a lot of good to be taken away from contests like Saturday’s seven-point loss to Ohio State.
Sure, there were the miscues.
But then again, there were lots of exceptionally bright moments.
In two weeks the Badgers face another test against Northwestern, who is undefeated so far this season.
This Saturday the Wildcats take on Ohio State, and UW is hoping Northwestern can pull off an upset of their own, leaving the playing field level once again in the Big Ten.
Given a win for Northwestern this week, what does Wisconsin have to do in the coming weeks to land themselves a trip to Indianapolis in December?
First off, UW needs to establish a receiving corps behind Abbrederis. He may be one of the best receivers in the Big Ten, but it’s only a matter of time before somebody figures out how to stop him. Even Superman has kryptonite.
Stave, a developing quarterback for all intents and purposes, needs to put the ups and downs behind him. His bright flashes are what keep Wisconsin in close games, but the clear interceptions and overthrows hurt the team more than just the loss of a down or a drive. It’s mentally draining for a team to make those sort of mistakes.
In the past, as a run-first team, the Badgers won by controlling the clock. This season Wisconsin has had the ball almost exactly half of the time they’ve been on the field. Saturday UW averaged five plays and 2:32 per drive, not really the ideal drawn-out, grind-them-down sort of offense that the Badgers flourish with. Finding a way to keep the ball for longer stretches of time is going to be key for this team going down the stretch. Big plays are nice, but it’s tough to rely on lightning in a bottle to win important games.
The secondary was lights out until they faced Ohio State, not allowing a single passing touchdown in its first four contests. Braxton Miller, however, took advantage of even the smallest of mistakes, leaving doubts about this young secondary’s ability to compete against big-time talent. Cleaning up those small lapses will prove to be indispensable when playing high-quality opponents.
Obviously maintaining the success of the run game is included in this list. Any chance of redshirt sophomore Melvin Gordon becoming a dark-horse Heisman contender was shattered Saturday, but as long as he finds his game once again the Badgers have a chance to be successful.
After last weekend’s trip to Columbus the distance UW has to travel to get to the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis became a lot longer, but it certainly isn’t out of the question. This bye week represents a chance for Wisconsin to either dwell on the loss or take advantage of extra time to prepare for a talented Northwestern team. These two weeks are going to be the defining moment for this year’s Badger football team.
Have any other things you think the Badgers could improve on? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Daily Cardinal would also like to wish a very happy birthday to Brett’s mother, Marlene Bachman.