Saturday, October 6, 2007

UW-Illinois postgame thoughts

Just got back from my weekly post-game run around the beautiful village of Scandinavia, where, swear to God, I came within 5 feet of getting trampled by a family of four deer:

-The 14-game winning streak is over, let's stand back and enjoy it. What a great run! The kids showed guts coming back on the road, and had a shot near the end. Let's face it: no one in the Big Ten is as good as Ohio State or Michigan (or even Wisconsin) were last year, so we're still in it. Lot of football to be played.

-Illinois is good, and will definitely factor in the conference race. But their lack of a passing game will eventually cost them. Beyond "Regis" Benn - what a terrible nickname - they've got nothing, and Benn didn't even do much today.

-But, the Illini can really run the ball. Juice is a terrific runner, and ripped off a couple big ones today. Mendenhall is every bit as good as I thought. For all the big runs he had today, the most important in my mind was the 3-1/2-yard run after they recovered our onside kick late - he should have been stopped for 1 yard, but kept his legs churning for a few more yards, and McGee gets the first down by a foot on fourth down. Game over.

-Once again, we can't stop the spread. Got a text message from Scooter Burch during the game: "Blog topic: our defense has no nuts, this is like watching the Holy Angels Royals tackle Scott Tappa." Ah, 1989, what a year for the 0-5 St. Frances Cabrini Warriors and their finesse tight end. But seriously, if I were an opposing offensive coordinator, I would put in a spread package the week before playing the Badgers.

Side note for Burch: As I type this, "Dreams" from Van Halen comes on the radio. Sign of good things to come? Well, the last 100 times we've said that it hasn't happened ...

-Donovan had a nice game. I like him much more than I thought, he can throw the ball, and he avoid sacks better than anyone since Bollinger, maybe better. But his relative lack of arm strength showed up several times in the second half, on one incompletion to Gilreath and his two interceptions. Can't get away with that against a good secondary. Juice, on the other hand, has a big arm but needs to work on accuracy, or his receivers aren't getting open.

-I thought the announcers, Dave Pasch and Andre Ware, were good, like good refs - you didn't notice them much - except for when they kept insisting Beckum's awesome catch was an incompletion. I thought it was a catch, or at the worst the replay was not conclusive enough to overturn. (Funny comment from Olson on Erin Andrews, who unfortunately was a relative non-factor today.)

-Well-officiated game, didn't see any horribly blown calls.

-Last week I made a comment about our depth being better. This week the losses caught up with us. From the preseason roster, today we were missing Cooper, Hubbard, Hodge, Swan, Ware (?), Smith, and PJ had a groin problem today. Good job hanging in playing that many backups.

-In this morning's MJS Potrykus made a reference to the Badgers' little mistakes, and they showed up again today with some ill-timed penalties. Not the reason we lost, though.

-Consider these three plays: Mehlhaff misses a 38-yard FG, their kicker makes a 50-yard FG, and we miss on a two-point conversion. That's a seven-point swing in a game we lost by five. Those plays and decisions have gone our way the past 14 games.

-This team reminds me of the team two years ago. Ever since BB arrived we've been less points-more points-less points-more points every other years. If you need a full explanation of that last sentence, ask someone who sat through Tucson Monsoon '04. Thought this year we would put it all together.

-We have the best group of tight ends in the country. Beckum is awesome, best TE in the country, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him play strictly at wideout if/while Hubbard and Swan are out. Graham, Turner, and Crooks are a good trio themselves, Graham is an NFL player in the making.

-Another big time of possession advantage today, which is both positive (good ball control offense) and negative (defense gives up lots of big plays).

-A week after telling a co-worker about how reliable DirecTV is, I lost reception twice today, including on Illinois's drive after the onside kick. Something about sun outages. Hmmm.

Prediction recap:
-Jefferson has a big game - 65 yards, 1 TD, big enough.
-PJ is going to carry the ball 40 times - nope, half that, that's what happens when we play from behind.
-Any runs that aren't from PJ will come from Gilreath or Beckum on end-arounds, and if they go single back when PJ is resting, it'll be Pressley or Rentmeester as the lone back for pass protection - 100% wrong.
-Crooks is back this week, should help the running game, should be an upgrade over Mickey Turner - didn't see any evidence of that.
-Ike has a shutdown game - on Benn? - pass defense was good, Benn had only 51 yards receiving.
-Casillas does a good job shadowing Juice Williams, but Hodge and the safeties struggle to contain Mendenhall. - no one contained Juice (92 yards rushing) and no one contained Mendenhall (160 yards).
-Wisconsin 26, Illinois 22 - wrong, but for a minute there the final could have been 26-24, which I would have been damn happy with.

At least, checking, I see the volleyball team won last night ...


olson said...

Nice work, Taps. Agreed on almost all fronts. Bucky had been flying too close to the sun all year, and this is what happens.

A few observations of my own, none of which will really have much to do with the outcome, but whatever:

-It was alluded to in an earlier post, but I'm not sure why we didn't see some screens to PJ. They were willing to throw him swing passes on the outside, but not screens? Seemed weird.

-Gilreath (New Hope, represent!) looks a little flinchy back there. Right at the point where he should be bursting into the coverage he's been stutter stepping, etc. Can't say I blame him after the smack in the Iowa game, but it's concerning.

-The way the scoring was going, with the relative lack of D, etc. you could feel a turnover was gonna decide it. Too bad it was TD x 2, and not the Juice and friends.

-Did anyone really notice Hodge's absence? Sadly, I did not.

-Juice was 12/19. Under the threat of physical harm I would have guessed 2/9.

-It's already been touched on, but the Big Ten looks really down and really even. (Save for poor Goldy). Could a 2 loss team win it? Seems entirely possible.

will said...

Nice write-up, Tappa.

I wasn't fan of the two-point conversion call. Didn't like the decision or the actual call itself. And I first-guessed it in my apartment - granted I was talking to myself at the time. And I'm glad the announcers brought it back up as the Badgers lost time on the clock on their final touchdown drive.

Donovan is solid - and I don't think AE is capable of playing any better so he's the guy for the rest of the year barring injury - but he Beckum and Graham and others made him look very, very GOOD today. Some of Beckum's catches were crazy.

The winning streak was great and I hope Illinois continues to play well to make the loss look better on the team's resume. UW under Barry and BB has become a legit top-15/top-20 program and should finish in that range this season.

Deuces said...

Dude, you need a copy editor for this blog.

It's "St. Frances Cabrini" not St. Francis -- you didn't go to Borgia in Cedarburg...

I guess with all the other information/data you throw our way I'll let this slide.

Will said...

Oh, by the way, nice edit to your Blog headline to include your Daily Cardinal stint.

Scott said...

-I also hated the decision to go for two and the play call (what I refer to as "broken play right". Although it was semi-successful a handful of plays earlier, they've gotten come up with something better in that situation.

-Glad you referenced Donovan's arm strength. As I watched the game, that kept coming up in my mind too.

-Something positive did happen following "Dreams": Does the phrase "it's not gonna happen" mean anything to you?

Scott Tappa said...

Some comments on the comments:

-Regarding screens, they seem to prefer to throw those to the tight ends, particularly Graham, and they've worked fairly well.

-Gilreath hasn't ben as quick to the hole since that Iowa hit.

-Regarding Hodge, I had the feeling they were going more toward St. Jean in passing situations anyway, and that would probably apply to spread offenses too. I'm not giving up on Hoge, though, I think he'll be a player eventually.

-Andy: I actually stopped to re-type "Francis" and had a brain freeze as to how that was spelled. Go Warriors/Scholargators!

-Broken play right - good description. Went to the well once too often.

-Burch's last comment- :)

Will said...

It's funny...I think McShay actually highlighted Hodge while announcing the Badger starters (P.J. Hill - first round pick?) and their draft prospects.