Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 in review: Glutton for punishment?

I was all set to write a long, fancy review of the 2008 season highlighted primarily by the frustrating turns, but then it hit me: I've already written them! All I had to do was go back and re-read the 12 game recaps from the regular season and pull the bullet points that best summed up this team.

God, was that depressing.

Even in victories, we showed fatal flaws. In losses, we showed only brief glimmers of promise.

Are you a glutton for punishment? Read on.

August 30 vs. Akron
My only thought ... is that I'm disappointed we left so many points on the board in the first half. It should have been 35-7 at halftime, not 17-10. Some guys have to tighten up their games.

We got away with this against Akron, but not against good teams.

September 6 vs. Marshall
What an atrocious start, absolutely embarrassing. ... Four penalties in the first six minutes. Failure by the defense to get off the field on third down. Little aggression or precision on offense.

Not the last time we heard those phrases ...

Didn't think we'd see John Clay again after his early fumble, but boy did he run well late. He's on his way to becoming the beast we've thought he could be.

Still think that ...

P.J. Hill's fumbles are starting to concern me, the first one more than the second. He's good enough to keep plays going with his feet and his drive, and that leads to him falling in awkward positions and leaving himself exposed to the types of hits like the one that caused the fumble.

Happened again against Florida State ...

September 13 vs. Fresno State
A disturbing trend in the second half was not running or throwing to receivers at first down yardage on third down.

That option that Evridge ran deep in Fresno territory was a curious call, although he ran it relatively effectively. But there was a holding call on it, not surprising.

Bringing in Clay when we did was a nice move, but why not keep feeding him the rock?

Like my friend said in November, Paul Chryst had a bad year ...

September 27 vs. Michigan
Run the ball every play in the second half. I'm serious. Without Beckum and Graham in there, Kyle Jefferson is the only primary receiver with dependable hands. Lance Kendricks, Nick Toon, and David Gilreath have all dropped decent passes thus far, with varying degrees of costliness. Allan Evridge has been serviceable, but few of the passing plays have looked smooth.

Few would all year long.

On one third-and-1 call we ran a terrible-looking play action pass. Run the ball behind our enormous line! Like the play call that Johnny Clay took down the the 5 -- that's a great call, well executed.

How many third-and-ones did we fail to convert? The one that really sticks in my craw is the option left where Evridge made a terrible pitch to P.J. Hill and we lost five yards on the play. Can you remember any time when we've run the option successfully on third-and-one? Or at any down and distance, for that matter? Me neither. So STOP RUNNING THE OPTION ON THIRD-AND-ONE, PAUL!

See above.

Then, after playing reasonably well but getting burned by his receivers, Evridge went scattershot. Inaccurate throws. Holding onto the ball too long. Not securing the ball under pressure. I was not ready to call quarterback play an Achilles' Heel for this team, but it is, big time.

Quarterback play killed us, and everything unraveled from there.

October 4 vs. Ohio State
The second half seemed to go by really fast, didn't it? It wasn't as decisive as in the loss at Michigan, but we were clearly outplayed in the second half again. That's three straight weeks, a disturbing trend.

This year's Badgers got thoroughly outplayed in the second half in all of their losses, all but one of them against good teams. Against bad teams we owned the second half, but that's not good enough. That has to change.

It was distressing that Pryor beat us on the final drive with his passing. ... OSU's receivers were wide open, even though we appeared to be dropping six or seven guys into coverage.

Happened again versus Florida State against another average passing quarterback.

Replays showed clearly how disorganized our defense was on Pryor's winning touchdown run. There's that leadership thing again -- get the guys lined up properly, or someone call a timeout and make sure everything is in order. (Burning two timeouts in the first 7:23 of the second half didn't help, either.)

Coaching, coaching, coaching.

October 11 vs. Penn State
Penn State is indeed a good team, but there's no reason we shouldn't be right there with them. But the Badgers continue to get burned by the little things.

And would continue to be burned by little things.

We've called out Allan Evridge and P.J. Hill, but how about Travis Beckum? ... He's still putting up good numbers when completely healthy, but he's not playing an all-around game.

A disappointing senior season for Travis, hopefully he goes on to a terrific professional career.

... on second-and-goal from the 1, we get called for 12 men in the huddle. Yeesh.

... it's third-and-20 for Penn State and we have them pinned deep in their own end, and Daryll Clark throws for 21 yards on the run, great pass and route. Another instance of not closing the deal.

Sort of like Carr's third-and-19 catch for 20 yards against FSU.

October 18 vs. Iowa
Watching the postgame on the Big Ten Network, I saw Bret Bielema's press conference. At one point he ended a sentence with "The team that's beating Wisconsin the most is Wisconsin."

Good call, dude.

Forget getting into the backfield and recording tackles for loss. These (defensive linemen) were getting dominated at the point of attack, putting all the pressure on our defensive backs to make saving tackles.

On Greene's second touchdown run, he broke about 73 tackles. ...

Actually, defensive line play and tackling were not chronic problems for this team, in my opinion.

October 25 vs. Illinois
Credit Mr. Man for pointing out that our defense is actually better built for stopping (the Spread) than we've been in the past ...

Too bad non-Spread teams gashed us.

Allen Langford ... had an Al Harris-type day in coverage. By that I mean he was consistently straddling the line between tight coverage and interference, and thank god those judgments went our way today.

Love Langford, gonna miss him.

Jay Valai ... set a physical tone with hits belying his 5-9 frame.

Love Valai, glad he's coming back.

Nice to see Garrett Graham get so heavily involved in the offense in the second half. If Beckum's out, Graham isn't a bad guy to have as a go-to receiver, even if it is for just 6-7 yards a pop.

Sherer's success next year starts with Graham.

Is it time yet to call for Bielema to give up coaching the special teams? Two weeks ago we give up a punt return touchdown. Last week a punt is blocked. Today Benn has a long kickoff return that leads to a field goal, and a penalty for lining up wrong on a punt. Time to let someone else worry about that.

Expect to hear this drum beat loudly in the offseason.

November 1 vs. Michigan State
I don't even know what to say. Seriously. This week after week of getting kicked in the balls by one thing after another is really starting to have a residual effect on my psyche.

Leinenkugel's dulls the pain of getting kicked in the balls repeatedly.

Mental errors have once again led to points by the opponent. The play call misunderstanding leads to Sherer's fumble which leads to a field goal. Levy's face mask leads to another field goal. This team just doesn't have the margin for error to be making those mistakes.

As heard on the Champs Sports Bowl postgame.

P.J. and Clay have had some nice runs, created by some nice blocking, but we still can't seem to get into a rhythm running the ball. What's it going to take? We need the run more than ever, especially considering our quarterback with, as Bentley accurately put it, a "bizarre throwing motion."

A running game rhythm is Job One for 2009. More on that later.

We ice the game with a rare third-and-1 conversion ... and a hold on Moffitt.

Why in the hell did Bielema call timeout when State was setting up for that last-second field goal? ... Maybe if he hadn't wasted our third timeout with that foolish challenge earlier in the half he could have called a third straight timeout.

November 8 vs. Indiana
So our offensive line, which was healthy last week finally, got two whole plays in today before Eric Vanden Heuvel was hurt. Turned out it didn't matter, but wouldn't it be nice if we were just at full strength for once?

They played pretty well together when all give guys were healthy.

November 15 vs. Minnesota
(At halftime, written in a Camp Randall bathroom) Nightmare: Only word to describe this latest fiasco. The lowlight is the Minnesota fan two rows behind us, in section R, row 40, seat 2, celebrating wildly Kyle Jefferson's injury. Here comes the ambulance ... Metaphor for the season.

I hope that guy is rotting in hell somewhere. It seemed like Kyle played against Florida State.

Can you ever remember a receiver having a career game that included three drops, including one for a sure-fire touchdown? Good for Isaac Anderson for shaking off the dropsies ...

When Niles Brinkley intercepted that pass on Minnesota's last possession and started running around, did anyone not think that, given the way this season has gone, he was going to fumble and the Gophers were going to drive down the field and either tie it or win it?

How about a rundown of some of the head-scratching mistakes we made? Clay's fumble. Shane Carter's offside penalty on the Gophers' two-point conversion (come on man, think!). Dustin Sherer taking that sack when he was out of the pocket with a clear lane to throw the ball into the stands! The blown coverages that led to Minnesota's second and third touchdowns. Allowing that fourth-and-18 conversion. Blowing more third-and-shorts. The botched field goal attempt that would have put us up 10-0.

November 22 vs. Cal Poly
What were you thinking when O'Brien Schofield jumped offside on that field goal attempt, which allowed Poly to convert on fourth-and-1 and eventually score a touchdown? Or when Nick Toon couldn't haul in that nice pass from Sherer later in the fourth quarter?


Matt said...

I hope to God that Phillips or Budmayr are able to beat out Sherer by the start of next year.

The team will have other weaknesses next year for sure (DL, OL), but this is the most glaring. I applaud Dusty's efforts but he's clearly not the answer. If he's the best we've got heading into next year...yikes.

Scott Tappa said...

Me too, Schwib, me too.