Saturday, September 5, 2009

Wisconsin-Northern Illinois thoughts

Phew. That was a lot closer than it had to be. Was it just me, or were you all having flashbacks to last year after Schofield's forced fumble was not allowed to be reviewed? The sequence of events that followed seemed straight out of last year's script -- penalty keeps drive alive for other team, special teams breakdown ... thank goodness for another nice Schofield play and Chris Maragos closing things out.

Northern's OK, but I'm guessing they're not as good as they were last year when they almost beat Minnesota and Tennessee. Hopefully they'll get to a bowl and make our win look better.

-We dominated the game for three quarters. The third quarter was just about perfect. Then we didn't finish. It might get overlooked, but here's a cause for concern: Philip Welch missed both his field goal attempts. The first one was rather long, but the second was one he should make. He makes that second on and it's not so tense at the end.

-Tolzien will get the headlines, but for my money Schofield was the player of the game for us. He was always around the ball, in Northern's backfield, in coverage. The final defensive stats will be kind to him. Great start for a captain.

-Tolzien showed the starting job should be his. His first pick wasn't really his fault, although the second one was. Otherwise I thought he played really well, much better than I'd expected. Liked how he stood in against blitzes. Showed decisiveness that was missing from our QBs last year.

The nice thing is, Phillips showed he deserves playing time, too, and it wasn't because Tolzien was struggling. Phillips showed what we thought he'd show, nice mobility. The threat of him running several possessions out of the Spread every game is great because it forces our opponents to spend time preparing for it. If they don't, Curt can break some big gains.

-Thought the running game was pretty blah. Maybe Northern will prove to have a really good run defense. Maybe we were missing Moffitt and Nagy. Brown looked sharp early but couldn't sustain it. Clay looked sluggish early but showed a nice nose for the end zone. Neither one got to 50 yards or 4 yards per carry, a concern.

-Nice game by Garrett Graham, as expected. No passes thrown to Lance Kendricks, unexpected.

-We hit hard tonight, lot of times when our kids blew up a Northern player, sometimes knocking off their helmets. Devin Smith had a nice one on a kickoff return.

-Chris Martin of the Big Ten Network is still trying too hard. He made some UPS-related Brown quip after NIU's running back had a nice run, and tried to tie in Zach Brown, and it made little sense. You could tell he'd been working on it for about a month, and it was lame. Still talking about "linear" receivers.

-Did you notice the new uniform wrinkle, the little Motion W on the back above the name? It's not awful, but I'd rather it not be there, it's not necessary.

-What in the world was Ron Dayne wearing during his interview with Charissa Thompson? One really bad leisure athletic jacket, one that my mom hopefully won't get me for Christmas.

-A key to us building that lead was the defense's ability to get off the field on third down. The inability to do so at the end is what let Northern back in. Obvious, I know, but doing a better job closing the deal is a must, whether it's a whole game or a single drive.

-Saw Mike Taylor back in the game, that was good. Chris Borland played a lot and was definitely a factor, awesome for a true freshman to step up like that.

-Our kids really did a poor job on the onside kick. Northern's kicker hit it perfectly, but it seemed like we only had one guy step forward to try to grab it, while Northern had three or four right there. Add that to the two missed field goals and another game of mostly lackluster returns, and the special teams remain anything but.

After the third quarter, I was really hoping for a 35-6 final score, or something like that, to show that we're a team capable of tossing around a bowl team (even if it's from the MAC). The final score is not a perfect reflection of how this game went, but hey, a win's a win. There are things to work on, but there are a lot of things to like. I'll sleep easy tonight.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Loved to see Taylor out there and performing well. If he stays healthy, he's going to be a stud.

I would have to say that in a very small one-game sample, the young guys all looked relatively solid.

I just had less a sense of dread watching this game. Guys seemed more confident, making tackles, making throws, etc. Never felt a queasy feeling when Tolzien went back to pass as I did last year.