Saturday, October 31, 2009

UW-Purdue thoughts

Twenty-one years ago, my dad took me to my first Badger game at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin lost to Michigan 62-14. We walked up to the ticket office five minutes before kickoff and got tickets on the 45-yard-line. The stadium was about half full.

Today, I took my son to his first Badger game at Camp Randall. Wisconsin beat Purdue 37-0. We were lucky to get tickets because Purdue returned some of its allotment. The stadium was full, save for a few students who couldn't drag themselves to the game.

What a pleasant difference two decades makes. Today was the best kind of game: a laugher, decided in the Badgers' favor early, yet still some drama late as the defense tried to preserve a shutout. I was nervous coming in, given how well Purdue had played lately and how we had played in our last two games.

We played a pretty good game today, but PU just stunk. Joey Elliott wasn't accurate, and when he was his receivers dropped the ball. They couldn't stop the run. They couldn't hang onto the ball. And we did what we needed to do, with pleasing results.

-Let's start with the special teams. David Gilbert's play was amazing, and another piece of evidence in the case against that ridiculous method of punt protection. I have been surprised not to see Gilbert in more for more snaps at defensive end, but he, like Chris Borland, has proven to be a real playmaker on special teams. And good for Aaron Henry getting a score, hopefully that will help his confidence.

-Speaking of confidence, let's not overlook Philip Welch making all three of his field goal attempts. This week the talk was of his inconsistency, his groin injury, of Alec Lerner maybe getting some attempts. But he looked sharp on his field goals, and booted a couple touchbacks. I thought Brad Nortman looked good, too. Only blot on the special teams was David Gilreath fielding a punt at his own 5, then almost running himself into a safety. He did have a couple nice returns.

-Purdue helped our defense pitch the shutout, but the boys played pretty darn well, too. J.J. Watt sticks out in my mind, with some nice penetration and knocking down the pass at the end to preserve the goose egg. His new haircut is brutal, though. Dan Moore and Jeff Stehle got in on tackles for loss, as did Jae McFadden, who led us with nine tackles and was around the ball a lot. Brendan Kelly made a good play at the line of scrimmage and knocked down a pass.

-And what about my favorite rookie, Chris Borland? One TFL and two fumble recoveries, including one in which he forced the fumble. Assuming Mike Taylor comes back healthy next year, that's an awesome plamaking duo at linebacker for the next three years.

-It was Devin Smith and Niles Brinkley at corner the whole game, as suspected, and they played well enough. Nice pick by Devin, showed some good footwork to stay inbounds.

-Purdue was 2 of 16 on third down, awesome.

-Offensively, didn't you want to see Lance Kendricks get to 100 yards rushing? Has a tight end run for 100 yards ... ever? In the past 50 years? Great play to start the game, and they never figured out how to stop it. What a weapon.

-Also loved the first drive: 80 yards, all rushing. John Clay did nothing spectacular today, but racked up 123 yards rushing like he should have. Montee Ball's first run was nice, but after that there didn't seem to be anything there and he was repeatedly stuffed. Was it the blocking or was he misreading things?

-First catches for Kraig Appleton, glad to see his burnt redshirt won't go for naught. The best play he made was actually on a catch rule incomplete because his foot was just out of bounds. He sure looks the part physically, every bit as built as Nick Toon.

-Sort of a nothing game for Scott Tolzien, who made some decent passes and some not-so-great passes; at least none of them were picked. He had Toon open for a touchdown but overthrew it a bit, Toon made a great play to make the catch. He may have held on to the ball a bit long on a couple occassions, resulting in sacks, but that's debatable.

-Time of possession edge for Bucky: 36:45 to 23:15.

-Well-officiated game, only six penalties, gave things a nice flow.

-Listening to the postgame radio show, heard this gem from Van Stoutt interviewing Watt:
Stoutt: J.J., Indiana beat Iowa today. How does it feel to control your own destiny?
Watt: Um, I think Iowa came back and won that game. I think it was 42-24.

Nice one, Van. Even if Iowa had lost, how would that mean the Badgers controlled their own destiny?

Who's next, Indiana? They're spunkier than expected. But I like where we're at.


Tyler Feuling said...

Today was much needed as I was able to not get my stomach in knots, especially before tomorrow afternoon's showdown. What did you think of Curt Phillip's performance? Granted it came in junk time, but for some reason I feel more comfortable with him in than Tolzien. Scott seems to hold on to the ball too long and is very skiddish when he drops back. I'd like to hear your thoughts on the two. Also, the blocked punt was amazing by Gilbert when he leapt. My question is, how come during the other punt returns, no one leapt up to try to get a piece of it even though it was almost the same exact situations? Anyway, hopefully Bucky can finish 10-2, but one game at a time.

Scott Tappa said...

Good question about Phillips, that was his most extended performance. It wasn't great, but Purdue still had its first string defense in and we were playing all backups. I will say that on one particular throw to the end zone he showed better arm strength than I expected. He seems to be at his best running in space, and there were no such plays called for him.

As for the other punt blocks, I watched that closely, Gilbert seemed to just run into the three blockers and not try to block the kick; suppose it could be what he's supposed to do when there's a return on rather than a block.