Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wisconsin-Iowa thoughts

Today's proceedings at Camp Randall have left me feeling livid. Livid!

This is the first time this year that I have been truly disappointed in this team, and in this program. Because make no mistake about it: the results of today's game prove that Iowa has a program far superior to ours.

Not superior players, mind you. Their offensive skill position players are pedestrian at best, ours are more talented. Their quarterback still doesn't impress me -- he just threw the ball to wide-open players. They have a good defense, but as we showed in the first half, it's not impossible to move the ball on them.

And yet ... they dominated the second half today and go home winners. Their players' execution was nearly flawless. More importantly, the scheme adjustments they made at halftime were far better than anything we did.

Think about it: in the first half, we were running the ball for 5-7 yards a pop. There were big holes. On passing plays, we had guys open, and Scott Tolzien found them.

In the second half, with basically the same guys on the field (forget Garrett Graham's injury -- while he's obviously an important part of our offense, the results would have been the same with him) we created no holes, our receivers were double covered, and Tolzien threw it to the guys in white jerseys.

Defensively we were no less disappointing. For all the raves about Moeaki, definitely a good player, if Antonio Fenelus can't run with a tight end, we've got problems. Their running back will probably win praise, but he got his yards when our defense lost its focus and composure.

And when the defense did make a big play to give the offense a chance to score without actually moving the ball, Philip Welch shanks the kick right. We've gone from field goal kicking seeming like a definite strength at the season's beginning to being an uncertainty at best, a liability at worst.

Near the end of the game, when they were having their way with us, this thought occurred to me: It's like we weren't even on the field in the second half. Iowa did whatever they wanted.

Every time the cameras cut to Kirk Ferentz on the sideline, so calm and in control, I thought, "Man, I wish that guy was our coach, and his staff our staff." It's not the first time I've thought that way. But this year, when the Big Ten is truly up for grabs, if we had superior leadership like Iowa we could be pricing plane tickets for Pasadena now. Instead we're looking at what, San Antonio? No shame in that, but in years where the traditional Big Ten powers show vulnerability, we've got to be ready to take advantage. This year, we're not quite there.

Remember what I wrote at halftime?

"While I'm happy with the proceedings thus far, I also remember Barry Alvarez's last game in 2005, when we were up by a similar score at halftime and got dominated by Iowa in the second half. They make good halftime adjustments. Let's hope our coaches can do the same."

Unfortunately, today was a carbon copy of 2005. That loss left me feeling similarly upset and disappointed. But that year, we rebounded to beat Hawaii and then Auburn in a bowl, definitely a great ending to what ended up being a very nice season. Purdue is looking better than I figured, we'll have to bring it in two weeks. Let's hope our players and coaches take the week off to figure out how to be more like Iowa.


Tyler Feuling said...

Scott, since I am in Seattle, Badger news is hard to come by; any "Fire-Bielema" sentiments gaining steam? I dont think anyone can be happy with the progress. Your comparisons between programs at Iowa and Wisconsin is spot on. With a few seasons like Iowa had earlier this decade (Six wins annually), I dont think Wisconsin would be able to come back so quickly in the same position. How do we fix this? Have we gotten to spoiled with 7-10 win seasons? Or have we gotten complacent? Naturally, I'm looking to you to solve the problems. Go.

Scott Tappa said...

Tyler - I saw a couple half-hearted things to that nature on Facebook yesterday, but don't think it has the traction it had last year. Realistically, we're 5-2 with losses to two teams better than us, probably two of the best three teams in the league. We're young. I think we have gotten spoiled, but that it's not unrealistic to expect 9-10 wins in down years for the Big Ten. This is stream of consciousness, I'll offer some better thoughts during the bye week, if I can get past this Vander Blue thing.