Monday, October 5, 2009

Wisconsin-Minnesota additional thoughts

Tell you what: I could watch our second half offensive performance over and over and over again. Aside from the fumbles and penalties, of course.

John Clay and the blockers operating in front of him just manhandled Minnesota time and time again. Emasculated the Gophers. Embarrassed them. There was Lee Campbell, visibly upset with himself after Clay shrugged him off on a touchdown run. There was that Triplett guy walking off the field groggy after Clay ran him over. There was Gopher defensive back Simmons, shaking in his shoes as Clay picked up steam in the open field, consciously waiting until Clay was almost by him and just diving at Clay's feet.

This is why we beat Minnesota every year. We are stronger and tougher than them. It was apparent sitting seven rows up Saturday, and just as apparent watching the replay.

Other thoughts after getting a TV view of the game.

-You know what else I could watch over and over again? Those ESPN clips of all the empty trophy cases at Minnesota's new stadium. I'll bet someone in their SID office is in trouble for allowing that to happen.

-Early on, Scott Tolzien scrambled and ran into former Badger Kimmy Royston, knocking him back. In the aftermath, Royston was the one talking trash, as if he were the one who had lowered the boom, not the one who got his ass kicked by our slow-footed quarterback. Man, we really miss Royston ...

-Speaking of Tolzien running, I didn't realize his fumble was forced. During the game it appeared he just coughed it up by himself, but on TV it was clear a Minnesota defensive lineman made a nice play to knock the ball loose.

-Louis Nzegwu's sack where he ran down Weber was really a coverage sack. But he made another nice hustle play where he ran down a Minnesota wide receiver downfield. He's a nice logical replacement for O'Brien Schofield next year.

-Watching Zach Brown's fumble and the return for a touchdown made me throw up in my mouth. How does that happen there? For all intents and purposes the game is over at that point. Instead my blood pressure remains elevated for another half-hour. It's too bad he's had troubles hanging onto the ball. For all the increased talk about Montee Ball, from the limited looks we had at him Saturday Brown is still clearly the faster, shiftier back.

-Aaron Henry appears to be the #4 cornerback now behind Antonio Fenelus, Devin Smith, and Niles Brinkley. Shaky knee? Shaky confidence? Other guys' improvement? A little bit of all those things, probably. He had pretty decent coverage on Decker's touchdown, but Weber made a good throw and Decker made a good play on the ball. Aaron also did make a play on the ball on the Gophers' last drive. Henry's got a lot of football to play yet for us, but I'm still a little worried about him.

-Did you see Decker making that Axe-chopping motion after his touchdown? Nice, huh? That'll have to do for him, I guess, since the only wood he'll ever ... never mind.

-Fenelus led us with nine tackles.

-Which was our special teams lowlight? The Gophers' repeated long kickoff returns? Smith and Fenelus fighting each other to keep Brad Nortman's excellent punt out of the end zone, neither succeeding? David Gilreath running full steam into Prince Moody on a return? This unit still needs tons of work.

-Oh yeah, and we also almost had a punt blocked.

-Among Minnesota's many bush league moves is having their band play loud, annoying noises right up until the opponent's snap. Not music, just banging on drums and blowing into horns.

-As much as Lance Kendricks is a nice receiver, he's really become an asset as a blocker. He's not Mickey Turner or Garrett Graham, but he's not a liability either and engages defenders sufficiently enough to give his backs some room. His footwork on the touchdown catch was really nice, and his vision on his other catch of Tolzien's beautifully-thrown ball was great too.

-The tight end screen to Garrett Graham was the perfect call at the perfect time by Paul Chryst.

-Apparently the 12-men-on-the-field penalty was defensive line coach Charlie Partridge's fault for sending in two defensive tackles. The penalty was a good call, Patrick Butrym was not off the field at the snap. Mike Taylor made a nice play on that pick, again, had to reach back across his body. He's good good hands and good instincts.

-Did you happen to notice that before the Gophers' onside kick, Bret Bielema was about five yards on the field yelling instructions and a staffer ran out and pulled him back to the sideline. After last year's Michigan State fiasco, does Bielema have a chaperone to keep him from penalties like that?

-Speaking of onside kicks, that's three times in five games where our opponent has tried one, and we're still not all that good at fielding them.

-Speaking of onside kicks, how funny was it that Minnesota was penalized for having a guy standing to the wrong side of the kicker? That's simple knowledge of the rules. That's the kind of thing we would have been penalized for last year.

-On our second-to-last possession, we passed on third-and-long rather than running. Most people would have run there, and I probably would have too, but passing there wasn't as dumb as it may have originally appeared. Given that they had just gone 80 yards in about 10 seconds on their previous drive, the difference between them having 1:45 and 1:20, only needing a field goal attempt to force overtime, wasn't that great. Why not make a legit attempt at a first down and end it?

-Why was Minnesota running play action passes on their last drive? Was running really an option at that point? And didn't Weber used to be a pretty good runner? He looks downright slow now.

-You know what else I could watch over and over and over? Chris Borland running by Minnesota's big, slow offensive linemen. And I didn't even have to rewind the DVR, it was happening on every single play. On one play, Borland spun around and Wills didn't realize he'd been beaten for another three seconds. Then, Borland has the athleticism to stop, change direction, and tip Weber's pass.

-Looks like Blake Sorensen forced that last fumble, not Schofield, but O'Beezy was right there on the play. Whatever helps him with his all-conference resume.

This team and this game effort still has plenty of warts, but watching the kids run around with the Axe makes you forget all of it. It doesn't get much better than that.


The Oscillator said...

Hey man... love your blog... Good stuff for starving UW fans. Keep it rolling!

train said...

When #93 ran down the Minny guy the guy to the side of me mentioned the fastest guy on the Gopher roster got ran down by a DE. I told him he was no regular DE (gave him his HS resume including some track titles)- My boy Louie is project that is paying off. He came as FR 200lbs soaking wet and he's now starting to make some plays. Good to see. Now if Kelly can come in and get some production we'll be pretty deep across the front line w. #44 filling the roll as our situational pass rusher.

Scott Tappa said...

I'm really liking the volume of guys playing on the D-Line, think it's keeping them fresher whereas last year's lean unit got tired at the end of games. Still a little worried about DT, this year and beyond, but the DEs look solid.

Duff Beach said...

Too hard on Brown. It was a bad break, but seriously, he has the same number of drops as Clay.

He's a player, and a key component of this offense.

Similarly, Henry's coverage was solid. Sometimes the offense wins (especially with Decker on the receiving end). He couldn't have covered him better.

Paul Chryst's play calling has been excellent this season. So nice to have a quarterback that can run his system.

And credit where it's due? Doeren has upped the defense's game significantly. While far from a perfect unit, he's got them in position to make plays, limiting big plays (though end-game situations could use work), and he's making quality adjustments.

Scott Tappa said...

Duff - I think we were all tough on Clay when he coughed it up three times against Wofford, too, goes with the territory. I'm not giving up on Zach by any means, as I said he really brings something different to the table.

And we agree on Henry too, at least on Decker's TD. Thing is, the coaches have to be seeing breakdowns in his game elsewhere for him to be the #4 CB.

Agreed on Doeren. I think as much as anything schematically, he's just using more guys, keeping them fresher, exploiting their specialized talents, riding the hot hand. A big departure from the last few years, but as you say, so far, not bad.

Millie said...

I'm just going to say that nothing puts a hop in my step quite like the Badgers running the TE Screen. It works every time and I just love it.