Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wisconsin-Ohio State thoughts

A couple minutes ago Jana walked through the living room and asked who was winning. When I told her Ohio State, by 18 points, she commended me for keeping my cool. It's all about expecations, I told her. Didn't expect to win this game, and we didn't.

Sure, it's a disappointing result. It exposed our flaws in a big way, and showed we are not among the Big Ten elite, at least not at this moment. But there was still a lot to like. Thoughts:

-Let's give Scott Tolzien a C-minus for this game. Obviously, the two picks he threw that were returned for touchdowns were devastating, the difference in this game. But he still stood in against a tough pass rush and kept his poise, especially when OSU knew we had to pass, showing some decent escape ability at times. He spread the ball around nicely. Millen correctly pointed out that Tolzien was locking onto one receiver and not leaving him, which also hurt him at Minnesota last week. He got better at that later, but it cost him. How would you grade him?

-Tolzien should have had at least on touchdown pass, but Isaac Anderson dropped a well-thrown ball. Two drops today for Ike, can't have those and expect to win at Ohio State.

-The offensive line did get better in the second half after a shaky start.

-Guess we don't have that kickoff coverage figured out yet. Did any Badger lay a finger on Small on the return? We had three guys basically run into two blockers just to the right of the crease Small ran through. To the untrained eye, Bradie Ewing looked like the guy who ran himself out of position. What's the solution? Play starters on the coverage units? Seems risky, but the guys we're running out there on that unit now aren't getting it done, at all.

-Then there's Maurice Moore's sorry kickoff return. What else could Chris Borland have done to stop him from leaving the end zone, tackle him? Credit the offense for putting a drive together after that, it looked like the wheels were going to fall off big time at that point.

-Also missed a couple field goals, the second was one that definitely should have gone through. Maybe Philip Welch isn't out of the woods. Bottom line: even with a touchdown on a trick play, special teams are still a liability. Still coached by one Bret Bielema.

-Montee Ball looked good on his reps, ran well, showed patience, followed blocking. Also looked comfortable as a receiver out of the backfield.

-O'Brien Schofield was outstanding again today, showed a great pass rush and pursuit. He's halfway to an all-conference nod this year, and looking like an NFL prospect, maybe a 3-4 outside linebacker.

-Pryor did not impress me one bit. Perhaps the most damning thing he did Saturday was forget lose his helmet before their first drive of the third quarter. Right now he is a superior athlete taking snaps, but not much of a quarterback. The talent around him is slightly above average at best, our defense handled them for all but a few plays.

-That said, Ohio State's defense is every bit as good as feared. I like how they're a no-name unit, seems like anyone can make a play. Like us they have a deep defensive line rotation; unlike us, their guys are big and experienced. Their safeties are awesome, and the cornerbacks I'd never heard of before today were impressive. But we moved the ball on them, just couldn't finish. But they're going to need Pryor to be better to get through that Penn State-Iowa-Michigan stretch to close their season.

Bottom line: we don't shoot ourselves in the foot three times, this is anyone's game at the end. The key will be how we rebound against Iowa next week. Clean up the play? Or go into the fetal position and drop another one? Right now I'm betting on the latter.

It will be interesting to see how the Hawkeyes play against Michigan tonight. Will they be the team that dominated at Penn State or the one that struggled at home against Northern Iowa and Arkansas State? Right now I'm betting on the former.

More from the box score tomorrow.