Monday, September 03, 2007

1,000 Miles Away on Opening Day

It is bittersweet to be in Denver, Colorado on the first day of College Football season--those stupid Thursday games don't count. I first realized this when I watched the Badger's opener 3 years ago from my couch, 1,000 miles from Camp Randall. (As I sat there I realized that I could have chosen UW over CU for med school and I probably would've been at the game. It was then that I realized that four seasons of football games does not constitue enough reason to return to Madison, where I probably would've gone crazy and shot myself. But, I digress.) I think being further away allows me a less biased view of what is going on with Bucky, as it is difficult for me to drink the Kool-Aid served thoughout the Madison area, primarily due to lack of access. The obvious exception to this was the basketball team last year, in which case the entire country was drinking the bright red Badgernation beverage. I had a huge, red Kool-aid mustache right up until Butch annihilated his elbow. I say all of this by way of introduction, as this is my first post on Mr. Man's fine site.

As I watched this season's installment of what do the Badger's actually look like I was initially underwhelmed. During the first quarter I sat there thinking, "Dear God, what will happen when we play a team with any semblence of a pass defense." As the mighty Mr. Man predicted, "Stumpy Guns" was able to pick apart a slow, overmatched defensive backfield. Yet, as with last year, when defenses filled up the box PJ got nothing going. The defense on the other hand, looked as it did last year under Bielema. A little questionable at first, but then making good adjustments to shut down the other team. I won't touch the punt units, because they were almost comically bad.

As the game wore on, I started to be impressed by what seems like a blue-collar attitude that the team seems to take. They look like they work hard on every play, and they were very consistent and eventually wore down Wazzu. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a pattern with this team. It is clear that they are not going to blow people away on offense with many big plays, so they will need that consistency all year.

A day after the game, my father pointed out a couple of things that I hadn't thought of. If the Badger's punting game was better/luckier, they may not have allowed a touchdown. All three WSU scores came off a punting-game gaffe. This made me more encouraged about the defense. He was at the game and noticed that Hill and Smith were not recognizing cut back lanes early in the game. He said Hill could easily have had 3-4 big gains if he had seen those cuts. Both of the backs seemed to start finding those gaps in the second half, which is encouraging.

One more thing I began to ponder as I suffered through Bob Griese and Paul McGuire's commentary: Does"Stumpy Guns" really not have the arm strength, or does he underthrow the ball to Swan on purpose. Here is a possible theory (technically, making it a hypothesis): The obnoxious color guys kept ranting about how great the chemistry between Swan and Donovan is because they played together on the scout team 4 years ago, and then with the second string, and how Swan has always felt more comfortable with Donavan, etc. Suppose Swan knows that Donovan will throw the ball short, allowing him to react better than the d-back. The only reason I think this is a possibility is that the "Guns" threw that fly pattern to Swan perfectly, 50 yards downfield. He clearly did not have an arm-strength problem on that play. Is there validity in my hypothesis or is it the Kool-Aid talking?


Randy Moss said...

his arm strength seems ok, but i'm worried he has hands too small to throw a spiral. i didn't see one.

Mr.Man said...

First, nice post Sallie. Well done.

After watching that first game, I think Donovan's arm is passable. He is definitely capable of throwing a nicely lofted 40 yard bomb. But that sort of arm strength is quite different from being able to throw ropes to the sideline like Favre or Sorgi. But I think the main question is his accuracy.

I rewatched some of the game yesterday (thank you, Tivo-like devices) and noticed that he was definitely hot and cold. Some throws that were completed could have been thrown more accurately, and led to bigger gains. Others were just totally off--one he skipped on a hook route; several times he threw the ball out of bounds or out of reach of the receiver on sideline routes; he threw a poor ball to Beckum where he was open, and let the defensive back catch up and break up the pass, an excellent ball there could have been a touchdown Several of these came all in a row on the second to last possession of the first half.

But then the next possession he threw that beautiful bomb to Swan. And his first touchdown to Swan in the corner was also a great pass. So he's definitely capable, but right now he's not as accurate as he needs to be for UW to beat good teams.

As a final note, one of Wazzu's TDs (their second one) did not come after a punting miscue. They drove 80 yards down the field and scored. The other two did-- the returned punt block and the DeBauche duck/bat both led to Wazzu scores. But Swan's fumble led only to that comical missed field goal. Just one more thing to harangue your dad about.