Sunday, September 23, 2007

If they can win like that . . .

than they Badgers should be alright. I know the game was at home and Iowa is green and had a bunch of injuries. But Wisconsin turned the ball over three times, and in bad areas on the field-- each turnover resulted in Iowa having great field position, and Donovan's fumble, in particular, killed a likely Badger scoring drive. By doing so, the team essentially spotted Iowa points. And the defense didn't get even one turnover to even the margin. How many teams usually win with a -3 turnover margin? Almost none, I'd wager.

The reason this was possible is that the defense, with the exception of forcing turnovers, finally stood up and played a solid game. Even with those three terrible turnovers, Wisco only allowed 13 points, and the touchdown came on a fluky play that was Michael Irvin-esque pass interference. Finally, guys looked assignment sure, and the linebackers played like the studs they are-- Levy, especially, looked awesome, though he did drop that pick. And coach Hankiwitz and the rest of the defense staff finally opened up their bags of tricks-- how many times did the nickel back, Aaron Henry blitz? Hell, I think he's now the team's sack leader. Did you see the zone blitzes UW ran? (Shaugnessey had his almost interception on one of them.) They weren't totally dominant, obviously-- Iowa had a couple decent drives, and UW failed to create a turnover. But generally, the D stalled Hawky when it counted, flew to the ball, and made excellent tackles. Well done, defense.

The offense was a different story. I didn't want to mention it in the pre-game post, but until last night, Donovan hadn't turned the ball over all season. Yeah, that ended pretty quickly and in irritating fashion when Donovan stood and watched a blitzing linebacker run right at him and hit him at fully speed on Bucky's first offensive possession. The ball went flying out, and Iowa recovered twenty or so yards behind the line of scrimmage, killing what had looked like a solid scoring drive. Sadly, what happened here was symptomatic of Donovan's main problem as a quarterback-- he has tunnel vision. He doesn't see the whole field, and apparently, doesn't even see things right in front of his face. On that fumble, PJ had left the backfield and was split out wide. He was open. The Iowa linebacker saw the backfield was empty, realized no one would be there to pick him up , and blitzed. Throw the ball to PJ! He's your blitz release valve, as it were. That's a recurring problem-- Donovan forces middle-deep balls and misses wide open guys in the flat. We have pretty good skill position players-- give them the ball short and let them run.

Also, although Donovan's passing did not inspire confidence, fans should take heart-- the Badgers were able to run the ball against an excellent defense. I'm going to be positive, and take this as a sign that the offensive line is finally rounding into shape. Because I don't believe there's a better defensive line than Iowa's in the Big Ten. So if UW can run on the Hawks, that bodes very well for the rest of the season.

So I'm playing Professor Positive with this game-- the passing game was bad, UW drastically lost the turnover battle, but still the Badgers triumphed. I think that shows improvement, as bizarre as it may sound. Hope that continues.

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