On Friday, I entered what I believed to be a reasonable request for a solid Badgers' performance against the Citadel. I got what I wanted, for about twenty minutes in the second half when the Badgers scored 24 unanswered points. That was excellent. The offense was running the ball with authority. The defense was smartly aggressive.
The rest of the game left a lot to be desired, however. The defense in the first half was embarrassing-- marked by sloppy tackling, confused play, and slow reactions. Jackie I. got knocked out on the first play of scrimmage with a "thigh bruise" that hopefully won't keep him out of the Iowa game. He was down on the field, not getting up, for several minutes. That was seriously scary, and his absence certainly didn't help the defense perform any better. Then when the coaches started putting in second-stringers in the second half, the Citadel began piling up the yards again, and they actually scored a touchdown with about ten seconds left. Meaningless, yes, but not a fun way to see a game end if you're a Badger fan. 45-24 looks and feels way better than 45-31.
The offense was generally ok throughout. However, Donovan was sacked for big losses several times. A few of these were clearly the fault of the offensive line--for instance, redshirt frosh Gabe Carimi was beaten solidly for one sack. But others came on overload blitzes: you could see the players coming, and Donovan failed to change the play at the line of scrimmage. Maybe he's not supposed to because this is a early season game against an overmatched opponent? But the result, especially on a few slow developing playaction passes, was serious negative gains. In the Big Ten, I hope to goodness that TD recognizes what's coming and audibles. It's also a little disturbing to see him get taken down so easily in the pocket. Maybe watching McNabb last weekend gave me overly lofty expectations, but I'd expect a "mobile quarterback" to shake off pressure a little more frequently. I was also heartened to see that I'm not crazy-- Donovan just has trouble seeing the whole field and going through his progressions. That is, he keeps not seeing wide open receivers. If UW is going to beat top tier opponents, he's going to have to see those routes. My other qualm with Donovan is his penchant for throwing balls high to open receivers, making them extend their arms and jump, and leaving them vulnerable to big hits from defenders. I can remember at least two unnecessarily high passes-- one to Beckum at the sidelines that resulted in Travis landing just out of bounds, and one to Swan that led to him getting smashed in the kidneys and leaving the field for a few plays. Throw tight, low balls and protect your receivers.
Today's Packer game raises another unfulfilled want-- to play the Giants without Manning, the Younger, at quarterback. But it looks like he's going to start. That should make the game far more interesting, in a bad way, from a Packer fans' perspective. The Giants showed an explosive offense last weekend with Burress, Manning, and Shockey, although that could be attributed to several key injuries on the Dallas defense. But at the least, the Giants look to have a more capable offense than Philly. The Packers will definitely have to get a contribution from their offense this week in order to be in this game. And on the plus side, the Giants defense looked terrible last week, and their most effective pass rusher may be out. But on the minus, it again looks like Greg Jennings and Vernand Morency will miss this game, meaning the Packers will play with the exact same front line offensive personnel as last week. That again, was not what I was hoping for. The Packers need far better offensive execution, particularly on the line, if they're going to come out of New York with a win. Can they get it from the same players? Dubious . . . .