Wednesday, October 31, 2007
As far as this season goes, I'm hoping that losing Wynn won't hurt the Packers that much. Although this may mean we see more of the (right now) totally pedestrian Brandon Jackson (Brandon's only 21, so I have hope for his future development), Ryan Grant and Vernand Morency should be able to contribute about as much as Wynn could. And it's not like the team isn't used to playing without Wynn anyway, with all of his various injuries and health issues.
In more immediately troubling news, it looks like PJ Hill may not be able to play at OSU on Saturday. And Lance Smith is still suspended for road games, due to his cab fare/battery of girlfriend/shoe stealing incident. (Man, being an Ohio native, you have got to think that Lance would have been really amped for this game.) This means that the running game will be in the hands of true freshman Zach Brown, backed up by true freshman Quincy Landingham. Uh oh. Zach has good acceleration, and appears to be an excellent blocker, but he has not shown that he can pick up tough yards or break tackles like PJ, though, to be fair, few backs can. And he certainly doesn't have Lance's agility or experience. Since OSU is ranked number one in total defense so far this season, and number four in rushing defense, you have to think, come Saturday, there won't be a lot of wide open holes for Badger backs to run through. PJ's ability to get yards after contact and Lance's ability to freestyle probably would have come in handy. Zach will do his best, I'm sure, but the offensive game will largely be in the hands of Donovan and the receiving corps. Double uh oh. Unless the defense comes up absolutely huge in Columbus, it could be a long day.
Now it's time for some happier running back news. Two Badger running back recruits from the Chicago area had huge days in the first round of the Illinois state playoffs. Eric Smith, from Bolingbrook High School (far Southwestern suburbs) had 25 carries for 257 yards and three touchdowns. Dex Jones, from Montini High School (a Catholic school in the Western suburbs) had 15 carries for 202 yards and a score. Now, since this was the first round of the playoffs, and both guys are on pretty good teams, they weren't playing against totally awesome opponents or anything. But you'd hope your recruits would dominate middling opposition, and so it's good to see they did. Treading positive...
We took them down in the Matt Schabert game. We took them at the Horseshoe down 17-0, a game I will always love because the dudes I watched the game with (in college mind you) decided that they had seen enough and cursed Bollinger and went to go eat at Qdoba. When they came back it was 42-17, and I had my favorite "I'm a WAY better fan than you" moment.
But those two contests pale in comparison to my favorite game ever at Camp Randall. The snowy night game in 1993. The sounds of gloves and mittens clapping. Our team actually was playing in a big game, a NIGHT game, a game to either emerge from the rubble or fall back under it. So, I'm planning on a win this week in Columbus, even though a Tie could be pretty sweet.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Man, two touchdown bombs will change a game. Those throws were excellent, and the two young wideouts, one a rookie, and another a second-year guy, made great plays. Could anyone believe that Jones ran past the Champ Bailey on that first one? Especially when his after-the-catch moves showed his pretty average speed? How long did it take him to get to the end zone after he caught the ball? It felt like five minutes. And Jennings made a wonderful play to get open. He was even with Bly, then leaned inside, taking Bly with him toward the middle of the field, then saw the ball headed toward the sidelines, and because he had led Bly inside, had enough room to go back wide and make the catch. It was a wonderfully run route by Jennings. And folks should recognize that the game-winner doesn't happen unless the running game is working. The Bronco safeties were playing run, and the fake prevented them from getting back to help deep.
The most important plays in that game were clearly the two bombs, the Bronco's fumble at the goal line, and Jennings' call of heads at the start of overtime. He calls tails, the Packers lose that game. Hell, we all thought they were going to lose it anyway. They had been shut out in the second half, and Denver was rolling. But then that beautiful play-action fake, and the bomb. So pretty. Jennings, with the coin toss call and the catch, is my game MVP.
I don't know what this game means going forward. It might mean nothing. The penalties, even though several seemed ticky-tacky, were disturbing, especially the false starts on the goal line. Bigby's ball kicking was unacceptable. The defense didn't get much direct pressure-- all of Kampman's sacks were "coverage sacks"-- even though they blitzed more than usual. Al didn't have a particularly good game, it seemed. Besides the goal line fumble, the D didn't create any turnovers. A replacement back ran pretty successfully on us. Javon Walker didn't play, and Cutler still looked pretty good. The Packers' D was clearly gassed by the end. Maybe this game is a sign the D is plateauing. Or maybe it was just the pressure from the big game and the altitude.
The offensive bombs were great, and were derived from a successful running game. But who knows if they'll be able to run on anyone else? I guess it's good that Packers were successfully running with subs in at center and right guard. But the Broncos' run D is terrible, and they had injury problems of their own. And what happened to Deshawn Wynn? How many hits did he take before he whacked his shoulder and left the game? Will he ever be able to stay healthy?
The end of that game was wonderful, and I appreciate that that was the first time the team's ever won in Denver. But the Packers remain an enigma.
Oh my God, that was awesome. I just had the funnest sports weekend ever. The only thing that could have made it better is if the Red Sox and all of their douche-bag fans didn't get to celebrate, but I'm not letting the bags of douche get me down. I just drove 2,000 miles round-trip to see the Badgers put it on the Hoosiers and then see two amazing 80-yard bombs from Favre to demoralize the Donkeys for the next several years...from the front row of the end-zone!
- Jackie I played phenomenally. He totally shut down a Hardy, who will be playing on Sundays in a year or two.
- Stumpy Guns is a very mediocre QB. He didn't seem to blow quite as many reads, but he definitely left a lot of points on the field all by himself.
- I agree with Ando, we need PJ if we want to beat good teams, especially without Smith on the road.
Thoughts from Monday:
- Atari Bigby is a hack. The guy cannot keep his hands off of anybody on a pass play. We need a new safety.
- Stokely repeatedly burned Al Harris in man coverage. Is he losing a step?
- Do not get excited about Grant. Your grandma could run on the Broncos D, especially without John Lynch.
- Jones beat Champ Bailey for that TD. Score one for the rookie.
- On the way out of the game, the entire ramp from the upper decks was chanting "GO PACK GO!" It was really cool be on the road and have the whole stadium echoing with a Packer cheer.
I may just have to do this again sometime.
Monday, October 29, 2007
This is a long way of saying that when Randy Moss says he'll meet you and he doesn't, its damn good to come out running the ball at a bunch of corn eating, pick&roll oriented, won't get the hot girls at school because that goes to the basketball players, douchebag wimps from Indiana. We gave the rock to Pressly just to scare them. Then we ran at their heads some more. The Mexicans holding "Viva Mr. Man" banners just ran back inside the Alamo. Big white men from the north were running in formation and trampling people. Its good when our O-Line hurts people, it feels good anyway.
Also, in further news, turns out PJ Hill did not get "knocked up" during the game. As we all know, PJ is a "giver" not a "taker". A "pitcher" not a "catcher". A "hot dog" not a "hot bun". He may have gotten nicked up, or maybe knocked out, but for sure he is not knocked up.
I can't wait to get to the Horseshoe. I've found Matt Schabert, working at a Potbelly's, and he's ready to go in the 4th quarter if needed. Unfortunately, Lee Evans was called and accidently caught a 4th quarter 85 yard bomb yesterday.
The OSU all special academic exception squad is whatever. Suck us. Fuck them. It's on.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
We don't appreciate Hill enough. When he went out, the Badgers' running game sputtered. He's the only one of UW's backs, besides the fullbacks maybe, who consistently gain yards after contact. Smith has great quickness, but it's rare to see him drive defenders back. Brown has a nice burst, but simply isn't powerful enough to do what PJ does. When PJ got knocked up (he hurt his ankle, and was on the sidelines in a boot during the second half), the Badgers had been running the ball quite well. Indiana then started run blitzing, which stymied the run, and UW's offense stagnated until the fourth quarter, failing to capitalize on several turnovers. With Hill in the game, I think UW scores more points. Badger fans better hope he's healthy for next week's game in Columbus. That will be some tough sledding, though today has got to give you some hope.
Donovan looks to have regressed as a passer. The Washington State game may have been his best performance of the year. He was repeatedly over and underthrowing guys, causing them to jump up and get in vulnerable positions (see Swan's injury against Illinois), get out of stride, or lurch backwards. In some cases, he had serious pressure, so it was understandable. But he made too many mistakes. He threw one pick, where the defender watched him stare at Hubbard for about 5 seconds, then jumped up and picked off the ball. That was in the end zone, and thus completely unacceptable. He should have thrown a second interception earlier in the game, when he stared at Garrett Graham streaking down the middle, and failed to see a defender sliding over. The Indiana player just dropped that one. Donovan's a solid runner, for sure (though he lost a fumble today). And he's a tough guy-- he does take a lot of hits. But he's a step backwards from Stocco, in my opinion.
The defense might have come around. For most of the game, the defense looked very sure; which, in my lexicon, means there just weren't a lot of busted plays or big gains allowed. There were still missed tackles, and some decent gains for Indiana. But the Hoosiers number one threat, (no, not bears) James Hardy, was basically a non-factor. And, at long last, the turnovers, in particular, the fumbles, both caused and recovered. Guys flew around, and in some instances, did it how they tell you-- let the first guy wrap the ball carrier up, and the later tacklers go for the ball. Well done. And, they did it without my favorite linebacker, #47, Jaevery McFadden, who hurt his elbow last week. (The coaches have finally realized he should be on the field in the defense's 3-3-5 alignment.)
The team has three very tough games left. I don't know if the Badgers' home form the past two weeks will mean anything against OSU, or Michigan, or even at Minnesota, for that matter. But I hope it does.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Also, I do not want this team to be overconfident going into the Indiana game. Indiana's QB is Randle El, the Older, esque, and that team had a good shot to beat Penn State, if their punt returner hadn't totally blown it. (Indiana was down six, and they forced PSU to punt with about 90 seconds left. Their punter returner called for a fair catch around the 35, but then let the punt go over his head where it bounced to around the 5. This is not the NFL-- game over.) And a reminder, PSU beat the Badgers by 31 points.
I also saw some ranking of wide receiver prospects for next year's NFL draft and it had James Hardy, IU's enormous touchdown machine (31 career TD receptions), rated as the 5th best prospect, behind Michigan's Mario Manningham. Let me think about that. Ummm . . . . no. Hardy is freaking awesome. I would take him over Manningham in a heartbeat. He looks like Calvin Johnson or Terrell Owens. He schooled PSU's Justin King repeatedly on Saturday; even though King is also a probable first day draft pick. This will likely be Jackie I's toughest match-up all year.
Thus, I expect the Badger defense to "regress" to Sparty-like form next Saturday. The badass performance against NIU will have been a blip on the radar screen. The offense will have to outscore them. Thank goodness Lance can play home games, and Hubbard is back.
Oh, and if you don't have the Big Ten Network, the only channel that's carrying the Indiana game, you're welcome to watch the game at my place. I would normally use this as an excuse to push Dish Network, but they just charged us for a package that I called about and canceled, twice. Even the guys who give you good deals are evil. Argh.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
I demand more elucidation on this undisclosed "medical problem". I respect that Michael Flowers wants privacy, but we should at least get to know when/if he will return. Seriously, unless I had acquired VD or something, I wouldn't be embarrassed to share why I needed to go to the doctor.
Where hast thee gone, oh unwavering Badger spirit? 2 Losses and the Lambeau Camp wants to cede the war to the South? Consider the Alamo? That's our slogan? Consider the Alamo? Sounds like weak taco sauce to me.
Illinois slipped through our fingers and Penn State whipped us. I'm over it. HerewegoletsgoletsgetfiredupHerewegoletsgoletsgetfiredupHEREWEGOLETSGOLETSGETFIREDUP
And they'll need time to develop-- since Mickey Perry transferred last season, the remaining guards are true freshman Tim Jarmusz, and sophomores Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes. Since Bohannon is more of a college two-guard, if Flowers is out for an extended period of time, this means that Hughes will be the starting point guard entering the regular season. Trevon oozes talent, but besides an excellent performance against Marquette, he didn't see the court that much his freshman year. This season was already predicted to be a bit choppy, given the loss of Alando and Kam from last year's team. This could make the ride even bumpier. And for all those fans who were crying out for Hughes to get more time last season, you may be about to get your wish. Should be interesting stuff.
Addendum: Oh, crap. I was reading coverage of this online and just saw the words "Tanner Bronson."
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
It'll be neat to see what Chris can do as part of a talented offense. If you have the best running back and tight end in football on your team, you'd think your wide receivers would see a lot of single coverage. And Chris has been playing at a high level this season-- even with Miami struggling, he's been on pace to have 1,000 yards receiving, so he could really be a boost to the Chargers passing offense. I'm not that impressed with Vincent Jackson or Buster Davis, so Chris may very well become the Chargers number one wideout. Good for him. San Diego's nicer than Miami anyway. (And Mexican food kicks the crap out of Cuban food.)
The Packers, as you might anticipate, didn't make any trades. Their one potential trading piece, defensive lineman Corey Williams, who's an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, has made himself too valuable to the team-- subbing in well at end and tackle, and forcing the Santana Moss fumble that enabled Woodson to score the game winning touchdown against the Redskins. The team's likely going to lose him in the offseason, and will receive almost nothing in return. (Football does give compensatory draft picks, but they're almost always really late in the draft.) Hopefully, his play over the rest of the season will be worth it.
Monday, October 15, 2007
We were all reminded the past two weeks how difficult it is to win on the road in the Big Ten. Especially when your defense impersonates the local high school's JV team, and your offense thinks the field ends at the other team's 40. This means that, barring some sort of miracle turn around, the Badgers will have another Penn State like score when they play Ohio State in the closed off Horseshoe. And the way Michigan's been playing since getting depantsed on national television by Oregon, the November 10th game at Camp Randall could also be a beatdown. That leaves three winnable games-- next week against Northern Illinois in Madison, then home against Indiana, and the last game of the season against Minnie in the Dome. Northern's struggling with injuries, and in the middle of a down year to begin with, since losing several stars to graduation. Indiana got shut down, sort of, in East Lansing against Sparty last week. But they did manage to beat Iowa, in Iowa City. And they have some pretty talented guys, like James Hardy at wideout, and their wee, but speedy quarterback. Right now, Minnesota is not a good team, especially on defense. But their offense isn't bad, and they have an emerging player at QB, and some good pieces, like Ernie Wheelright, at the offensive skill positions. That game is actually worrisome because Minnesota's a young team, and is likely to be improving as the season goes along. So Wisconsin will be getting them at what will probably be their peak. And Minnesota will be super fired up, looking to end their season on a positive note, by beating a rival in a trophy game, at home. Whereas Wisconsin will probably be reeling from the Michigan game, and looking to get the game over with so they can rest up, and get into bowl practice. That game will be serious trouble.
So I'm calling it-- 8-4 at best. Lets say opposite Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl:
Not what you'd hope for when you're ranked 7th going into the season, but everyone thought the defense would be way better, and no one knew that the D-line would be a five man rotation, that Smith would be suspended for every road game, or that Hubbard and Swan would miss most of the year. San Antone! Yee haw.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
That was certainly needed, because the Scott Wells-less offense had a bad day. The Pack gained only 225 total yards. Brett shattered the all-time interception record, thanks to two bombs that Sean Taylor picked off. Tauscher and Clifton ruined a perfectly good touchdown drive. And Mason Crosby disturbingly missed two makeable field goals that would have made the game far more comfortable. Normally, when you're playing a good team, and your quarterback and kicker have bad days, you lose. But a defensive touchdown makes a world of difference, and the second half the Packer's defense played was remarkable.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
Seriously though, I think Badger fans need to adjust their perspective. As Mr. Man pointed out, with the exception of our All-American TE and our currently injured tailback, Bucky is incredibly green at all of the skill positions. I am including Stumpy Guns in this group because, though he is a 5th year senior, he is playing like a first-year starter (which he is). The defense, while more experienced than the offense, clearly lacks the leadership that they typically rely on from their scrappy, undersized, less-athletic (read: white kid from Northern Wisconsin) safety.
From here on out I will view Wisconsin's season as a building year in which I will be pleased with a late December bowl, and ecstatic with a New Years Day bowl. I have been miserable watching the Badger's first 6 games because I expected so much and they gave me so little. It was awful having to suffer through all of the mediocrity. With my new perspective though, I will accept the mediocrity as growing pains, and be excited with the big plays, viewing them as strides forward. I hope this will make me a much happier college football fan.
This new perspective does raise a couple of questions though:
1. Was Bielema just riding on Alvarez's coat-tails last year? I think time will tell. I believe he will be an excellent coach, but I don't think we will truly know until he has all of his own recruits playing his system.
2. Should Evridge be starting or at least playing more? He is going to be the starter next year, and needs some time in the offense. He has better skills than Donovan and might be more entertaining to watch. I say if we lose 1-2 more games Everidge gets the ball.
In regards to PSU, I find Ando's theory compelling, but I fear multiple INTs due to balls forced into triple coverage against Beckum.
You may not know, however, that Penn State's starting running back, Austin Scott, has been suspended from the team due to just being charged with sexual assault. (Grim.) Or that PSU only scored 9 points against a Michigan defense that had been impersonating a swinging gate. Or that the Nittany Lions have committed sixteen turnovers in six games. Or that the Nittany Lion, as a species, is extinct. (I figured this out on my own.) Or that Joe Paterno regularly accosts other drivers on the Penn State campus for driving dangerously. (This past week, while Paterno was scolding a woman driver for running a stop sign, a man approached and informed Joe Pa that he was the woman's husband. Paterno responded: ''That's your problem.'')
Here's what I think-- this is another game, kind of like Iowa, where the Badger defense has a chance to play well. PSU's coaches, particularly their offensive coaches, are not particularly creative or bright. Example-- in their loss at Illinois they called four or five screens, but the play never worked. I was shouting at the television the last time they made the call-- it resulted in a two-yard loss. Penn State's qb, Morelli, has a big arm, but a slow wind up, and has struggled against good competition. (His TD to interception ratio against Notre Dame, Michigan, Illinois and Iowa is 3 to 6.) The runners may be talented (one of Scott's replacement ran for over 150 against Iowa), but they'll be green. In short, I do not think this will be Illinois or Sparty. The defense may give up some big plays, particularly a deep pass or two to PSU's talented receivers, but PSU should not run wild. And the Badgers will likely have opportunities to get turnovers, given the young runners and Morelli's track record.
However, the offense will be severely tested. Penn State's defensive is ranked fifth nationally in yards allowed, thirteenth in passing yards, and eighth in rushing. (They have played two utter patsies, yes worse than the Citadel, in Buffalo and Florida International, but those are still good numbers.) We can expect PSU to run blitz on Hill, try to get to Donovan to create turnovers, double cover Beckum, and generally show little respect to anyone else. Thus, it's up to the unheralded or overlooked guys, like Garrett Graham, Andy Crooks (should he play), Zach Brown, Mickey Turner, Kyle Jefferson, David Gilreath and Marcus Randle-El to make plays. I think they have the ability to get it done, but I'm not confident they will.
Sorry to be typical, but it may come down to TOs. If the Badgers can finally create some, and get the ball with some decent field position (a huge problem against Illinois), they should be able to take this game. And similarly, Donovan and Hill will touch the ball a lot. They've got to hold on and make sound decisions.
As I said earlier, I think this game is winnable. Coming off a tough loss and tough injuries, and with deflated expectations and all that, the team has a great opportunity to respond. Lets hope they do it.
However, if going to the practice is impossible and/or kind of embarrassing, it'll also air on the Big Ten Network at 8:30 pm Central, this evening. So if you want some easy entertainment, and your satellite/cable provider gave into Rupert Murdoch and thus carries BTN, check it out. I'm planning on Tivo-ing that, mainly so I can watch it when the woman is out of the house. She'd totally make fun of me, then complain about how watching practices is stupid, and then insist on watching "Design To Sell" on HGTV.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
For the Packers, it shouldn't be that hard. They had the game in hand. Subtract one turnover and one or two key penalties (Williams' bizarre field goal line-up or Barnett's facemask, for example), and they win. They gave the game to the Bears. And, since they do have the youngest team in the NFL, you'd expect some occasional mistake-ridden games. Hopefully, this is the one time it costs the team a win.
For me, the really worrisome development was the second half offense. Where'd it go? Did the Bears adjust to the Packers' running game, and did McCarthy fail to adjust back? Did losing Scott Wells (he got poked in the eye) really hurt that much? Did the players just start playing badly? Did losing Jennings for a little while gum things up? I can't answer these questions. All I know is that the Pack racked up 300 yards of offense in the first half, then had 5 three and outs in the second. Maybe the first half offense was just a fluke. I mean, they sure looked better than at any other point in the season. Maybe all the running surprised the Bears for a bit.
For the Badgers, things are a bit more worrisome. Luke Swan is out for the year with what, based on the replays, looks like a torn hamstring. Ick. With Paul Hubbard still healing from his assault by a moronic UNLV defender, this means that Jefferson and Gilreath or Randle El are the likely starters. That spells trouble, although it looks like Jefferson can run by almost anybody. Maybe another guy, like freshman Daven Jones, who's already burned his redshirt, I believe, can step up. Whatever it is, our wideouts will not get a lot of respect, and given their lack of experience, we may see more balls like that first interception against Illinois-- thrown somewhere in the vicinity of the freshmen receivers, but not exactly to anyone in particular. This also means that opposing defenses will focus even more on stopping Beckum. He'll see a lot of double coverage. The offense will also need some leadership, now that two fifth year seniors are out--can UW get a full-speed Andy Crooks, please? If Crooks gets back, look to see a lot of three tight end sets, with him, Beckum, and Graham. That group could be very effective against most linebacking corps.
To throw in a positive note, I must say, that the offense's performance in the second half against Illinois, with no Swan, Hubbard, Lance Smith, or Crooks, and a nicked-up Hill, was impressive. At least until the two picks, but those just look like iffy play-calls and/or QB decisions. Brown looked good in his appearances, so that's reassuring, especially for next weekend at PSU, where you know the Extinct Pumas will be trying to knock Hill out of the game.
The Badger defense continues to be hit or miss, great on one down, and lousy on the next. And unfortunately, opposing offenses get multiple downs. It may be dicey all season, alas, a la 2005, especially with no bye week. What I'd really like to see is some more effing turnovers. With only Four, (4!) in six games, the Badgers are on pace to force a historically low number. And getting turnovers is so important-- one fumble or interception could easily have turned the Illinois game in the Badgers' favor. How about the defense just focus on that? Focusing on other more general goals, like "not sucking" for example, is not really getting it done.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Let's hope the theme of the weekend is the changing of the guard-- Arizona and Colorado have already eliminated two far more storied teams, so lets have the youngish Indians beat Yankees,
and the upstart Pack cement their reemergence by taking it to the Bears.
Also, if you can watch this past week's episode of HBO's Inside the NFL, do it. They miked Favre up for last week's game. What they manage to capture is wonderful and hilarious.
The offense is now officially banged up. But even with that, I thought their performance was pretty remarkable in the second half. When I realized Hill was on the bench on an exercise bike to start the third quarter, and saw Swan was crutching around, I thought they were going to get shut out for the rest of the game. But they moved the ball pretty consistently, and the defense made a few stops, not enough it turned out, and they got back in the game.
Then there were those two unfortunate interceptions. The Badgers were down five, moving the ball with a chance to take the lead, and threw two unnecessarily long passes that were picked off. One looked like it was due to a misunderstanding between Donovan and the two freshmen wideouts, Gilreath and Jefferson, that were in the area. The pass was too high for Gilreath and too short for Jefferson, but just right for an Illinois defender. Confusing between those three was a recurring theme in the second half. It was understandable, given the inexperience. The second was intended for a double-covered Beckum and shouldn't have been thrown. As sad as it is to question Chryst, who generally seems to do a great job, those calls simply didn't work out.
- Gilreath needs to sack up. He fields a kick or a punt, and then runs diagonally. That's not going to work against Big Ten competition. Plus, great kick returners tend to go forward and them make a cut and explode, not run laterally. That's just a recipe for what was baked up yesterday--crappy field position. Also, on one of his receptions, he had the first down by two yards, then jumped backwards, looking to avoid a big hit, and then started moving forward when he was tackled, essentially losing two yards, and ended up barely getting the first down. I guess that makes sense because he dropped a He's a little guy, we all know. But he needs to accept contact and get comfortable taking it.
- The team misses Crooks's blocking. Graham is a very good receiving threat, and Turner is an adequate blocker, but neither are up to Crooks's all-around ability. He was in pads this week, so hopefully he'll actually be back on the field next weekend.
- The defense folded for the last touchdown because of the two picks the offense gave up. But before that, Illinois's man child receiver, #9, Benn, had been knocked out, and the FIBs were down to runs with Williams and Mendenhall. The Badgers then forced two straight punts. This demonstrates, that without Benn, Illinois's offensive became far less scary. If he misses the Michigan game in two weeks, Illinois loses.
- We did know this was coming. Wisconsin had played too many flawed teams far too closely. And the team is now seriously banged up, at a position, WR, where it doesn't have great depth. The question is, how does the team progress from here? As I've said, the defense will probably be hit or miss all season. The offense is gimpy, and can't ride Hill and Beckum forever. But it can still be a successful year. The only game that looks out of reach for the rest of the season is the one in Columbus. Every other match-up, Penn State, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, the Badgers have a good chance to win. But the freshmen, especially Brown, Gilreath, and Jefferson, will have to step up, especially on the road against PSU next week, when Swan and Hubbard will both still surely be out.
Friday, October 05, 2007
Also, here's the Trib's take on what the Badgers and Never-Existed Indigenous Peoples each need to do to come out on top.
In unrelated news, Charles Tillman sounds pessimistic about his chances of playing on Sunday against the Packers. If both Tillman and Vasher are out, that could make a major difference.
I'm trying to convince myself that Vegas is right, and that Illinois should win, and thus be more able to enjoy the game if it's close. (Usually, I'm so freaked out in a close game that I can't really enjoy it until it's all over.) But then someone noted the following-- the Badgers' three really lousy defensive performances-- the Citadel and Sparty games -- all came when Jack Ikegwuonu was out. With him in, the Badgers have given up 21, 13, and 13 points, and Jack admitted he played poorly when UW gave up 21 to Wazzu. (Jack is apparently good to go tomorrow, knock on wood.) Is there a pattern? I hope so, or otherwise I fear we're going to see Illinois running spread options with the Juice, Benn and Mendenhall all day tomorrow.
I shall report back on Sunday with photographs-- reconnaissance from behind enemy lines.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
However, their most recent injury report only lists one player as "doubtful"-- Vasher, their ballhawking corner. Briggs and Tillman are listed as "questionable" as is Tommie Harris, one of the best defensive tackles in the league. This designation doesn't mean much though since Harris played against Detroit last weekend. Assuming that Vasher is out for this weekend, this doesn't create that much of an advantage for the Packers. The Bears nickel back, Ricky "Don't even look at me when I'm in a Denny's" Manning, Jr., is actually pretty solid, and can sub over easily for Vasher. The Bears have also grown accustomed to playing with out Mike Brown since he's been dogged by serious injuries the past few seasons. So with Tillman back, the Bears' defensive personnel, particularly their secondary, should be ok.
In summation, Packer fans should not expect to see the same Bears' defense that rolled over in the 4th quarter against the Lions. Some of their top talent will likely be back on the field, and since the Bears' season is on the brink, I expect Sunday night to be a very tough battle. The Packers may struggle to score points, and Favre could very well have one of his overdue bursts of turnovers. But you'd think the Packers D has a serious advantage over a struggling Bears offense, if the team's secondary can get healthy. (A recent report questioned whether Nick Collins would be able to play, and Woodson and Al are perpetually banged up.) And of course, the team should not punt the ball to Hester. My hope is the Packers will be solid enough on both sides of the ball to take the win against a flawed, but fired up Bears team. However, strange things happen in night games, and the Bears have owned Lambeau lately. I'm antsy about this one. Wait, I'm antsy about all of them. Oh hell, I'm especially antsy about it.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Specifically, in response to a question about Illinois being a three point favorite over Wisconsin according to Vegas, he told the media that "I think that is ludicrous" and that "I don't think there is any way possible a team like us could be favored over a team like Wisconsin." Then he voiced a conspiracy theory that Wisconsin alumni controlled betting lines, saying "I think that's probably somebody from Wisconsin trying to get them upset or get them fired up." (See here.)
Right... That's not just about the silliest thing I've ever heard. Hell, if Wisconsin alums controlled Vegas, then the lights would have stayed on at the UW-UNLV game three years ago!
You'd think Zook would be proud of the line, and how it demonstrates that people have noticed their success and think they're a good team. But apparently not. Is he uncomfortable playing any card but the underdog one? Is he too unoriginal to think of any motivation speech but the "no one respects us" standard? (I guess he's been giving that one for two years now, so maybe he's forgotten all of the others.)
Anyhow, how would you respond to these types of comments if you were an Illinois player? To your coach telling the world that the team you're playing is better than you? I'd be pissed and upset. At him. It's one thing for a coach to be realistic. But it's another to crap on his own team's abilities. Nice coaching, Zookster.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
First off, the Badgers, although so far undefeated, are struggling. They edged a banged up Iowa team, and let a somewhat talented Sparty make their defense look like warm brie. And they're injured and shallow at key positions. Hubbard is out for at least a few more weeks, Andy Crooks has played one snap all season, Lance can't play road games, Jackie I. has missed two entire games with various ailments, Jefferson was recently concussed, the linebackers are gimpy, and the d-line is as shallow as a kiddie pool. (Anyone seen Kurt Ware on the field lately?)
Yes, yes, they've gutted out victories. And Sparty may have been the most talented offensive opponent Wisconsin has played to date, but the problem is, Illinois may be even better talent-wise. Benn was one of the top wideout recruits in the country and, after enrolling early, is playing like it. Rashard Mendenhall was the top running back in Illinois his senior year of high school, and has been excellent this season. Juice Williams, the Illini's QB, is going through a bit of a sophomore slump-- he's still an effective runner, and has a strong arm, but his accuracy is up and down, even with Benn running routes. Illinois runs a version of the shotgun spread, also used by the Indianapolis Dolts, UNLV, and the Citadel. They run out of that formation most of the time, but throw in a lot of bells and whistles. Unfortunately, the Badgers have struggled (hell, they've struggled against everyone except Iowa) against this type of offense this season.
Illinois also has a tough, fast defense, led by graduate student/linebacker J Lehman (shortening your first name to a letter is, for the record, retarded), and Vernon Davis's little brother, Vontae, an excellent corner. That defense injured PJ last season, if you'll recall. I don't think their D is up to Iowa's level, but it's not that far behind. Plus, this will be the Badgers' first tough road game of the season. No, playing in front of a half pro-Bucky crowd in Vegas doesn't count.
Given all this info, it's not surprising that a fun post in a chat room already claimed that the Badgers are the underdog against Illinois according to the sports books, even though Wisco is ranked 5th and the "Looks like University of Illinois!" football team is still "receiving votes." The Communist Times seconds that info. That seems deserving given the way the two teams have been playing. But that's only if you view Penn State as a good team. Besides that close victory at home, Illinois lost to Missouri (currently ranked #17) in a close game, and beat the 'Cuse, Directional Illinois, and Indiana.
I do think the Badgers can win this game, and I'm not convinced they should be the underdog. Illinois' running game is good, but Williams is not a scary passer. The Badgers should stick Jack on Benn, and otherwise focus on stopping the run--forcing Williams to beat them. (He actually got pulled against Penn State last week.) The offense shouldn't be hard to figure out--runs up the middle and options with Mendenhall, end arounds and wide receiver screens to Benn, and occasional play-action passes. Call it a 70% run, 30% pass mix. It's an easy way to let athletic, non-braniac guys do some damage. Hopefully, UW can figure it out, and shut it down.
On defense, Illinois will be pretty tough. However, I don't think they have anyone who can match-up with Beckum, and the offensive line should be able to open up holes. The Badgers won't have Lance, but it's not like they were giving him the ball that often anyway. (Which is too bad, since he's quite good.) PJ stays intact, and Donovan holds onto the ball-- the Badgers have a good shot at the victory.
I'll hold off on discussing the Bears game until Chicago's injury report becomes clearer. If Vasher, Tillman and Briggs are still out, that could change things significantly.
Monday, October 01, 2007
This seems like an apt metaphor for the Badgers thus far this season. They're the skinhead-- they've ambushed the opponents, it's time for the kill stroke, and they can't deliver. Now so far, they've still managed to win the fight, no one has done a Jack Reacher on them--come back all the way to beat them--but if they keep letting people off the hook it's going to happen.
Consider last week's game-- Badgers are up ten, toward the end of the third quarter, the defense sacks the Sparty QB, actually forcing a three and out and a punt, and UW gets the ball at midfield. A good team marches down and scores, and puts the game out of reach. Wisco had just scored a touchdown on their opening drive of the second half, and had marched down the field to kick a field goal at the end of the first. They're moving the ball well on offense, their defense has actually done something, and it's time to firmly take control of the game. Things start out promisingly, with Hill running for five, Donovan scrambling for a few more, and PJ churning out a first down.
The ball is now at the Sparty 45. Twelve more yards, and Taylor's in field goal range. The blood should be in the water. The hands are around the neck, so to speak. But UW then starts going backwards. MSU defenders pile on Hill for a short loss. Donovan forces a pass to a double-covered Beckum, and the Sparty DBs break it up (and, alas, other players were open on this play). Then the Badgers run a swing pass to Hill, who's closely covered and tackled for a four yard loss. Boom goes the punt, which unfortunately goes into the end zone for a touchback, and the fingers are pried off the neck. Sparty has new life, and they score a touchdown on their next drive, suddenly making the game close again.
I don't know if the Badgers lost focus, or a few play calls went awry, or if Donovan made an iffy decision or what. And I know that Jefferson and Randle El were both out of the game at this point, so the passing attack was in semi-disarray. But they had the ball in opposing territory with a ten point lead late in the third quarter. That was the Badgers chance to put the game out of reach, and they went backwards. If UW wants to continue to win and start being taken seriously, it needs to take advantage of those opportunities. Stomp on opponents when they're down. Take your kill shot when you have it. As Jack Reacher would advise, use the knuckles, not the fingers.
i am not a stat guy. i leave 'sports facts' to people that are better at explaining what happens on the field than whats happening in their hearts. the packers are amazing. they like to drink blood and they will shank if they have to. there isn't a single non-tackler on the team. The punter is even a punk bitch. i love this team.
if we had a legit running back it would be a downer. i have never experienced having to figure out who the guy carrying the ball has been for my favorite team 4 weeks into the regular season. its hilarious. i hate every team in the NFC except ours and i can honestly say that that is due to other team's heartless coaching staffs, and rosters that only an HBO film could love.
next week we are going to go 5 and 0. its going to be a bloodbath. the trib is going to be amazing and the sun times will be better. i will be arriving in chicago monday morning and i can't wait to read both. the bears are awful. the best chance they have at being better is garret wolfe. they suck. brian griese griese is the juciest cheeseburger that you could possibly put on a plate in front of ryan pickett and johnny jolley and aaron kampman and cullin jenkins and all the other angry hungry licensed pittbulls that we run at this bullshit league every sunday. i can't believe that i get to be excited about this team. unexpected. thank you ted thompson. thank you mike mccarthy. thank you old man.
how many years is A. Rodge gonna have to wait? at least 1 more. trade him now. can we grab ladell betts? am i an idiot. 4-0.