And so it was this weekend. No more jinx-inducing talk of streaks for the Badgers and Packers. Both teams had wonderful runs, as did we as Badger and Packer fans. Now it's regrouping time.
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.