Wisconsin just finished spanking Indiana 33-3 in the Badgers' annual homecoming game. The Badgers never trailed, coming out to a 17-0 lead, rushing for 280 yards, getting 5 turnovers, holding Indiana's talented duo of James Hardy and Kellen Lewis to 4 catches for 17 yards, and 17 of 33 attempts for 112 yards passing, respectively. A very solid all around performance, and something that was very heartening-- the Badgers outperformed their expectations. No one was picking them to win this big, and most people predicted a very close game. Game thoughts--
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.