Monday, October 01, 2007

Knuckles, not Fingers

Over the past few months, I've read a bunch of books by this English "mystery" writer, Lee Child. The best term to describe his books is "embarrassingly entertaining," meaning that you enjoy the books, but realize they're completely ridiculous and you probably shouldn't talk to other people about them. Nearly all his books feature this enormous, uber-bad ass ex-MP protagonist/narrator given the hilarious name of Jack Reacher. Anyhow, there's a scene in this one book, Killing Floor, where he's in a state prison and gets jumped by a group of neo-Nazis. Reacher is getting choked from behind by some enormous skinhead, but is able to peel him off and ends up kicking the skinheads' asses. Reacher later explains that the skinhead messed up by choking him with his fingers extended. This enabled Reacher to grab some of the skinhead's fingers and break them, thus freeing himself. Had the skinhead instead bent his fingers in, and choked him with his knuckles, Reacher admits, he would have been unable to pry off the attacker's fingers, and been killed.

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.


Elliott Gansner said...

All of you need to relax and enjoy the fact that neither the Badgers nor the Packers have yet lost this year. This is a rare thing. It is rare for both teams to simply win on the same weekend. Stop whining so damn much about the Badgers defense or the Packers lack of run game and just drink a beer and enjoy yourselves.

That said, here is my suggestion for how the Packers can upgrade mid-season and make it deep into the playoffs. Lets tap the only source of quality players at this point...those coming off suspensions. First off, if Ricky Williams can stay off the ganja, we should acquire him from Miami. He hasn't played in a while and should be fresh and still a physical specimen. Being on this Packer team might motivate him enough to be productive. Secondly, Koren Robinson is about to come off his year long suspension. He is already on the team and apparently has been working out like a maniac this off season with Jarrett Bush. Lets get him suited up for kick-offs and punt returns right away and then work him into the receiver rotation. With those two guys our offense could take a major step up. Robinson costs us nothing and hopefully Cam Cameron will simply release Ricky Williams.

Mr.Man said...

I love you, but you're a moron. If you had to watch the Badgers' defense, you'd be freaking out too. They gave up 300 yards on about 7 plays against MSU, and it was all missed tackle after missed tackle. Atrocious and horrifying. They're asking to get killed on the road (a la Sparty in 2004), and it could happen next weekend, which would be terrible and embarrassing. How big of a slap in the face is it to be ranked fifth, and to be killed, not just edged, by a "lesser" team?

In re Williams, teams hardly ever acquire players in the middle of the season, and Thompson wouldn't pull a third round pick for Moss. There's no way in hell he's even interested in Williams.

Robinson will likely receive an additional suspension from the league, and even if he were back, the Packers' current kickoff man (Trammon Williams) has done a good job, and Robinson would be no more than a fourth wideout at best. Driver, Jennings and Jones are going to be the top three for a while, barring injury or retirement.

Elliott Gansner said...

I am well aware that the UW defense has been a far cry from last year's dominant unit. Despite their high billing this year they have yet to put together a decent outing. I was at the Wash. St. game and saw the sloppyness with which they played in that game. Do I think we should be ranked number 5, probably not. Could we be in serious trouble at Ohio St. on the road, yes. Nevertheless, we haven't lost yet so enjoy it. Stop being such a pessimist and be a sports fan instead.

As to the Packers situation, obviously acquiring Ricky Williams would be a long shot, but I was searching for a mildly creative answer to our "non-existent" running game problem. I realize Ted Thompson would rarely take such a radical course of action.

Also, even if Koren Robinson is only a 4th receiver, we need a good fourth receiver and you can always use two return guys. I might point out that on kick-offs there are always two return men, so Tramon Williams cannot do it all himself.

Papa Sal said...

Ah...brotherly love. There are a whole bunch of words written, but all I see is"

"You're a moron."

"No, I'm not. You're a moron."

"I know you are but what am I?"

Mr.Man said...

At least I have a brother!

Go play dress up with your sister...

Here Comes the Rooster said...

Ell, go back now and look at the foolishness of your words.