Two Big Ten games against traditional powerhouses, two close losses. Bummer. As there was no 19-point lead blown, and Ohio State is a far better team than Michigan, and since the bloom is already off the rose, I'm not as upset as last weekend. But I feel like we've learned a couple things about this Wisconsin team in the past two games, and, unfortunately, they're not good. They are that:
- The defense, despite being about half seniors, is still making serious mental errors. The last minute touchdown scramble to Pryor serves as the most obvious example. I know they wanted to conserve the last timeout for the offense, but just call it already. One of th linebackers needs to step up and make that decision. And the two wide open passes on that drive where the defensive backfield was misaligned, also serve as an example of unclutch mental mistakes. The defense has a lot of talent, as it displays pretty often. But the Badger defenders just doesn't have it all together, at least not right now. This is the problem with starting the conference season with such tough games-- you don't have any time to get your act together.
- Despite all our hopes, Evridge has not been an improvement over Donovan. Donovan had serious vision issues, held the ball too long, was tiny, and had modest accuracy and arm strength. But he was a fluid, natural runner, and a seriously tough nut. While Allan looks more like the part, so far this season he's basically been Donovan without the running ability. He holds the ball forever, doesn't seem to see the whole field, and isn't particularly accurate. His tendency to drop back and hold onto the ball for too long may be due to a lack of experience-- he takes too long to go through his reads, he doesn't have a clock in his head, he lacks a feel for the pass rush. I guess this is what happens when you start a fifth-year senior who has only played a handful of games. Experience, particularly game experience, is likely the best tutor for a quarterback. The more game reps, the more confident a QB becomes, and the faster he can make decisions. Thankfully, while the Badgers' Big Ten title hopes may be over (although I could definitely see Illinois, PSU and OSU losing twice each), the season is not. There's a lot of time for Allan to learn, grow, and start making better decisions.
It's true, the Badgers were very, very close to being 5-0. Evridge holds onto one more fumble at Michigan, or his pick-six gets knocked to the ground, or the Badgers convert one more of those first half turnovers into a touchdown, they win that game. Someone dives on that Hartline fumble on Ohio A&M's last drive, the Badgers can probably squeak out a win. Wisconsin is still a good team, despite the fact that they won't be ranked come tomorrow evening. And there's still lots to play for. I think they can take PSU next week. But Evridge needs to improve quickly (especially with PSU's excellent pass rush), and the defense needs to batten down the hatches.
p.s. I encourage Randy to craft a post entitled "Circling the Wagons."