The first triumvirate weekend of the year results in total success. The footballing Badgers get a sloppy but exhilarating victory over their oldest rival, the Packers whoop up on their oldest rival, and the men's basketball Badgers narrowly avoid disaster by falling back on senior leader Marcus Landry. Inspiring stuff.
In re the Packers:
- This was like the Colts game all over again, except the Bears are a lot worse offensively than the Colts. The Packers ran the ball well, had nice passing lanes set up by the run, and basically held onto the ball for two-thirds of the game-- 37 minutes. The Bears ran the ball decently, but they had trouble converting third downs, and the Packers held onto the ball forever when they had it. Hell, they only punted twice, and only turned the ball over once (that underthrown pass to Donald Driver that Brian Urlacher picked off-- Rodgers should have made a deeper throw or run with the ball). Every other drive ended in a score. Crazy.
- What is up with the Packers offensive line? It's like Jekyll and Hyde. Although, to be fair, their run blocking against Tennessee and Minnesota was decent, it was just their pass blocking that was bad. And the Bears pass rush has been pretty pathetic all year. So maybe they're just pretty good at run-blocking and mediocre at pass-blocking?
- The Packers' run defense actually wasn't that great-- the stats show the Bears gained 4.2 yards per carry. The D just did a pretty good job on third downs. Anyhow, to be plain, the run defense issues aren't suddenly fixed. It wasn't just Nick Barnett having a down year that made the run D poor.
- I really liked the fullback runs on short distances. Now that they've shown the play a few times though, they'll just have to be careful about being too predictable with it.
- I also liked how Charles Woodson went and retrieved the ball on Jason Hunter's touchdown. Chuckie thoughtfully realized that Hunter (an Appalachian State grad, and a guy with at least one season on the practice squad) would probably want to keep the ball.
- I did not like how obvious the Packers' blitzes were. If I can see them coming on TV, I mean . . . come on.
- Always nice to beat the Bears. Great to beat them in a meaningful game. Excellent to get rid of this "Lovie Smith is undefeated in Green Bay" specter. Wonderful to beat the Bears handily and look good in all three facets of the game. Now they just need to perform consistently, starting next week against the Saints on Monday Night Football, where a ball control offense would again be a good idea.
In re the male basketballing Badgers:
- This game was scary stuff. Losing at home to Long Beach State to start the season would have been a North Dakota State-esque embarrassment. Definitely not the way they would have wanted to start the season. So, phew.
- Why was the game close? Well, partly because Beach nailed a ton of contested threes in the first half, and their main guy, Donovan Morris, had a NBA Hang Time "He's on fire!" stretch in the second to pull them back into it. But also, this Badger team made a lot of errors-- failing to get the ball into the post enough, not doing a very good job on the boards, taking some semi-reckless shots and/or making some sloppy offensive decisions (I thought Jason Bohannon was guilty of several of these), and committing associated turnovers that led to easy points for the Beach.
- Of course, Marcus Landry was the man, particularly in the second half. He saved the Badgers with his shooting and help defense. It's nice to have heady, talented seniors.
- So freshmen Rob Wilson and Jordan Taylor are definitely playing this season. Both of them saw time, and both of them made their first shots. Wilson's was a three, and Taylor's was a shot-clock-running-out prayer that hilarious banked in high off the glass. Wilson did get pulled immediately after missing a quick, ill-advised shot in the second half.
- Jon Leuer made a great, athletic drive to the basket at some point in the second. He looked like natural scorer on that play. As time goes on he should be really effective dribble-driving past the centers and power forwards who try to guard him. But Jon also had an ugly, overaggressive turnover. I'd like to see him get more time on the floor, both to get him more offensive experience and because UW will likely UW need the size for rebounding purposes.
- Good to start with a win, and I hope Beach validates the closeness of this game by being a good team in the Big West this season. I also hope the Badgers learned some things from this game that will help them improve going forward. Next game is Tuesday night against Southern Illinois-- but it's not the Carbondale, Illinois based Salukies who have been perennial tournament threats. No, it's Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, which is currently enjoying its first season at the Division I level.