Sunday, September 27, 2009

I Hate Him

So I tried to be diplomatic about it. I tried to ignore it. I tried to act like I didn't care. Not any more.
Today made it impossible to ignore. Watching him prance around in that awful purple jersey as if he had been doing it his whole career was too much. I wanted to vomit, I wanted to punch him in the face.

Brett is now a Viking. I hate him.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Badger Preseason Over

After a sloppy 44-14 drubbing of the smallest I-AA football school in the country, and a wild overtime win over California's largest junior college, the Badgers' preseason is over. Sparty, now coming off two consecutive close and embarrassing losses, comes to the Camp next Friday.

Every college football season is a mystery unfolding-- it's a several-months-long process of discovering who your team is. If things unfold they way you want them to, at the end of the season you've learned that your team is BCS-bowl eligible, or a league champion. But things usually don't work out that way. Last year, Wisconsin also went into the Big Ten undefeated with a couple of decent looking victories, but promptly lost four straight games due to various combinations of unclutchness, tough scheduling, poor defense, and awful quarterbacking. So this year, what do we know so far? How much of the cloud has lifted from the team? Yeah, not much.

The team can pass the ball. Kendricks, Graham and Toon are the real deals. (What a catch Lance made in the back of the end zone yeserday!) Tolzien throws a nice, hard, flat, generally accurate ball (still no interceptions, knock on wood), and when he has protection does a decent job of going through his progressions although he's not infallible. (No one is.) Carimi is a legit NFL left tackle should he stay healthy, so Tolzien's blind side should be okay when the defense brings four. What's missing is a solid bookend receiver. Isaac Anderson, coming off two excellent games, looked iffy yesterday (drop on an easy pass, killer holding penalty). Gilreath, besides two kick returns and a run against Fresno, has looked poor. Kyle Jefferson has caught one short pass. Kraig Appleton, the much touted frosh, hasn't gotten the chance to show himself, and now may not get one this season. Maurice Moore could be it, I guess. But I'm quibbling. Three really good receiving options, a fine LT and a smart accurate quarterback are enough to make this unit well above average.

We also know that there's more consistency and lots of potential on defense. Despite Wofford's lack of impressive physical talent, and the one touchdown drive against the first team defense to start yesterday's second half, this year's defense is more assignment sure, especially in the front seven. Plus, it has some fun guys to watch. It's hard to believe Mike Taylor is only a redshirt frosh. Maragos is a solid leader and seems very good at playing the ball in the air. O'Brien Schofield (OB), if he keeps this up, should be a lock to be taken in the first three rounds by a 3-4 NFL team (as a stand-up outside LB). St. Jean actually looked like a linebacker yesterday, maybe for the first time in his college career. McFadden is playing more instinctively and getting off blocks better. Devin Smith's diving interception in the end zone was a great individual play. JJ Watt is enormous and will bat many more passes before the year is over (and is only a redshirt sophomore). By the way, I don't think it's any coincidence that Wofford's one touchdown drive against the first team defense came after Watt left the game with a turned ankle. (Heal up soon.) The DL depth should be better, which was a huge problem last season.

Also, we know that Chris Borland rules. That punk block was amazing, especially for someone shorter than six feet. He created two turnovers yesterday. A huge recruiting find. Barring injuries, he's got a great future in Madison.

But I think that's all we know so far. The defense as a unit has not looked solid for an entire game and has given up some big plays to every team UW has played. The offense produced no big runs yesterday (this is against Wofford), though Moffit and Nagy both played and looked fine, so maybe the line-play will improve. But Clay's fumbilitis was hugely worrying. And this was his first game after being named a starter at Wisconsin. Uh oh. Brown looked better yesterday, and Smith is an interesting option (though he runs backwards too often), but no one else on the team can drive the pile forward like Clay can. We need Clay performing and protecting the ball. There's not enough depth at safety with Pleasant and Carter booted off the team, apparently for having too many parties at their apartment, or at cornerback. The pass rush, besides OB and Taylor on blitzes, has been iffy. Nzegwu needs to come back soon and show the explosion he did in the spring. The special teams coverage remains poor, and will seriously burn UW sometime this season.

In short, much remains unknown. And a pissed-off, and decently talented, Sparty is looming. More will be revealed next Saturday.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I need to start with the NFL network. It replays the games of the week. Great, we love this. Obvious call. But what I wanna know is: who is the guy who came up with the idea to splice in the relevant post-game interviews into the gameplay. You see I'm so Johnny I'm Jolly sniff out a middle screen like a bear sniffing a cheeseburger in the forest. You see him display paranormal athleticism to intercept a pass and hilariously try to get up and run for a TD and only make it 2 feet. Then a window pops up and it's Charles Woodson at his locker discussing the play you just watched. He is talking and giving you insight and yet the rest of the screen continues to show gameplay. So I ask, who is the guy who invented this and can I send him a thank-you note?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Chinatown Sneak-ball WEEK 1

Let's jack-knife some kidneys.

I'm most concerned about Matt Forte, but he can't do as much damage as our offense, so winning to me comes down to one player, Devin Hester. If we can shut him out, which we've been able to do recently, we'll win. Devin Hester has 3 catches for 19 yards over his career vs. Green Bay. He'll do better than that. If we can keep the improvement minimal, they can't score with us, unless he causes problems on special teams. Green Bay special teams have fared relatively well against Hester; In 6 games vs. the pack he's returned 15 punts for 192 yards including an 84 yarder @ Lambeau 3 years ago. This needs to continue, because if they start every possession on the 50, the bears offense might be as improved as it's been said to be.
Thankfully, (and it seems almost as a direct result of Hester re-acquiring his duties as leagues most amazing punt returner), the packers place a high level of importance on special teams play. Several personnel decisions this year, directly emphasized this priority. Instead of a third quarterback, Tyrell Sutton, Ruvell Martin and/or an extra line-backer for the new defense, the Packers decided in favor of younger athletes that apparently have been making a significant difference on special teams. Brett Swain and TE/LB Spencer Havner are 2 players touted as most suitable for the STs, along with the third full-back, beast headcrackerwedgebuster Quinn Johnson.
Hester is a very scary football player. He made the superbowl they lost a good game. Danielle Manning led the league in Kick returns as Hester made the shift to receiver, but you can't tell me that Devin Hester returning punts is not one of the most threatening weapons in the league. It's a great thing that the idiot Bears ever gave that job to someone else. Hopefully now that he's back, the Packers attention to special teams will pay off, and he wont sneak up on us. That would be a prototype Bear victory.
But really they're gonna have to score 40 points to beat us because our offense is going in through the mouth so-whatever.

Apparently our punt returner has a quad contusion and might not play. Which would be unfortunate. Jordy Nelson would assume return duties if Blackmon can't go, but Blackmon had a punt return for a touch down in last years home opener. And I want that to happen again. He's excited about playing (the end of that interview is hilarious).

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Packers Down to 53

Seasons are rarely won and lost in the last weekend before the season starts. That said, I generally like what the Packers have done with their roster, and like the guys they were able to stash on their practice squad. Namely, the practice squad has enabled the Packers to keep an eye on (and keep developing) draft picks Brian Brohm and Jamon Meredith, in the hope that they start living up to their talent. (Brohm was eligible because he didn't play in a game last season. Also, I love the fact that the Packers have quasi-retained a guy whose first name translates as "Ham.") There was also likely some debate between developmental 3-4 outside linebackers Brad Jones (a late round draft pick this April) and Cyril Obiozior. The team kept Jones on the roster, but managed to stash Obi on the practice squad. Again, a success from my perspective.

The one loss, I suppose, is former Northwestern Wildcat Tyrell Sutton, who was claimed by the Carolina Panthers and put on their active roster. He ran decisively during the preseason, and looked to be a solid fit in the zone blocking system. Personally, I think they made the right decision in keeping DeShawn Wynn, who's a great blitz pick-up guy, and has shown (when he's been healthy) that he can bust some big plays. Sutton just didn't have much wiggle or speed.

I also like the decision to give Justin Harrell a full-on medical redshirt year. Next year's training camp will probably be make it or break it time, career-wise. With the rookie Wynn and Montgomery looking like decent back-ups, and the Packers able to stash the squatty run-stopper Anthony Toribio on the practice squad, this made sense to me.

See the full practice squad members here.

Of the unretained, the one guy I'm sad to see go is Ruvell Martin. He was a fine blocker and by all accounts an excellent teammate. With his nice preseason interceptions, the decision to release Anthony Smith is a bit of a puzzler, but I guess we fans don't notice all of the mistakes and missteps. With Rouse's life story, I've always been pulling for him, so I'm glad he's still a Packer.

Northern Illinois: Good and Bad

A wild opener for Wisconsin full of good and bad. Some fun new discoveries, and some recurring issues. How about we go through this with a compare and contrast-type lay out?

Good: 28 to 6 in the Fourth Quarter
Bad: 28 to 20 with 2 minutes left and Northern Illinois driving to tie the game

Good: Nick Toon looking like everything we hoped he'd be-- big, strong, fast, plucking the ball out of the air with his hands. Isaac Anderson finally looking like the Minnesota state sprint champion.
Bad: Isaac Anderson's generally poor run-blocking (i.e., on the bubble screen to Toon that ended up in a loss); Toon alligator-arming a high Phillips pass

Good: True freshman Travis Frederick starting at center, but no fumbled exchanges
Bad: Frederick's holding penalty killing a drive; several blown blocks or missed blitzers; (Heal up, Moffitt)

Good: Zach Brown and Clay looking like a decent one two punch; Clay's two touchdowns
Bad: Brown's inability to break tackles; no long runs (poor wide receiver blocking?)

Good: Defensing racking up lots of tackles for loss; NIU 3 of 12 on third down
Bad: Still giving up yards in big chunks at times; horribly unclutch defensive penalties (i.e., McFadden's awful face mask when he and two other defenders had a back cornered for a loss on third down; Fenelus not needing to interfere on fourth down in the red zone-- the ball was overthrown)

Good: Phillips has wheels and is great at getting past defenders in the open field; having his running threat in the backfield noticeably opened up the rushing game
Bad: Phillips throwing too high to open receivers; some near interceptions; no points on the drives when he was in at quarterback

Good: Tolzien starting 11 for 11; generally good accuracy and decision-making; great strike to Toon on crossing pattern where he got drilled right after throwing; Good deep ball to Anderson on first play (what a great way to begin your career as a starter!); cheering on Phillips from the sidelines, joking with Sherer
Bad: Two picks-- on first, somebody probably should have picked up the corner blitz, but Tolzien needs to see that guy coming and hit his hot read, the guy wasn't coming from his blind side; on second, the defender made a great play, but it looked like he was forcing the ball to Toon-- Anderson was open deep behind the coverage, was a guy open on the right sidelines; both picks occurred at really bad times-- in red zone, on first play from scrimmage after other team scores.

Good: Graham looking like All-Big Ten player both receiving and blocking
Bad: No receptions for Kendricks, failing to pick up blitzes several times

Good: JJ Watt is pretty damn good and only a redshirt sophomore; Schoenfield looks great playing the run-- refs stole a fumble from him that would have ended the game
Bad: No other plays from other D-linemen, pass rush iffy when not blitzing (really need Nzegwu healthy)

Good: Gilreath's one long kickoff return
Bad: All other kickoff returns and punt returns; Gilreath running backwards several times; generally awful blocking-- Bielema may need to fire himself

Just Bad: Welch missing two field goals (shouldn't have attempted the first), only one touchback.

Almost Just Good: Mike Taylor-- blitzing, making tackles for loss, ripping that ball out for UW's lone turnover
One bad play: reacting late to a fullback wheel route, and giving up a 20 plus yard pass play to a guy he's definitely faster than.

Sorry for the shorthand. Generally, the game was fun to watch, and UW looked (with some better run blocking and blitz recognition when Moffitt returns) like it could have a pretty exciting offense. The defense seems like it has a chip on its shoulder and has some talented, heady players. But if anything, this game emphasized that even against non-BCS conference opponents, how small UW's margin for error is. The defense can't give opponents fresh sets of downs when it has them beat. The offense needs to take care of the ball, not beat itself and at least work the clock some when it has the lead. The special teams, don't get me started. Beside Nortman, there's nowhere to go but up. The main thing for this team is whether they improve as the season progresses. The ceiling certainly seems quite high.

Anyhow, much uncertainty remains. Could be a great year. Could be rough, could be mediocre. Fresno State is up next. They won their opener 51-0. Of course, they were playing Divsion I-AA UC-Davis in Fresno. But still. After this performance, I think that game looks like a toss-up. One twelfth of the journey in the books.

Friday, September 04, 2009

2009 Badger Football

Let me make myself clear: I like this year's Badgers.

I like our schedule. I like our running game. I like the attitude of our players and coaches.

I like our secondary more than I have in years. Jay Valai makes plays. Aaron Henry is an All-BigTen talent. I like our guys back there.

I think our LBs are underrated. I like what I hear about Mike Taylor. I worry about our DLine, but i don't tell anybody about that.

There is no way our QBs can be worse than last year. Our starting QB from last year is now #3 on the depth chart. I love Garret Graham.

Nobody with a press pass in the entire country like the Badgers this year. I do.

I will be not be in U-65 much this year. I will be at the LA Coliseum and it will be weird (I'm attending USC Marshall MBA). But that can't stop, and won't stop, my unabashed homerism.

I am psyched for the new year. I think Northern is pretty good, but fuck'em, Bucky. We are more talented than most people give us credit for. We're like a sneaky badger, with sharp claws, hiding behind a mud hill. Come forth and bleed, foes!

It's always hard to project in college FB, when you don't see any preseason action and you have to go on newspaper reports, and the whispers from program insiders. But I like the whispers, and newspapers are dying dodo birds anyway.


Welcome to Minnesota, make I take your order please?