Penn State looked great on that opening drive. Then, the beat-down started. Sure, I was a little worried after watching Penn State score, but Wisco wasn’t going to go down without a fight, and surely without making a show of it. The weather was ugly in Madison on Saturday, and the final score wasn’t much prettier for the Nittany Lions. But, celebrate we did on Saturday becoming the first ever Leaders Division Champs and got stoked for the rematch of the year.
The Nittany Lions didn’t fare a chance after that 7 they put on the scoreboard. Sure, their D got to Wilson a couple times, and their offense had some standout plays, but overall, they didn’t look like the team that sat in the drivers seat in the Leaders. Maybe they’re still shaking off all the stories and news. Or maybe, they were a little hungover from beating the Buckeyes in Columbus the previous week. Either way, winning teams go to Madison almost intent on losing. The records speak for themselves.
Wilson had a great showing and although it was not an all out QB dominated performance for the offense, he played his part effortlessly and well. When you have Ball and White to hand off to, you can be a “smaller” cog in the machine. Either way, Wilson was great. He threw for just under 200 yards and 2 TDs. His play is partially the reason we’re looking forward to the biggest rematch of the BCS season. (With the exception of an LSU-Bama title game.) Wilson’s talent was evident on Saturday just watching him run that offense. After this years regular season, it’s evident why Bielema spent so much time getting him to Madison.
Ball was on fire as his usual self. I often wondered whether he was just that good or if it was just part of the system of WI football. I can honestly say, it has to be a little bit of both. Sure, any RB in a Badger uniform is going to have impressive numbers on a season, but Ball is special. He came back this year lighter, faster, and ran over just about every team he faced. Ball ran for an impressive, (almost usual) 4 TDs in the game against Penn State and over 150 yards. After scoring those 4 TDs, only the great Barry Sanders can say he was better in a regular season. That’s an honor.
The Offensive Line is going to have to guarantee Wilson better pocket protection in the Championship game no doubt. Ball could use some bigger holes too once in a while. Overall, they played well but had some sloppy moments. With the rain, maybe one could attribute that to the field. But on some plays, the nerves came back for me. I knew Penn State didn’t have a chance in this game, but regardless, I didn’t want to see Wilson on the ground at all. And twice, was twice too many times. That can’t happen on Saturday and I’m sure they know.
Defense was solid for the most part. I still am having troubles with our secondary. This game should have been a shut-out but the miscommunication by our secondary allowed Penn State at least one trip to the end-zone. I don’t have a problem when those kinds of plays happen in the first 10 minutes of a game. What makes me nervous is that’s how we’ve been beaten before and we can’t afford plays like that to slip by us. We know the heartbreak that can follow from a last minute slip up.
I have to admit, I never really “worry” because of our defense, but I do get a little upset. Missed tackles are frustrating to watch and we had quite a few of them on Saturday. Again, rain? Sure, maybe, but this has been a season long issue that needs to be resolved before Saturday and (wishful thinking) before heading out to Pasadena. Henry, Fenelus, Butrym, and a few others are consistently involved in what I call the clean up. Everyone on that side of the ball is going to have to pull their weight and should not be depending on others to finish their jobs to stop a RB or WR.
This game was a phenomenal way to end the season. No doubt, I couldn’t have written a better ending if I tried. But, for the best ending, all the loose ends need to be cleaned up. The Badgers have displayed moments of absolute brilliance this season. They have displayed some of the worst in football too though. The mistakes from the Michigan State and Ohio State games are what need to be avoided at all costs on Saturday. But mistakes don’t just come from the defense. All parts of the team need to be firing on all cylinders to give us the ending we so deperately need after last year.
So, on to Indy! The two best teams in the conference are about to showdown in what could be the best game of the season. Wisconsin is definately playing their best football of the season. So is Michigan State. Dantonio and company are going to make it a tough contest for us, again. Only this time, I think a combination of embarrassment and revenge are going to play a huge factor in motivating the Badgers to come away with the victory. If there’s anything I have learned from the last few years, Wisconsin plays some of their best games late in the season with everything on the line. The main goal is to stay focused on the task at hand and we can worry about smelling the roses after Saturday. TACKLE!