Sept. 30, 2013
BY MIKE LUCAS
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After answering questions about his ability to attack man coverage and throw the ball deep consistently by passing for a career-high 295 yards, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave delivered his best pitch for having a bye in the schedule following Saturday night’s 31-24 loss at Ohio State.
“I think this will be good for us,” Stave said. “It will be a good chance to get some guys healthy and to just relax and get football off your mind -- just a little bit -- because we have seven games left (in the regular season) and we have to make sure we make the most of them.”
Despite finishing with more yards in total offense than the Buckeyes (399 to 390), the Badgers didn’t make the most of their opportunities on a night when they were their own worst enemy, according to UW head coach Gary Andersen, especially during a mistake-riddled first half.
“Coach Andersen talks about how there are five to 10 plays in college football that usually (tip) the scales in a close game,” said linebacker Chris Borland. “They (the Buckeyes) played well, I don’t want to take anything away from them, but we gave them a lot and it’s unacceptable.
“You’re not going to win in the Big Ten on the road; you’re not going to beat a team the caliber of Ohio State by giving them so much. The way the guys fought back shows the character of our team.
“But close calls don’t count. We have to find a way to improve, we need to find a way to win.”
Since the 2010 Big Ten opener, a 34-24 loss at Michigan State, the script hasn’t changed for the Badgers, who have proven to be the equal of anybody inside or outside of the conference. But they have come up short in one-possession games; their last 12 losses have each been by seven points or less.
“It just seems that we’re always in this position where we can win the game or tie it at the end and we haven’t always been able to do that the past two years,” said UW wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. “We have to look at ourselves real deep and figure out what we need to do.”
During his postgame news conference, Andersen spoke about the need to “make those special plays at special moments” against a heavyweight like Ohio State, which has now won 17 straight games over two seasons. But it also comes down to executing assignments and doing all of the little things.
“It was frustrating because there was a ton of plays out there that should have been made that we didn’t make,” said safety Dezmen Southward. “The mark of any team that is good is a team that’s tough. We won’t quit fighting. We will rebound and we will play hard because that’s what we’re all about.”
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer saw those same things in Wisconsin. “I don’t think I said that in the beginning of my (postgame) statement,” he pointed out. “But I think the team we played is very good … (and) should be undefeated except for some ridiculous call (at Arizona State).”
Meyer also saw what a national television audience saw Saturday night -- he saw a dominating performance by the unheralded Abbrederis, who had 10 catches for a career-high 207 yards. “No. 4 for them,” Meyer said of Abbrederis, “he’s got my vote for All-Big Ten. He did an incredible job.”
Even though he became the first UW receiver to record more than 200 receiving yards in 10 years -- Lee Evans had a school-record 258 yards against Michigan State in 2013 -- Abbrederis said, “All that individual stuff doesn’t matter to me. I was just trying to get catches and help us win the game.”
|"We just have to go on to the next game and keep getting better," Abbrederis said. "I’d rather get out there and play another game (than have a bye)."
Abbrederis was primarily matched against All-America cornerback Bradley Roby, who was very physical in coverage. “I accepted the challenge,” said Abbrederis. “He’s a good player and I wanted to go against him the whole game. That was the matchup, but I didn’t do enough to help us win.”
Abbrederis kept coming back to the bottom line. “I made some good plays,” he said. “But obviously we didn’t win, so there were plays that I left out there. We just have to go on to the next game and keep getting better … I’d rather get out there and play another game (than have a bye).”
In addressing the chemistry that he has with Abbrederis, Stave said, “It feels good. Everyone knows the kind of player that he is and the kind of plays that he can make. Just having him out there to throw to really gives you a comfort level.
“I think our passing game is going to continue to get better.”
That will be especially true when tight end Jacob Pedersen returns to full strength.
“I thought we did a good job of protecting which gave us time to drive the ball down the field, that was very positive,” said Stave. “With the way we’ve been running the ball, they needed to pick one or the other (defensively). They tried to stop the run and we took advantage of it.”
Not even a 10-point halftime deficit, the result of a defensive breakdown on Ohio State’s final play of the second quarter, broke Wisconsin’s spirit in a hostile venue. “We knew that we had to play a good second half,” Stave said, “but we never counted ourselves out and we just kept fighting.”
Stave refused to dwell on the what-ifs …
“You can’t let those get the best of you,” he said. “It’s easy to sit down now and say, ‘Well, if we made this play or we had done that.’ But you can’t do that -- you can’t get down on yourself. We have to watch the film and learn from it. There’s going to be a lot to learn; there always is in a loss.”
Was there any takeaway from Columbus that will help the Badgers move forward? “We’re a competitive team and we’re going to continue to fight all the way to the end,” Stave said. “But I’ve known that from the beginning of the season.”
Andersen has known that all along, too. He also promised that “if we take care of business one game at a time I like our chances” to remain in the hunt for the Leaders Division title.
“Some way,” Andersen said, “there will be another big game for us to play to put ourselves in position to do some special things with this season.”
It could very well be the next game on the schedule -- Oct. 12 against Northwestern at Camp Randall Stadium -- particularly since the Wildcats will play host to Ohio State on Saturday in Evanston.
Until then, Andersen assured everyone that the Badgers would be “frustrated” and “irritated” over the Ohio State loss but “we’ll move on” during the bye week, the first of two in October.
“We’re always right there,” Abbrederis said. “We just can’t accept defeat.”