Oct. 23, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- After turning off the microphone as the analyst for the Badger Radio Network, UWBadgers.com Insider Mike Lucas offers some final thoughts on No. 4 Wisconsin's 37-31 loss to Michigan State Spartan Stadium.
Moment magnified mistakes … and need for luck
Mistakes are magnified in tight ballgames. The Badgers gave up a safety, had a punt blocked that was returned for a touchdown and had a field goal blocked, yet they rallied in the second half thanks in part to a defense making some key stops and an offense that made some big plays.
Sometimes you simply need the luck of the bounce to go your way. On that final Michigan State series, Brendan Kelly knocked the ball loose from Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins and the ball was rolling around on the turf. MSU lineman Joel Foreman flopped on it and couldn’t control it, but Dan France recovered it.
Chris Borland was really close to recovering the loose ball, and I had a flashback to that Purdue game when Scott Starks and Robert Brooks sandwiched Kyle Orton. They had a little magic at the end of that game with the scoop and score.
That didn’t happen Saturday on the fumble by Cousins, and then the biggest bounce of all was on the Hail Mary that won the game for the Spartans. It went right off the facemask for B.J. Cunningham and into the arms of Keith Nichol, who had been rerouted out of bounds but was a legal receiver because it touched another player first.
It was a very weird sequence at the end of the game that cost Wisconsin a chance to get it to overtime. Moving forward as a team, you have to draw on the ability to rally and get back into the game than you do on the pain you felt after the loss.
Don’t let the Hail Mary beat you again
What’s the old cliché? You don’t want to get beat by the same team twice. You can’t let Michigan State or what happened here to beat you against Ohio State on the road next week. I think that was Bret Bielema’s emphasis in his comments to the team afterwards. Learn something from this and move forward.
Divisional showdown looms in Columbus
The players were obviously disappointed and maybe shocked at how it ended, but there’s a reality to what lies ahead, and I think that’s sinking in. It will take some time, but once they get off the airplane they’ll understand that next weekend becomes even bigger. And it is. There’s more weight given to divisional games than cross-divisional matchups.
There’s a very good chance Wisconsin and Michigan State could meet again in Indianapolis, but you have to go back out on the road and prove yourself all over again if you want to get there.
To a player in the locker room, although they were crushed by the way the game ended, the Badgers still have the faith that they’re a really good football team. And they’ll get a chance to prove it starting next week.