Oct. 30, 2011
After turning off the microphone as the analyst for the Badger Radio Network, UWBadgers.com Insider Mike Lucas offers some final thoughts on No. 12 Wisconsin's 33-29 loss to Ohio State in Columbus.
BY MIKE LUCAS
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Breakdowns can lead to heartbreak.
By giving up a 42-yard kickoff return by Jordan Hall, after you’ve scratched and clawed your way into a 29-26 lead with 1:18 left.
That being said, you have to give credit to the other guy. It was Hall’s lost fumble on a punt return that opened the door for Wisconsin to get back into the game after falling behind 17-7 in the third quarter. Hall redeemed himself with that kickoff return.
Breakdowns can lead to heartbreak.
By giving up a 40-yard touchdown pass from Braxton Miller to Devin Smith in the final 50 seconds.
Prior to that play, Miller had completed only six passes for 49 yards, the longest going for 15 yards. Before crossing the line of scrimmage, Miller made a heads-up play. Instead of going out of bounds, he spotted Smith, who was wide open in the end zone because of a breakdown in communication and assignments in the secondary.
If you neglect the little things, you end up with big problems. The result is measurable on the success or failure of a team.
Tough sledding early
Number one, Ohio State had a good plan of attack. They rushed John Simon off the edge, creating havoc. Simon created all sorts of problems in terms of assignments. The combination of Simon and Andrew Sweat helped shut down Wisconsin’s running game. That, along with a hard-hitting secondary that might have been the best tackling group of defensive backs that the Badgers will face all season long.
It’s a matter of trying to get a few first downs to keep the offense on the field. There were three drives in the first half where the Badgers came up fourth-and-1. On those drives, the Badgers faced a third-and-4, third-and-3 and third-and-1. That’s really what contributes to the lack of offense, or at least the lack of consistent offense; the inability to convert some of those third-and-fives or less. Coming into the game, Wisconsin was No. 2 in the country in third-down conversions.
The storyline doesn’t change. If you don’t make plays to keep drives alive, you put yourself in a hole.
Spotlight glares on turning points
I thought there was a bit of a fatigue factor late in the game. But more than that, when two teams are slugging it out toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring and neither one is doing much offensively, you look for turning points and big plays.
Ohio State gashed the Wisconsin defense at the start of the third quarter with a 57-yard run by Boom Herron. Late in the game, Miller was able to get outside and score almost untouched on a long run, showing great explosiveness.
But those two runs -- Herron’s led to a touchdown and Miller scored -- if you take that away from a yardage total and there isn’t much there for Ohio State.
What’s unacceptable, and has to be to the coaching staff, is for the second-straight week having a punt blocked. Even really good teams can’t overcome that. You just can’t make that type of mistake, especially on the road where your margin of error is smaller than it is at home.
So that has to reviewed. Maybe the personnel has to be reviewed. The Badgers need to find an answer there.
Badgers’ O shows resiliency, again
Not much was happening with the offense until late in the ballgame and, for the second week in a row, the Badgers showed some resiliency. Not only getting back into the game, but taking advantage of some Ohio State mistakes and taking the lead in the fourth quarter. That should not be unexpected, either, with a fourth-year starter at quarterback and some of the weapons that he has.
It might clichéd, but the overall character that this club still has despite back-to-back losses is apparent. I sensed talking to a number of players afterwards that, while they were disappointed, angry and emotionally drained, that they aren’t going to quit on themselves, their teammates or the season.
Will it be tough to get them back this week? Yes, both physically and probably mentally. But they’re coming home and they have to understand the reality of the situation. Nobody has to tell them. They don’t have to go onto a message board to know what’s happened to them the last two weeks.
Road to Indianapolis now bumpier
There is still a path to the Big Ten championship game, and it isn’t unreal. In addition to winning their next four games, the Badgers will need Penn State to lose to either Nebraska at home or at Ohio State before coming to Camp Randall on Nov. 26. They also need Ohio State to lose one of their remaining four games (Indiana, at Purdue, Penn State and at Michigan).
What they lost Saturday night was control of their own destiny. Now they need help.
But before they can ask for help, they have to help themselves.