Nov. 12, 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. 16 Wisconsin’s 42-13 win over Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium.
BY MIKE LUCAS
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- If Minnesota was going to have any chance to slow down the Wisconsin offense Saturday in Minneapolis, the Gophers had to get the Badgers into some negative-yardage situations. That has been the plan all season for the Gophs, who have tried to disrupt offenses with pressure on the quarterback.
The problem with that strategy is that, in order to execute the plan, Minnesota had to take chances by voiding areas with blitzing corners and linebackers.
On UW’s first offensive possession, Russell Wilson was sacked twice, once by cornerback Kyle Henderson and once by linebacker Gary Tinsley. But the Badgers were able to overcome a third-and-13 and a second-and-13 on that series. In addition, they also had a first-and-20 because of a holding penalty, but the Badgers were able to get out of the hole each time.
Wilson put a punctuation mark on the drive with his recognition of another corner blitz by Henderson. With Nick Toon occupying the safety, Wilson found Montee Ball open in the flat for an easy touchdown. Wilson was 6-of-6 with that completion and threw to five different receivers on a drive that was fueled by preparation during the week, playcalling during the game and ultimately the execution by the quarterback and his receivers.
I don’t know if Russell has ever thrown a perfect game, but he came awfully close as only one of his passes hit the turf.
Still searching for special teams answers
The Badgers have proven to have a Big Ten championship-caliber offense, whether they are running or throwing the football. The defense is not at that level, but it doesn’t have to be. Not as long as the offense continues to click and the Badgers don’t give up points and/or field position with their special teams.
Therein is the potential problem. It emerged again on the kickoff coverage against the Gophers. Duane Bennett will never be mistaken for Devin Hester, but he burned the Badgers with kick returns of 45 yards and 96 yards for a touchdown. Back to the drawing board. Seriously.
All the coaches can do is evaluate and tweak personnel and maybe scheme, which they did this week leading up to the ball game in Minnesota. They even devoted extra time in practice to kickoff coverage, but they still had noticeable breakdowns.
Until they fix the problem, maybe they have to bury their kickoffs, whatever the tactic -- directional, popup or ground ball.
In order for them to achieve the goals they still have left to achieve, they’re going to have to find some answers for special teams.
Badgers thankful for help from Huskers, Boilers
In our radio booth, we had two televisions. One was on Nebraska-Penn State, and the other was on Ohio State-Purdue. Let me be completely honest: I hate scoreboard watching. Hate it. I’d much rather be in control than not. But in this case, it was energizing because the outcome favored the Badgers in both cases.
If you’re going to thank anybody, thank Bruce Gaston of Purdue, who blocked an extra point which would have lifted Ohio State to a 21-20 lead near the end of regulation.
Also thank Lavonte David, Nebraska’s middle linebacker who made a critical stop on fourth-and-short to prevent Penn State's Silas Redd from picking up a first down. Those were two of the biggest plays in the outcomes of those games.
The Badgers needed help, they got help and then they took care of business against Minnesota. That’s going to have to be the same plan they take with them on the road to Illinois next week.