Wisconsin is doing what it wants to do offensively, namely running the ball with Montee Ball et al. Stanford, meanwhile, has gotten away from its strengths – finding Zach Ertz in the passing game and using an aggressive pass rush to set a tone on defense.
I asked my friends for their thoughts throughout the game. My brother advises that the O line protected well on both the run plays and flea flicker on the opening drive. My Stanford '08 buddy reports that Wisconsin girls are cuties and if we were staying longer we could have "done some good work." Ladies and gentlemen, the youth of America. Who says our country isn't in good hands?
Immediately to my right, David Lombardi, a dapper 24 himself, suggests we sell out against the run as he still doesn't respect the Badger passing game. I hesitantly agree. He and the Daily's Miles Bennett-Smith each independently mention the three tipped passes Wisconsin caught, and that the luck can't possibly continue for another 30 minutes. Fair enough.
End of third quarter: Stanford 17, Wisconsin 14
On the opening series of the half, Wisconsin sees their second down pass batted and, sure enough, luck turns as no Badger is there for the tip-drill reception. On third down, Wisconsin's screen to James White looks to have first-down yardage, but like A.J. Tarpley did with the first half drawing to a close, White is thinking big gainer before he's secured the catch, and ends up with a drop for his efforts. ‘Sconnie punts, and shadows have completely engulfed the field as Stanford takes over on their own 21.
Stanford 17, Wisconsin 14, 14:03 left, third quarter
Taylor gets next to nothing on first down and then Hogan should have given to Taylor on second down, but instead keeps on a misread zone read, and gets nothing for his efforts either. After a false start, Drew Terrell becomes a defender on third down, making a jarring hit to separate Devin Smith from the ball on what would have been the game's first turnover. Instead, after a short return, Wisconsin has the ball on their 42, after the Badgers picked up almost 20 yards on the exchange of punts.
Stanford 17, Wisconsin 14, 12:07 left, third quarter
Expect a slower second half after we cruised in real time through the first half, and I imagine the Disney Corporation has some unused ad inventory they need to account for. On the field, Kevin Hogan needs to refind his touch, which has eluded him since the end of the first as he's overthrowing the ball. But first Wisconsin will have a crack at their first lead of the game. They start their quest, naturally, with a handoff to Montee Ball, which gains but a yard to their own 44. Melvin Gordon, the No. 3 RB, stretches the defense horizontally to his left on second down, but gains only four yards. Wisconsin has to use its first timeout before the third and five snap, which is not altogether trivial in a close game (and for a team that has a horrendous record in close contests this season). Of course, timeouts allow the defense to regroup too, and Terrence Brown and the Card appear to have done just that during the last whistle. Brown drops White for a one-yard loss to get the Stanford defense off the field.
In his home reds, Stepfan Taylor gets two heading to his left on first down. (It appears Wisconsin has plugged whatever deficiency the Cardinal offense abused in the early going.) On second down, Hogan holds for too long before finding Taylor behind the line on a hopeless throw into the short-side flat. Taylor, naturally, reverses field, gets several cutback blocks and hits the X button twice as two Badgers whiff on spin moves and Stanford picks up four the hard way. On third down, nothing is going deep either, as the Badgers have been able to bottle up Stanford's playmakers outside. Hogan has to check it down to Drew Terrell, and it's Daniel Zychlinski time again.
Chase Hammond is open but alligator-arms a second-down bomb down the left sideline, moments before Jordan Richards explodes with his shoulder into Hammond's body. Hammond takes several minutes before walking off under his own power, and Richards deserves credit for a clean, hard hit, but that was a big hole in Stanford's pass D and the second Wisconsin drop of the half. We again go to commercial with 6:43 left in the quarter and a third and seven pending.
On third down, Phillips again has time as Stanford cannot, for the first game this season, generate pass rush. But Henry Anderson does the next-best thing and gets his hands up to bring on the punt team. Stanford catches a huge break as Usua Amanam is called only for the five-yard running into the kicker and not the 15-yard roughing the kicker variety. As a result, Wisconsin declines the penalty and Stanford does reassume possession, albeit at their own eight.
Stanford 17, Wisconsin 14, 6:30 left, third quarter
Hogan bootlegs to his right for 14 on the first snap of the series before Taylor runs to his left for three. Wisconsin blows up a screen right to Hewitt on second down, and on third down from the 26, Hogan does just enough dancing and diving to make Wisconsin accept a holding call, lest they risk Stanford going for it and converting on fourth and one. On the resulting third and 17, Hogan again can do nothing in the passing game, and has to run for four yards before the Cardinal punt. Give Zychlinski credit for a beauty of a kick that pushes the Badgers back to their 27.
After Ball gains four and then three, Wisconsin has a third and three at their 34 with under three minutes left in a scoreless third. They come out in a shotgun, three-wide look, and convert on an 11-yard hook to Abbrederis.
The game has been remarkably lacking in big plays. No turnovers to speak of, and the longest touchdown was all of 16 yards. Hard to score on either of these defenses five yards at a time, which goes a long way in explaining the scoreless third. Josh Mauro tries to keep the recent trend going on second and two at the Stanford 47, getting under his man to drop the running back in his tracks for a four-yard loss. On third and six, Phillips is flushed from the pocket, but can only pick up five, as Wisconsin is grudgingly forced to punt. Stanford will have it at their 15 with mere seconds on the third-quarter clock.
Stanford 17, Wisconsin 14, five seconds left third quarter
A three-yard dumpoff to Taylor brings the third quarter to a fitting close. 93,359 is the announced attendance, right on line with prior years' marks. Fewer red in seasons past though, I'll bet. John Cooper, my favorite Ohio State football coach of all time (just 1-9-1 against Michigan) is introduced over the break, alongside Michigan QB Brian Griese and USC OL Ron Yary, for their performances in Rose Bowls past.
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