Running up the score. Poor sportsmanship. Bret Bielema is a 'blank' who should 'blank' himself with a 'blank'.
All of these phrases and more were thrown around on message boards Saturday and Sunday, bashing the Badgers for kicking field turf on the poor feelings of the Hoosier players. Mike Francesa of New York's WFAN radio railed about Bielema's poor consideration for his amateur opponent. A New York Post columnist took time away from his scheduled A-rod bashing to dub Bielema the proud new leader of the March for Degradation. Even ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning took a break from their East Coast opinions to weigh in on a Midwest atrocity.
Yes, hate poured in on all sides from people who likely did not watch the game.
And really, Bielema's actions aren't even hard to defend. It is only difficult deciding where to start the explanation of the obvious.
First of all, this was a fellow Big Ten opponent the Badgers were destroying, not an FCS school simply collecting a pay check. And it wasn't even a completely helpless conference foe, the Hoosiers somehow did manage to win four games this season and lost three others by a touchdown or less. So trying to make the Badgers out into some power-school bullies beating up on the nerd school with glasses doesn't really ring authentic.
More importantly, however, there isn't any actual evidence to support the accusation besides simply (ignorantly) pointing to the final score.
Let's take an actual look at the stats. The Badgers ran the ball 47 times against 21 passes — not exactly forcing the ball down the field. Starting quarterback Scott Tolzien left the game before the third quarter ended. The fifth-year senior left side of the line and future NFL draft picks Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt watched the second half from the bench. Starting running back Montee Ball carried the rock just twice to open the third quarter. J.J. Watt enjoyed a relaxing second half on the bench.
Then there were the actual record setting touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
The first came on a pick-six from Aaron Henry while his mom was in attendance for the first time ever at Camp Randall. But, in all honesty, Henry should have considered the Hoosiers feelings and pulled up out of bounds instead of running unimpeded to the end zone before running off to celebrate with his mother and sister.
Next came Jon Budmayr's 74-yard bomb to Jared Abbrederis. Of the three fourth- quarter touchdowns, this is the most questionable. However, the pass did come on a passing third down and it was from one freshman to another. Can Budmayr really be blamed for trying to grab some glory in what might be his last pass of the year? Obviously it was insensitive to all the hard work the Hoosiers pass defense put in, but still, I think he might deserve a reprieve for throwing deep.
Finally, we have Nate Tice — the fourth-string quarterback — running in for a 17- yard touchdown in what will almost certainly be the only time Tice ever sees the field at Camp Randall. Bielema said after the game that Tice might not even run a 5.5 40-yard dash. Both Carimi and Moffitt expressed confidence they could beat him in a race. If Tice scores on your 'D' from 17 yards out, yeah...you probably got what you had coming.
But the raging moralists are probably right. Bielema could use a lesson or two from the Auburn coaching staff on how to handle precocious young minds.
Michael is the co-author of the blog "Paulbunyansaxe.com" He can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on twitter @michaelbleach.