Fixing the Little Things

Scoring 31 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, against one of the top defenses in the country, Wisconsin's offensive leaders know that they executed its game plan against the Spartans. But if Wisconsin wants a chance at a rematch with Michigan State, the Badgers have to fix the little problems that plagued them Saturday.

MADISON - What a difference the little things make in a game decided by one yard at the final whistle.

As he studied the film for corrections, sophomore left guard Travis Frederick recognized that Wisconsin's offense did ‘pretty well' against Michigan State's heralded defense, putting up 443 yards of total offense, doubling the Spartans rushing total and averaging 7.1 yards per carry.

But as efficiently as Wisconsin was moving the ball, missed blitz pick-ups that had been studied in practice and a couple false start penalties cost the Badgers at delivering a haymaker punch, ultimately costing them in a 37-31 defeat in East Lansing.

"There are a lot of little things that we need to clean up," Frederick said. "If we can get those fixed, we can move on."

One of the plays Frederick mentioned was the back-to-back tackles for loss that led to a safety and Michigan State's first points. The pressure on a first down came from right tackle Josh Oglesby, resulting in Montee Ball being tackled for a three-yard loss. The pressure on second down came from Frederick's side of the line, resulted in Wilson being trapped in the pocket and a safety, starting a snowball effect that led to 21 more points that quarter for the Spartans.

The other was a third-and-2 from the Michigan State 14 in the second quarter where the offensive line couldn't give enough push to allow running back James White a 1-yard gain, a play that wasn't blocked well enough and it was a play Wisconsin had worked on in practice against a similar defense Michigan State was running.

Throw in the fact that quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked three times and hurried five times, Frederick said the offensive line took a share of the disappointment in not giving their quarterback enough time to hit some open receivers that could have changed the complexion of the game.

"We are not quite as efficient as we have been in the past, but you've got to remember we were playing a great defense, too," said Wilson. "So it's going to be back and forth. And I think we missed a couple opportunities here and there, for whatever it's worth."

But for all the bemoaning being surrounded by how the game ended or how the team lost control in the second quarter, what has been lost in the shuffle is the effectiveness in which Wisconsin's offense continues to click at.

After scoring at least 31 points for the seventh straight game, the Badgers rank fifth in the country in scoring offense, averaging 47.4 points, second in third-down percentage (48-of-82 for 58.5 percent) and has converted 32 of its 38 red zone attempts into touchdowns, leading the country with an 84.2 TD percentage in the red zone.

Against Michigan State, the Badgers scored on their first two trips into the red zone in the first quarter and their final two trips in the fourth quarter, helping erase a 14-point deficit on the road.

"We executed out game plan," said Frederick. "The things we did in practice are the things we did in the game. We saw a few things and adjusted to a few things but for the most part, all the looks we practiced where the things we went over."

With the addition of Wilson, Wisconsin has become a more explosive offense. The Badgers have 18 scoring drives that have lasted less than two minutes and already have 46 plays of longer than 20 yards, including at least four plays of 20 yards in every game this season. Last season UW had 55 plays of 20-plus yards and 24 scoring drives that lasted less than two minutes in 13 games.

The challenge now is to parlay that success against Ohio State, as the Badgers have completed just three plays of 20-plus yards in the last two meetings combined.

"I thought both Nebraska and Michigan State had very good front sevens and (Ohio State) is right up there," Frederick said.

When asked on Monday of how the team responds to its first real adversity of the season, Wilson, one of the team's four captains, didn't believe it would be a hard sell. Wisconsin is still in possession to play for a conference championship and a Rose Bowl bid and still has plenty of leaders and character in the locker room.

After all, despite all the things that went wrong, Wisconsin's offense came back against a hostile crowd, gave them a chance to get to overtime, by continuing to fight and believe. That's the main reason nobody's confidence is shaken on offense after proving it against one of the conference's best.

"Every play and every possession, we are going to go out there and do our job," Frederick said. "If you don't score on one drive, you are going to score on the next drive. That's our mentality and it's our goal to score on every drive. Realistically that's not possible, but we have to work on things like changing field position.

"Whatever happened last week happened last week and we're going to clean up the things we messed up on. We're going to move forward and take the things that we learned and use them to our advantage this week."


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