From the Field: Purdue

Back on the winning side, Badger Nation goes down to the field for its sideline analysis from the last few weeks.

-After the obvious failures of his Special Teams, Badgers Head Coach Bret Bielema resorted to multiple personnel changes as the Purdue game went on. Eventually a smaller, faster unit was the answer for kick coverage teams. James White and reserve wide receiver Connor Cummins saw extensive play on kick coverage teams. That seemed to work, but the main improvement came with the return of Philip Welch. Welch managed touchbacks and those were a huge improvement.

-Antonio Fenelus continued his strong play during the Purdue game. His shut down coverage is getting noticed, but not as frequently commented on is Antonio's improvement in defending the run. Though Fenelus was flagged for pass interference against Purdue his coach wasn't sold on the (very) questionable call. Bielema asked the officials if they saw Fenelus' eyes, in other words he was looking back at the ball. This means he was doing what was expected of him to avoid a penalty while still defending his man. Oddly, the flag was thrown by the referee who was behind the play. This means he didn't have the best view of the play or of Fenelus, who was in front of his man and looking back for the ball. The official in front of the play was looking right at it and never reached for his flag.

-Nonetheless Purdue coach Danny Hope felt the early penalties went against his team and said so during his press conference. Perhaps Hope missed his lineman guiding Beau Allen by the facemask.

-The decline in production by James White must be of some concern for the UW coaching staff. James looked like he was slightly favoring his right leg during warm-ups before the Purdue game. In addition the available personnel and formations haven't been as favorable to White's game. James did some of his best running in 2010 out of spread formations with multiple receivers and with Lance Kendricks at tight end. Only recently has Jeff Duckworth shown some development as a third receiver. In 2010 the Badgers could rely on Nick Toon, David Gilreath and Jared Abbrederis for most games. And while Jacob Pedersen has been an accomplished pass catcher and reliable as a block on the outside, his blocking in tight formations has been suspect on occasion. Jake Byrne is a much more reliable blocker for strong-side running attacks, but still is not a pass-catching threat. This all came to a head at a crucial point in the game against MSU. Late in the first half the Badgers faced third-and-2 yards at the MSU 14. Montee Ball had to leave the field with what seemed to be some concerns about a concussion. James White was called on the run out of a tight formation, over right tackle behind Pedersen. This was playing against UW's strength. Pedersen was swallowed up on his block and White couldn't make an extra yard on his own. With Ball still on the sidelines Bielema opted for the field goal try on fourth down. Welch's attempt was blocked and momentum swung back to MSU.

-One reason UW can't spread the field as often as possible is the slowed development of Manasseh Garner. Garner's injury and surgery came at the worst time for his development. Practice time switches dramatically as the season starts. Coaches are forced to spend more time with the starters and in game planning. Garner's injury at the end of fall camp limited his developmental time as he learned his new position. He is still showing some problems with proper technique in blocking. He has some difficulty in getting his body close in on the target and extends his arms, lessening the block and making it more likely to be flagged for holding. Manasseh should be one of the chief beneficiaries of practice at the bowl game.

-Bradie Ewing appears to tip his blocks when in the 3-point stance. He'll sneak a quick glance at his blocking assignment. Hopefully he is cognizant of this tendency.

That's all for this week.

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