How else could you describe a unit that look so disjointed, so inept that the fans don't seem to have enough fingers to point at all the problems that popped up during a disturbing 10-7 to unranked Oregon State at Reser Stadium Saturday?
Matt Canada's play calling? A lack of push from the offensive line? More mistakes from the secondary? Whatever your cup of coffee, it's a complaint that's duly noted.
"It's on us," said senior left tackle and captain Ricky Wagner. "We've got to go back and practice a little bit better and prepare better. That was definitely a great team. Everybody made bad plays today, including me, very bad plays. (We) just got to forget about it."
That will be easier said than done, especially since Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema spent the week listing dozens of players he thought was going to make a big jump. While most of those players on defense made strides, it was the players he didn't mention that cost Wisconsin its 11th consecutive 2-0 start.
One week after completing 19 of 23 passes and not turning the ball over, quarterback Danny O'Brien looked like the complete opposite. O'Brien was inconsistent and careless with the football, two traits he didn't show throughout fall camp.
It was also the reason half of the Badgers' 12 drives went only three plays (excluding a knee at the end of the first half) and only registered 207 yards of total offense, 64 coming on its final series (and ironically it's only scoring series).
"Angry at the loss," said O'Brien, as he completing only 51.3 percent of his passes (20-for-39) for 171 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one fumble. "Disappointed is probably a better word for it. It's over, we're not pleased at all. I think the thing that's going to have to happen, there's so much football left, we have to look at the tape starting tomorrow and make sure we don't make these same mistakes again."
O'Brien's counterpart was far more effective. After assuming command of the starting job in last year's 35-0 beat down at the hands of Wisconsin in Madison, sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion completed 30-for-48 passes for 285 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers.
Mannion led four drives of at least nine plays and five drives of at least 40 yards. Wisconsin had two and one, respectively, which is why the Badgers never held a time of possession edge in any quarter.
"We were just disappointed," said junior defensive end David Gilbert, as the Badgers' defensive line was held without a sack for the second straight game. "This team obviously wasn't better than us. They beat us, but they scored a field goal and a touchdown. For the game to be so close and us to lose, we're obviously disappointed to be so close to a comeback. It's a game that shouldn't have been that close in the first place."
After rushing 32 times last week, Montee Ball rushed only 15 times for 61 yards and didn't score a touchdown for the first time in 21 games. As a team, the Badgers rushed for 35 total yards, a lack of success that fell on the young offensive's inability to get any forward momentum.
Wisconsin went 2-for-14 on third downs, not converting its first one until less than two minutes remained. The Badgers averaged 3.4 yards per play while the Beavers averaged 4.7, racking up 354 yards of total offense, a sign that Wisconsin's defense was fortunate to only give up 10 points.
"I don't think we gave our kids a chance on some of the plays just to be positive on third down," said Bielema. "We put ourselves in third-and-extra long, not manageable downs. You're playing behind the chains in that regard. Obviously, we didn't handle some of the pressure very well."
That fortunate was prevalent from the start with Wisconsin stopping a 13-play drive in the first quarter that advanced as far as the 24-yard line. With Oregon State choosing to go for it rather than take the lead with an opening field goal, Chris Borland tipped a fourth-down pass to cause a turnover on downs.
That was the theme throughout the game, a bend-but-don't-break defense bailing out a bungling offense. The Badgers – shutout in the first half for the first time since 2006 - finished with only 64 total yards of offense on 24 plays (2.67 yards per play).
"The performance in the first half offensively was just unacceptable," said Bielema. "That starts with me. Best rhythm we had all day was the two-minute (drill) at the end, so we've got to find a plan that gives us a chance to play in rhythm and make our guys make plays."
Oregon State has 238 yards of total offense on 44 plays (5.41 per play), but somehow never made it into the red zone or the end zone. The only damage the Beavers could muster was a 43-yard field goal by Trevor Romaine. But with the Badgers letting the Beavers stick around, Oregon State finally put a touchdown on the board.
Balancing the run and pass on the first drive of the second half, Oregon State capped an 11-play, 86-yard drive with Mannion hitting a wide-open Brandin Cooks for a 20-yard touchdown on third-and-12. Just like Northern Iowa's three touchdowns in week one, Cooks' score was a result of a coverage bust as miscommunication between free safety Dezmen Southward and cornerback Marcus Cromartie led to the open man.
"That was a play we've seen before on film, we've worked on in practice," said Southward. "They're trying to get me out of the way, by running a guy under, then vacate the middle, then fake outside and come inside on Marcus. It's a very, very tough route to cover for one. But again, it's something we covered. We just have to keep working to get better at."
Wisconsin tried to make it interesting late, finally breaking its run of futility when O'Brien hit Jacob Pedersen for an 11-yard touchdown with 1:31 remaining. Kicker Kyle French appeared to have recovered his own onside kick that would have given the Badgers one last shot at points, but a video review ruled French touched the ball just nine yards from where it was kicked.
Television replays were far from inconclusive, which is the opposite of what needs to happen in order for a play to be overturned, but it wasn't so much that blunder as all the ones made by the Wisconsin offense that cost the Badgers.
"We just have to keep working, not let it faze you ... and talk and let them know the season's far from over," said senior Mike Taylor. "We've got a lot of things we can get better at and a lot of things we can accomplish."