Notes: Third Downs A Struggle for Wisconsin

Wisconsin's offense continues to be up-and-down, which is causing the Badgers' third-down conversion percentage to take a beating.

MADISON - Despite having one of the top tailbacks in the country, Wisconsin can’t seem to consistently move the chains on third down.

Entering the game 13-for-34 on third downs through their first three games, the Badgers marginally improved their total after going 5-for-12 in their 27-10 victory over South Florida. For the season, Wisconsin is 18-for-46 (39.1 percent) on third down, and knows things aren’t going to get easier with Big Ten play beginning next week.

“I just think we need to open up and run better and do better in blocking schemes, but it’s everybody and not just one person,” sophomore Corey Clement said. “Hopefully we can attack down the field more and get behind their corners because I believe we have great receivers as well we just have to get them the ball … We just have to come together as one.”

Center Dan Voltz admits he’s been part of the reason why Wisconsin has struggled on third down this year, but credited South Florida’s scheme Saturday for its ability to slow down Wisconsin.

“They were bringing some slants and angles and they brought them at the right time versus the right play,” Voltz said. “That’s all the credit to them and we have to get better.”

The struggles became obvious when Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen chose to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from one instead of going for it. Wisconsin coaches have gambled in short yardage situations in past seasons in similar situations. Andersen cited the importance of making it a two score game. He cited the obvious in saying he didn’t have faith in the offensive line.

“We had not been doing a good job on the base out play,” Andersen said. “Tanner’s foot got stepped on two or three times when he was trying to pull out and hand the ball off and we fumble the ball when we got the ball in the redz one once before. So at that point, in my opinion, the right thing to do was to kick that field goal and to get a two-score lead.”

Kicker Rafael Gaglianone was able to convert on his kick to make the score 20-10 but Andersen’s choice was unpopular with some of his players.

“I wish we could have dived it in, downhill running team, why not run it in give us a better chance?” Clement said. “I think our o-line would have held it up the best they could have, but it was coach’s choice and he did what he had to do.”

Voltz said after the game that senior right tackle Rob Havenstein pulled the offensive line together in the locker room and made it clear that the way they were playing was unacceptable, which included the inability to convert on six third-down opportunities in the first half.

“That’s squarely on us we didn’t get the third and short done,” Havenstein said. “Our third down percentage needs to get better that something were going to work on and really focus on this week in practice.”

Erickson Continues to Lead WRs

If Wisconsin’s passing game was in need of a silver lining: the Badgers got one in the form of Alex Erickson, Jordan Fredrick and Kenzel Doe all recording receptions for a combined eight catches for 117 yards.

The numbers don’t jump off the page, but consider it was the second-best performance by the UW receivers this season, trailing the 11 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown the group (i.e. mostly Alex Erickson) delivered against Western Illinois.

“We’re getting better every single day in practice and at games, and it’s starting to show a little bit,” said Erickson. “We just have to keep continuing to work on it in practice and make the most of our opportunities.”

Erickson has been the shining star of the passing game for Wisconsin. After his team-high six catches for 91 yards against the Bulls, Erickson has 21 catches for 256 yards and a touchdown for the season.

“It’s good so far,” said Erickson. “Obviously today was a little bit of a struggle there for us, but it was good to see us fight through the adversity and trust each other as teammates and just keep rolling.”

The receptions for Doe (nine yards) and Fredrick (17) were their first catches of the season.

Rough Go for the Bulls

A fire started in the basement of the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago, caused havoc and headaches for thousands of weekend travels. It also didn’t make life easier for the USF football team.

Embarking on their first road game of the season, USF was rerouted to La Crosse and forced to bus the approximate 150 extra miles to Madison Friday. Then on Saturday after leaving the hotel, one of USF’s buses was struck by a car in route to the stadium. Nobody was injured.

The Bulls responded to the adversity by committing 11 penalties, including three personal foul penalties and one pass interference penalty that bailed out Wisconsin’s offense. The Bulls also committed two turnovers, including one inside the UW 15.

“I told my football team you can’t beat a top-25 team with 11 penalties and two turnovers at their place,” said USF coach Willie Taggart. “It’s hard to beat a team like that.”

Extra Points: UW has scored a touchdown on its first drive of the second half in all four games this season. All four drives have been 75 yards. Against USF the Badgers opened the second half with an 8-play, 75-yard drive lasting 4:17 … Wisconsin has scored at least 20 points in 17 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in school history… Overall, UW owned a time of possession advantage of 40:51 to 19:09. The Badgers have owned the time of possession category in all four games this season.

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