MADISON - Before completing flushing the loss to No.3 Alabama, senior quarterback Joel Stave recognizes that, while a different team and a different year, the mood entering week two of Wisconsin’s college football season is completely different.
The parallels are similar between the 2014 and ’15 season openers, losing to a ranked SEC team on a neutral site in Texas, but the story of how the game unfolded is entirely different.
Wisconsin felt it let a prime opportunity slip away a season ago, leading LSU by 17 points in the second half before key injuries on defense and ineptness at quarterback led to the Badgers’ downfall against a beatable team.
This season, even though the Badgers were down three key pieces, Wisconsin did a lot of positive things against a No.3 Alabama team that looks simply spectacular.
“It’s a little bit different mood than last year, last year being as close as we were and to not be able to get that one is disappointing,” said Stave, as the Badgers continue preparations to host Miami (OH) at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“Obviously any time you lose it’s disappointing. You want to win. That’s what you put in all the time and preparation for, but I thought there were a lot of positives we could take away from that game. Guys are doing a good job focusing on those positives and making sure we’re not dwelling on the negative.”
For a roster that is comprised of 45 percent freshmen, the Crimson Tide provided a challenge the Badgers likely won’t see the remainder of the regular season. Watching the film, head coach Paul Chryst singled out multiple players on defense – Joe Schobert, Sojourn Shelton, Vince Biegel and T.J. Edwards to name a few – for their performances and the offense for dealing with the crowd noise to the point where there were no pre-snap penalties.
More importantly, Chryst saw effort from start to finish, evident by the Badgers scoring a late touchdown with the victory out of reach, and a team willing to get better.
“There was some things that we can build on really in all three phases: offensively, defensively and special teams,” said Chryst. “And clearly there's some areas we need to clean up and improve upon … I think we have a chance to be a good team ourselves, if we build on and improve in certain areas.”
DEEPER O-LINE ROTATION
Despite rushing for only 40 yards Saturday, the program’s lowest total since being held to 19 during a home loss to Michigan State in 2012, Wisconsin made no changes to its offensive line depth chart that was released this week. That doesn’t mean things won’t be tweaked as the game progresses, especially when it comes to redshirt freshman Micah Kapoi.
After being given all the first team reps at right guard during the team’s lone fall camp scrimmage and making his UW debut against Alabama, Kapoi has been splitting reps with starter Walker Williams at the position this week.
Kapoi entered fall camp buried on the depth, not a surprising position considering he admitted to having a terrible spring camp picking up all the movement the defense was throwing at the offense. The result was thinking too much and not playing with flow.
“After that (spring) game, I just told myself that I had to play better,” said Kapoi. “I knew I had to play better. Spring wasn’t good for me. I need to take advantage of every opportunity I get, work hard and see what happens.”
Williams has also been sharing time with Hayden Biegel at right tackle. Both players were responsible for giving up a sack against Alabama.
The inconsistency in pass protection and lack of push up front limited Wisconsin to only 21 rushing attempts (including three sacks) – the program’s lowest output since 1995.
MIAMI LOOKING FOR THE UPSET
Much like Wisconsin used the game against Alabama as a litmus test, Miami (OH) second year head coach Chuck Martin is hoping to get a good gauge where the Redhawks are at as they prepare for their Mid-American Conference opener October 3 at Kent State.
Returning only three starters on offense and having 10 sophomore of younger in the two deep, Martin is hoping to build some confidence in a program that is 3-22 the last three years and has lost 17 consecutive games away from home.
“It’s a daunting task,” Martin said. “They have a very, very good football team on both sides of the ball. We’re going to have to obviously play probably above our best to stay in it and then we’re going to hopefully prey on a couple Wisconsin mistakes.”
EXTRA POINTS: Chryst said tailback Corey Clement (left groin) is a game-time decision tomorrow … senior safety Michael Caputo has been medically cleared and will likely play … Wisconsin has won 32 straight nonconference home games, the eighth longest streak in the modern era of NCAA history (since 1946).