Offense struggles, Bernstein steps up

Fullback converts to tailback and produces big numbers

For John Stocco and the Wisconsin offense, much of Saturday's 16-3 win was yet another struggle in the 2004 season, despite getting the victory.

"I felt like I didn't play very well at all," Stocco said. "I've got to play a lot better, but I know I will. I just have to keep improving, but yeah, definitely that's not acceptable. But I thought everyone did a great job today, offense, defense, take your hats off to them again. But I know I've got to get a lot better and I will."

Stocco once again flashed his potential at several points of the game. On Wisconsin's first scoring drive of the evening Stocco showed poise completing a 17-yard pass to wide receiver Brandon Williams to convert a third-and-12. Three plays later, the sophomore quarterback capped the drive himself with a five-yard touchdown scamper.

Unfortunately for the Badgers, Stocco struggled for much of the remainder of the game, throwing a pair of interceptions while completing just 12 of 29 passes for 150 yards.

"I think it was just execution, decision-making," Stocco said. "Both of the picks were bad decisions, and we can't have that."

Wisconsin's running game failed to lend Stocco a hand in the first half, netting just 13 yards in the first 30 minutes of action. Luckily for UW, fullback Matt Bernstein was up to the task when asked to carry the load at tailback after halftime with Booker Stanley and Jamil Walker both battling injuries.

"He really brought a lot of personality to the football team, and he made a huge difference," offensive coordinator Brian White said. "From the first carry in the second half, he really played fast. I think due to the fact that he was fasting he was probably a little quicker than normal."

Bernstein, who is Jewish, was fasting until approximately 5 p.m. for the holiday of Yom Kippur, a day of atonement for the past year's sins in the Jewish religion. On a holy day, the Scarsdale, New York native had a day to remember, totaling 123 yards, 120 of which came in the second half.

"He was fired up, he had some turkey on the sidelines," White said. "Once it was official that the sun had set, he had some turkey that some people had for him."

Bernstein did not warm up with the team prior to game time due to his religious responsibilities.

"It's been a laid back day," Bernstein said. "Not eating, not drinking anything, just fasting for the whole day. I went to temple with my family this weekend. It's been a tough day, but game time rolls around, I'm happy that it was at 5 o'clock so I could play. Once it came around, it's time to play, you don't eat, you don't drink, there's no excuses why you should play bad, why you should play really good. I did as much as I could, I ate on the sidelines right before the game, I warmed up for five minutes on the sidelines, so everything just worked out."

Despite having an atypical game day, Bernstein was ready to answer the call when the Badger offense needed him to produce.

"At halftime, we just talked about it, Coach White came in and he was like, ‘Bernie, you're up,'" Bernstein said. "And I'm like, ‘What, I'm playing fullback.' And he was like, ‘tailback.' And I was just shocked. I went right over to (fullback) Greg Root, I'm like, ‘Greg, let's go, it's on us now. Let's win this game.' He did a great job, and the [offensive line] pushed people around out there. They opened up holes, and I'm not a fast guy, but they were holding their blocks really well."

While the Badger offense once again did just enough to win, head coach Barry Alvarez knows improvement is needed if the team wants to have continued success.

"We're going to have to correct some things on offense," Alvarez said, "Because we're going to find some much more potent offenses down the road, and we're going to have to get straightened out."

Badger Nation Top Stories