Making the Grade

In the first installment of 'Making the Grade', we look at the Badger offense for game one in Cleveland. Which unit received an A, and which a low C? Read how BN publisher Jason Miller weighs in.

OFFENSE

Quarterback: John Stocco may not have thrown for 250 yards and three scores, but he was certainly successful. Coach Bielema played cat and mouse with the fans, media, and anyone else that would listen all week as it pertained to Stocco's playing status. As it turns out, JS was the starter since he stepped onto the practice field in Madison. The third-year signal caller was a very workman like in completing 60 percent (nine of 15) of his passes, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Bill Rentmeester (the first reception AND touchdown reception of his career). Stocco did not take the big shots down field or attempt to throw into coverage. He was tactical and intelligent with his decisions. The downfield big-play situations will be more prevalent in the coming weeks. An early interception is the only real blemish I see on an otherwise above average performance from a guy who, just three weeks ago, was not even ‘expected' to play. GRADE: B-

Running backs: Brian who? PJ Hill is not the scat-back you saw on the field for the Badgers last season, or even the season before that. He is the first Badger freshman to top the 100 yard rushing mark in his first start since Anthony Davis turned the trick in 2001 with 147 yards on 26 carries. Davis went on to gain 614 yards in his first four games as a Badger, that is 163.5 yards per contest. Hill ended the night with 128 yards and a score. Dywon Rowan found pay dirt on Saturday night as he rumbled seven yards in the first quarter to even the score up at 7-7. Rowan finished the night with 29 yards on eight carries. Rentmeester threw some incredible blocks to spring Hill and true freshman Lance Smith. You are going to do some outstanding things on the field with his speed. His versatility as a pass receiver will make him the third down back in most mid to long yardage situations. The Ohio native carried the ball eight times for 41 yards, including a 14-yard scamper in which he made two Falcons turn around to pick up their shoes after the play. Pretty nice opening performance. GRADE: B+

Wide receivers: Only two receivers caught a pass on Saturday night: Paul Hubbard and Luke Swan. But, catching a ball is not all always the key. The downfield blocking of the receiving core was pretty good. When you watch the film of a Lance Smith 14 yard scamper in the third quarter, watch the block by Hubbard on Falcon DB Kenny Lewis. He may still be down for the count. With the questions at WR still lingering, I am sure the statistic buffs of the world will see this game as a complete disaster on an already sunk ship. You have to look past the cover to understand the whole book. They did have a case of the bobbles and the routes were extended beyond the field of play on more than one occasion. With that in mind, the grade for this crew should really be more on the lines of incomplete than a…GRADE: C-

Tight Ends: Andy Crooks recorded the start, but Travis Beckum may have stolen the show. Both players were part of the blocking scheme that paved the way for a 100-yard rusher and 196 yards total rushing yards for the Badgers. Crooks hauled in one reception for six yards during the first scoring drive. Well, then came Beckum. He runs a very smooth route and looks all the part of a future All-Big Ten performer. In his first game as a tight end, he hauled in three passes that totaled 49 yards. Last year's starting TE, Owen Daniels, only bested that total one time last season - against Temple on September 10 he hauled in a career-high six balls for 88 yards and three scores. Another true bright spot for the Cardinal and White. GRADE: A-

Offensive line: Led by All-American candidate Joe Thomas, the ‘Hogs' were opening holes for Hill, Smith, and Rowan all night long. They did struggle a little bit one the zone stretch runs and Iso/blast plays a few times, but all-in-all they performed admirably. Yes, I understand Bowling Green has a rush defense that ranked in the lower third of the NCAA during the 2005 season. However, you have to give credit to a group that rarely gets it. When you average around 320 pound up there - it helps. Andy Kemp and Eric VandenHeuvel looked strong in their first career start.GRADE: B

OVERALL: As a former educator, I would give the offense an overall grade of around 83 percent - which equates to a low B. The first game of the season has a normal tone to it for half of the teams; play ugly and win ugly. Wisconsin is not going to be a team that puts up 50 or 60 points, even on its' weaker opponents schedule wise. Leave that business to the Texas' and Ohio State's of the world. But, when the dust settles, the Badgers are 1-0 and no real injuries have been announced to my knowledge. Ohio State and Texas are both 1-0, also. No difference. Bret Bielema is 1-0 as an NCAA head coach. PJ Hill went for 128 yards on the ground. Travis Beckum looks like a future, even present, All-Big 10+1 tight end. Stocco played admirably, albeit a bit tentative, for the most part. Ever eat a Leatherneck? The Badgers will feast next week. But for now…. GRADE: B-, 83%


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