Without question, Wisconsin's running game was dominant with P.J. Hill earning every bit of his 200+ yards and the Badgers eclipsed the 400-yard barrier en route to a 17-point win. One of the negatives, however, was that the offense left 17 points out on the field in the second quarter, which was caused by two red zone turnovers and a dropped touchdown pass.
On paper, the Badger defense did its job to pick up the offense. Wisconsin's No.1 unit allowed only 10 points and started the second half (with UW clinging to a seven-point lead) by registering a three and out and a turnover in Akron's first two possessions.
"We knew that we had to go out there and do out job," defensive end O'Brien Schofield said. "We're excited to take the field and do our job. The pendulum had been swinging the whole game and it swung there way when they got those two turnovers. We had to go out there with a fire and send it back to our offense."
Although the Badgers were successful giving the momentum back to the offense, the offense could have performed flawlessly and Wisconsin still could have been trailing at halftime.
Akron quarterback Chris Jacquemain and his new receiving unit (complete with two transfers and a redshirt freshman) struggled to dial onto the same frequency. There were dropped passes, there was miscommunication and above all, there were countless overthrown passes after the Akron wide receivers had beaten a young Wisconsin secondary.
"Defensively, we didn't do what we've been doing," Bielema said. "They capitalized on some play action passes, we lost the perimeter on one play that hurt us … We gave up some plays in the beginning that were overthrows and we caught a break."
The big break for Wisconsin was the fact that Jacquemain's numbers (22-for-36, 227 yards, two scores) could have profoundly better. Where the Badgers didn't catch a break was not only did their three turnovers cost them 14 points, but the miscues led to 10 Zip points, including the game's final touchdown.
"Absolutely it bothered me," Bielema said in response to Akron scoring its final touchdown. "It bothered my coaches and my defensive guys were over there yelling ‘Keep them out! Keep them out!' Unfortunately, we're put on the field because of an exchange snap issue. You're not going to win big games in critical situations by doing those types of things."
After committing 21 turnovers last season, the Badgers committed three on Saturday, showing that turnovers are still an issue for this team. UW was lucky this time but when Wisconsin plays a more powerful opponent, the numbers won't work in its favor.
Wisconsin will need to rely on its front four and its trio of linebackers to consistently apply pressure to stop the running game and apply pressure on the quarterback to force hasty decisions that the youthful secondary can take advantage of.
Unfortunately, the Badgers will have to survive without end Kirk DeCremer, who specialized in third down situations and was expected to be the first man off the bench on the defensive line. Leading the team in sacks last season, DeCremer, who has had chronic back issues, pop two discs during Wednesday's practice and likely will not play another down.
"It's difficult to swallow because you see someone who wants it so bad," Bielema said. "He's a tremendous young man that has done a lot of good things here."
"I think not having him (Kirk) is going to force me and Matt (Shaughnessy) to condition more and take more reps," he said. "Right now, we have younger guys under us and this is there chance to step up and be ready at any time. I think we're able to get that accomplished because we all did a good job during camp."
While the Badgers will spend next Saturday entering another sub-par opponent, Wisconsin's schedule is about to take a turn for the challenging. The Big Ten opening stretch of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State is three weeks away and the non-conference trip to Fresno has been all the rage in the valley since the game was announced.
After a 24-7 victory at Rutgers Monday, Fresno State will get two weeks to prepare for Wisconsin.
Yes, the Badgers went 1-0 Saturday. But for a group of players hungry to make two trips to sunny California this season, it's best to get all the hiccups out against opponents that won't make them pay for it.