The Badgers are continuing their tradition of playing cupcakes in the beginning of the season. That's done for two reasons; to assure they don't lose an early game and to provide a warmup for the Big Ten opponents.
First, you had the Badgers leading by a mere seven points at halftime against lowly Akron. This week, the Badgers spent the majority of the first half down by 14 points against a slightly stronger, but still weaker, opponent in Marshall.
The Badgers weren't supposed to have difficulty with these two teams. They were going to cruise by them at home and assure everyone of their talent, using the games as a mere dress rehearsal before the challenge starts. Instead, their performance have left Wisconsin doubting their performances in the early goings these past two weeks.
"I don't wanna say we looked past anybody, but when the competition gets bigger and bigger I think guys will be much more awake," said linebacker DeAndre Levy. "We see what we can do when we're fired up and motivated and keep that passion throughout the entire game."
So maybe they can step it when we they need to. That seems somewhat reasonable to believe for anyone.
The question is why do they felt like they needed that passion when the season began two weeks ago?
"I hate to say it, but we need to get hit in the face to turn it on," said Levy. "We just need to do it from opening kickoff."
In both games, the Badgers made a big statement by rallying in the second half to make the game out of reach. That shows resiliency and toughness, but it also shows a lack of immediacy and importance.
"I really can't tell you what happened," said wide receiver Kyle Jefferson. "I wish we did so we could have fixed it sooner."
"I don't know why we struggled for awhile," added left tackle Gabe Carimi. "We didn't need that struggle, but it was kind of a wakeup call. We got it going after that."
My fear in that response is that the superior Big Ten teams don't allow teams to re-cooperate. That first half recovery won't be possible against future opponents, including next week against a very underrated Fresno State. If Wisconsin get in the routine of hitting the snooze button, pretty soon the Badgers are going to start ignoring the alarm.
There was no grave danger at any point in this game. In fact, between the last two weeks, the Badgers have won by a combined 58 points. Certainly they should have confidence that they can turn on the switch.
That's the good news. On the flip side, the Badgers have to be concerned with the lack of understanding as to why they were losing in the first place. If they can't give any reason for their struggles, it's something out of their control.
"It's hard to say what we could do next time, but we can always play better," said cornerback Allen Langford. "We shall see if that switch has been turned."
It seems to a unison opinion among all the players that the switch got turned on at some point against Marshall.
The person who needs to be weary of when the switch is turned off is the head coach. He has to analyze what went wrong and correct the situation. Well, for the second week in a row the same thing happened during the first half.
"Obviously we didn't start off on the right foot," said head coach Bret Bielema. "I think you see the pendulum swing and for us to be able to start the way we did in the second half is a lot of individual effort."
He might not believe the switch was turned on, but he certainly realizes that something happened to turn the tide of the game.
"We are the ones that are the problem, it's nothing that Marshall did," said Bielema.
That's fine for the players to say the switch can just be flipped on when they need it. After a couple hours of film study tonight, however, Bielema will remind his team what can and can not happen to start a football game. If next week whistles a similar tune, the Badgers are going to need that bye week, because it shows that they aren't yet ready for the rest of the season.