Allan Evridge is starting to sound like a broken record.
Talking post game Saturday night about the offense's failure to execute, not doing the little things right and seeing another second-half lead lost, Evridge has become the lightening rod of criticism and some of it is deservingly so.
He again struggled early to find a rhythm in the pocket and even coughed up a fumble early on, but things started to get better after that. Ohio State did not cash it the turnover and Evridge completed 11-of-14 passes for 130 yards and one touchdown in the game's first 30 minutes.
His highlight was a 15 play, 91-yard drive that saw Wisconsin milk eight minutes and 16 seconds off the clock, tie the score and finally begin to look like a traditional Badger offense.
Two drives later, Evridge managed the two-minute offense, getting Wisconsin 77 yards down the field in five plays to tack on a field goal, giving UW a three-point halftime lead.
"That was definitely a good situation to give our team an opportunity to get points that were needed," he said.
But as good as things looked for him near the end of the first half, Evridge was horrendous in the second half, going 2-for-9 for a measly 17 yards. As good as Evridge was running the two-minute offense in the first half, it was a total opposite in the second. With Wisconsin down three with 1:09 remaining, Evridge was pressured out of the pocket and rolled out to his left. Instead of killing the clock by heading out of bounce or simply stepping out of bounce, Evridge through back across the middle of the field and a terrible interception by cornerback Malcom Jenkins that sealed the OSU victory.
Evridge mentioned post game that Wisconsin is now playing for each other, playing to win, to have fun and for pride.
The only way the Badgers are going to have fun is if Evridge is smarter with his decisions because in the past two weeks, the fifth-year senior has been flat outplayed by two freshman quarterbacks, the most shocking stat of all.
With 10 carries against one of the toughest defenses in the conference, John Clay showed that he is ready for the big time. Clay rushed for 69 yards (a 6.9 yard average) and was either bruising, leaping or bullying over Buckeye defenders.
After getting only one carry in the second half against Michigan last week, Clay carried four times for 36 yards and has usurped the No.2 role, seemingly replacing Zach Brown (who only had one carry).
"Our first plan was to run the ball and we did do that, so we're happy with that," Clay said. "I think I have grown as the season has gone on. Leading up to this game, I started off fast and had no turnovers, which is good for me. (The coaches) are starting to trust me on my offensive schemes to pick up blocking."
P.J. Hill got his carries, as well, but wasn't nearly as effective (16 carries, 63 yards, one touchdown). Wisconsin paired both of its stud tailbacks together twice on the opening series of the second half, providing a different look.
David Gilreath is becoming a valuable asset to the offense, as he ran five end arounds, gaining 36 yards … but could have yielded much better results.
"In this game in particular, there were a certain couple formations where we could get that look and be able to get some positive results," Bielema said. "A couple of those, if we blocked them up just a little bit better, that would have led to some big, big gains."
Wide Receivers/Tight End
This unit had nowhere to go but up and after being at the lowest point last weekend, the Wisconsin wide receivers played profoundly better.
Other than Isaac Anderson booting a catchable ball in the middle of the field that would have moved the chains, the Badgers limited the drops dramatically but still need to become playmakers.
Kyle Jefferson played better (two catches for 42 yards) but failed to get out of bounds on a sideline pass in the first half, costing the Badgers valuable seconds that could have led to a touchdown instead of a field goal.
With Garrett Graham still a week away from competing, the Badgers got a boost from getting a healthy Travis Beckum back for the whole game. Beckum led the team in catches (six) and yards (60) and Mickey Turner, playing in place of Graham, caught his first career touchdown pass in the second quarter.
"Travis is a guy that brings great energy and these are games he loves," Bielema said. "I thought he made some great catches today and the part that was exciting this week is that he's over the hump. He doesn't have any concerns on where his leg is and hopefully will continue to grow from this point forward."
The defensive line put pressure on Terrelle Pryor all evening, limiting the freshman quarterback to only 20 net rushing yards and sacking him four times – one each by Matt Shaughnessy and O'Brien Schofield.
The defensive front also held Beanie Wells in check for the majority of the evening as well, but again allowed two big rushing plays (54 yards and a 33-yard touchdown). Take those two plays away and the Badger defense allowed Wells to earn 81 yards.
Once again, it was a couple plays that separated winning from losing by the Badgers.
In addition to the defensive front, the linebackers were one of the main reasons Pryor was under so much pressure. DeAndre Levy registered six solo and 10 tackles (both leading the team), including a 16-yard sack. Jae McFadden continues to be a welcome sigh of relief at the mike linebacker position, who chipped in with eight tackles and recovered a fumble.
But when Wisconsin's defense needed to step up, like with the Buckeyes were inside the 20 yard line and the Badgers holding a four-point lead, a mix up and miscommunications on the defense cost Wisconsin when they gave Pryor little resistance on the way to the end zone.
"They were doing some late substituting the whole game before the plays so we were switching up some calls and got some calls in late from the sideline," McFadden said. "We got a call in real late and I tried to get everybody lined up. Obviously it didn't work."
Once again, the little things.
With youth throughout the unit, Allen Langford stepped up his game against the Buckeyes, breaking up two passes and intercepting Pryor in the first half.
Jay Valai played his best game as a Badger, registering four solo and seven tackles, a sack and forcing two fumbles, one of which was recovered by McFadden.
The secondary played solid on all but two of Ohio State's drives. Unfortunately, that turned out to be enough.
The opening drive saw the Buckeyes go 71 yards in six plays in just three minutes, 11 seconds to open the scoring, as Wells ran right through a half-hearted effort for Shane Carter, who also missed a tackle on Wells' other long run.
The last drive, the Badgers allowed Pryor to go 2-for-2 on third down in the decisive drive, failed to recover two fumbles on back-to-back plays that could have sealed the game for Wisconsin and allowed pass plays of 19, 27 and 13 yards.
Depending on whom you asked, the members of the secondary analyzed the game differently.
"We went out confident that we were going to make those plays and we just weren't able to come up with those plays," Langford said. "We went out there, competed, played well for four quarters and they just got one more play that we did."
"We just have to execute out there," Valai said. "We have nobody to blame but ourselves. We started bad and finished bad. There's no excuse for that. We just messed up."
Phil Welch made his own field goal attempt (20 yards) on a play that would have never have happened if Bielema had confident in his offense. His kickoffs were average, as his three kicks averaged 63.3 yards.
Bradley Nortman averaged 42 yards on six punts, but only had a long of 55 yards and had one only go 35 yards.
On six returns, UW's return units had a long of only 21 yards.