Grading the Badgers – Iowa

After being out scored 86-23 the last two weeks, it is becoming obvious that nobody in the Wisconsin football program has any answers to how to correct the issues plaguing this team. Badger Nation Publisher Benjamin Worgull gives out the poor grades for the Badgers fourth-straight loss to Iowa.

Quarterbacks

After Bret Bielema pulled Evridge in the second half of the Penn State game, it was clear to everyone, despite Bielema's evasiveness during the week, that junior Dustin Sherer was going to get his first career start against Iowa.

Unfortunately, the running joke in the press box was that Evridge knocked out Sherer, stole his jersey and was the actual quarterback out on the field Saturday.

Sherer completed 50 percent of passes (considered a huge upgrade over the past couple weeks) but only for 161 yards and zero touchdowns. Other than the fact that Wisconsin hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in the last 10 quarters, the fact that Sherer was inaccurate with his passes, forcing balls into coverage and scrambling out of the pocket on the consistent basis shows that Evridge and Sherer are suffering from the same problems and that Wisconsin's problems extend far beyond the signal caller.

Sherer threw two fourth-quarter interceptions but two of his first-half throws were dropped by Iowa defenders and Sherer couldn't generate any touchdowns when UW was deep in Hawkeye territory.

"We got inside the 30 three times, and we didn't score. We're better than this," he said. "I didn't throw it that well all day. I've got to fix it," Sherer said. "There's no other way, we just have to play better. I have to play better."

Bielema didn't name a starting quarterback for the game against the Illinois. Scott Tolzien?

Grade: F

Running Backs

The offensive line was playing without starters Gabe Carimi (left tackle) and Kraig Urbik (right guard), which was a bleak sign for the Badgers' running game if they hoped to run the ball against a front that was giving up less than 100 rushing yards a game.

With a patchwork offensive line, the line struggled to open holes consistently against the seven-man front of Iowa, a defense that showed that the Hawkeyes weren't afraid to get beaten through the air.

P.J. Hill continues to see his yards and carries drop. Hill only could manage 34 yards and missed the second half due to a foot injury.

John Clay set career highs in carries and yards (16 for 89) but missed the fourth quarter after re-aggravating a toe injury suffered in the Michigan game, according to Bielema. They only touchdown came from Zach Brown, who filled in for Clay, and ran 21 yards for Wisconsin's first and only touchdown of the game.

For the fourth-straight game and fifth time this year, the Badgers have finished a game without a 100-yard rusher. That's unacceptable for a school like Wisconsin.

Grade: F

Wide Receivers/Tight End

The lone bright spot of this offense, the Badger receivers are finally starting to play like a cohesive unit. When the quarterback can deliver the ball on or near the target, the receivers are making plays and, more importantly, have limited the drops.

Garrett Graham's 74 receiving yards on six catches were his second-highest total of his career and Travis Beckum moved into third place on UW's all-time receiving yards list. Beckum's long of 21 was a great display of adjusting to a poorly-thrown pass and turning it into a positive.

Isaac Anderson hauled in three second-half catches, including back-to-back catches of 16 and 19 yards and seems to have found his rhythm and a grasp on the No.3 receiving position. However, Wisconsin's two longest pass completions (27 and 33 yards) came in the fourth quarter with Iowa at prevent defense and Tolzien at quarterback. The Badgers need to connect with their receivers early in the game to open up the offense and the blocking down field needs to improve to open the run game, as well.

Grade: B-

Defensive Line

Iowa's first drive went 70 yards in seven plays with Shonn Greene running five times for 40 yards and the touchdown. That was a sign of things to come, as Iowa dominated the front four of Wisconsin like no opponent has this year.

Greene had 97 yards and two touchdowns by halftime and finished with a career-high 217 yards and four scores. You could probably count on one hand the number of running backs that have set a legitimate career-high rushing against UW.

For the second-straight game, Wisconsin hasn't registered a quarterback sack.

The biggest shock is the lack of communication, which Bielema outlined on the first play in the second half when UW only had 10 defenders on the field on the first play in the second half. Apparently, line coach Charlie Partridge relayed to O'Brien Schofield he was "out on the base defense." Schofield understood that to mean he was out for that play, causing him to sprint in from the sideline.

"That to me blows my mind the communication from coach to player right there," Bielema said. "That's the accountability we have to enforce as coaches. ‘My bad' is not a response that is acceptable."

Grade: F

Linebackers

With the Badgers cutting the Iowa lead to 14-9 in the third quarter, Wisconsin's defenders admitted that they felt like they were given a second chance. Senior Jonathan Casillas quickly took that away from them.

Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi rolled out to his right and was forced to throw the ball away, as the Badgers provided solid coverage. Unfortunately, Casillas felt it necessary to deliver a late hit on Stanzi after the quarterback had released the ball, drawing a 15-yard penalty and a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, the Iowa lead was back to 12.

"It created some negative energy," Bielema said of the late hit. "You want your seniors to have great leadership and poise. That was a very disappointing part."

Wisconsin got very little production from its three linebackers.

Grade: F

Secondary

As the season progresses, the tackling has gotten progressively worse. On three of Greene's four touchdown runs, the running back broke multiple tackles on the way to the end zone, including multiple attempts from Chris Maragos and Jay Valai, both of whom had a game they would rather forget.

Maragos and Valai both had legitimate chances to bring down Greene during his second touchdown run and Maragos whiffed low and Valai whiffed high. Greene also broke two week-effort arm tackles by the secondary. Maragos had a chance for redemption on Greene's fourth touchdown but Maragos again went low, something you can't do against a good running back, and he came up empty.

Valai was the only line of defense on an ill-timed blitz that led to the 52-yard touchdown run after the Casillas penalty and most likely left some laundry on the field after Greene easily dispatched him.

Wisconsin was led in tackles my Maragos with eight, a bad sign that a safety is leading your team in tackles.

"If we keep our heads down like this, we're not going to a bowl game, let alone a .500 record," Valai said. "We have to play football a lot more physical than this. You've got to make tackles. We've got to man up."

Grade: F

Special Teams

First the positive, kicker Phil Welch is the only good thing going for this football team. Welch was the only means of offense for Wisconsin through three quarters, as he made field goals of 42, 40 and 35 yards. Since his first quarter miss against Michigan, Welch is perfect in his last eight kicks, including five field goals of 40 yards or longer, but still needs to improve and get more distance on his kickoffs.

Freshman Bradley Nortman's struggles are snowballing, as his punts have gone from long with high hang time to short line drives. Nortman punted six times and averaged just 36.5 yards per punt with a long of 41 yards. He had one punt blocked but the blame for that can be put on bad blocking.

The odds that David Gilreath will never return a punt for a touchdown in his career increases every week. When he does have a good return, he is unable to get past the last line of defense. More times than not, poor blocking has forced Gilreath to signal for a fair catch, which happened on all four first half punts.

Niles Brinkley twice forgot he was on the punt-return unit, a mistake which clearly aggravated Bielema and something the head coach says was ‘unacceptable'

Grade: F (Welch: A-)


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