Blog: Sideline Whispers

Wisconsin moves forward from its 44-14 victory over Wofford to prepare for the Big Ten slate and a solid passing team and a hungry football squad in Michigan State. Badger Nation takes you down to the field for whispers from Saturday's UW victory.

MADISON - Subtle points aren't plentiful in a 44-14 blowout. So the usual subject of the blog will be shorter this week.

Doubled Over: Chris Borland deserves lots of credit for the (now) rare Badger block of a punt. It was a great athletic move from a player on a mission to single-handedly redeem poor Special Teams play. Wofford's blocking scheme had much to do with Borland's success. For that type of wedge it is, the major error to block at the waist, as the blocking form should be as high as possible, preventing the opposition from getting airborne, which is exactly what Borland did.

Rotations: A cliché about these one-sided games holds that they present an opportunity to get lots of work in for the second string. At first glance that was true in the Wofford game for the Badgers. Bill Nagy and John Moffitt were able to get playing time after having been held off the field for a long period due to injuries. Lance Kendricks had a big day. No need to discuss the reason for Erik Smith's playing time.

A closer look shows a few interesting patterns. Kendricks has been on the field quite a bit, including lining up in the slot against Fresno State. The difference this time was Scott Tolzien's willingness to look past his favorite target (Garrett Graham) and show the coaches in the Big Ten that UW's other tight end is quite able to catch the ball. The linebacker rotation, especially in the first half, did not include Blake Sorensen to the same degree as against Fresno State. Against Wofford's option offense Michael Taylor, Culmer St Jean and Jaevery McFadden were much in evidence. It will be interesting to see if the linebackers become specialized, with Sorensen playing in short yardage, or if this means Taylor continues to impress, thereby taking more playing time.

Keys, part 1: Reflecting the general view one Madison sportswriter (a good one, too) called the decision of Wofford's coach Mike Ayers to go for it on fourth down from his own 26-yard line "lunacy". I am not so sure. Consider that one punt had already been blocked, that, as Ayers said in his press conference, his defense was already gassed, that Wofford would need something of a miracle to win the game. But more than these things consider the nature of an option offense. Reading the "keys" is what it is all about. Wofford had quick-kicked out of the option formation earlier in the game. Ayers stated that he had a play on when he went for it from the 26, my guess is that Ayers won't tell us that the QB misread his keys and should have quick kicked again. Good coaches don't blame players, and Ayers is a good coach.

Remember too that "going for it" on fourth down is part and parcel of Wofford's success. Twenty-five times in 2008 and several times already in 2009. Lunacy? Not really. One last thought, it had to be in the back of Ayers' mind that not only was his defense tired, but it was running low on players. With the best Wofford lineman out before the game and the best linebacker out early in the game Ayers didn't have the luxury of a rotation of linebackers like UW coach Bret Bielema. Wofford brought 69 players to Camp Randall.

Keys, part 2: The Badgers did a great job of reading the option in the first half. Wofford reduced its game plan to five or six plays for the second half and ran up the middle instead of the frequent pitches to the boundary as in the first half. The UW linebackers didn't read these keys as easily as in the first half and Wofford got some yardage.

Keys, part 3: Wofford presented no passing threat. Why is this key? Because Michigan State does. It would have been very useful for Devin Smith to get some practice. As it was he did read a play very nicely and intercepted a pass. It could have been easily intercepted by one of three Badgers.

Not So Bad: A big help for Devin would be an effective pass rush against Michigan State. J.J. Watt will be a big part of it. Though he was wearing a boot in the second half, he moved quite easily and was in good spirits. Bielema said he fully expects Watt to play and this time, it doesn't appear to be coach-speak.

Lining Up: Who will be the odd man out on the O Line? Peter Konz has impressed the coaches and the word seems to be that John Moffitt is preferred as a guard. At some point will we see Carimi/Moffitt/Konz/Nagy/Oglesby? I am most interested to see Bscherer and Oglesby play against MSU.

Special Diet Cokes: Commenting on the atmosphere at Camp Randall, Wofford's Ayers theorized the "special Diet Cokes" had something to do with Jump Around! And how.

3-0!: Wins erase bad memories. The on-line mood of Badger football fans seems buoyed – but this is because of a big win over … Wofford? Remember that last year the Badgers beat Akron and Marshall and then won on the road against a ranked non-conference opponent for the first time since the 1950s. Check out Allan Evridge's stats against Marshall: 17 for 26 for 308 yards and one TD. The rest of the season didn't go as well.

What to look for against MSU? A more consistent O-line, the pass rush, D backs on the sidelines and linebackers against play-action passes or covering running backs in pass routes.

Hope to have a cheerful post for the start of the Big Ten season.


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