Blog: Sideline Whispers

Wisconsin looks to bounce back from its first loss of the season at ninth-ranked Ohio State with a Homecoming tilt with No.11 Iowa. Badger Nation takes you down to the field for whispers from Saturday's trip to Columbus.

Helter Skelter: You won't often attend a stranger college football game than the one that took place in Columbus last Saturday. The other-worldly quality of the game started long before kickoff. Police dogs were used to sniff every inch of in-coming equipment, helicopters patrolled above and snipers were set up on towers to the east and west of Ohio Stadium.

On the Sidelines (in a Cast?): Much was made in the week leading up to the game of supposed ‘unannounced injury concerns.' Rumors swirled about the health of John Clay, O'Brien Schofield and Nick Toon. This surprised me as all three were playing hard at the end of the Minnesota game and were reported to be practicing late in the week. During warm ups for the OSU game Clay had neither ankle taped, a rarity for him. Toon did not look to be in any discomfort and Schofield played at an all-conference level. Being football, there are always injury concerns before each game, but this rumor sure was a bum steer.

The Players Tried to Take the Field: Badger defensive players that is. The yardage, third down conversions and other stats speak for themselves but two more subtle points stood out to me

1 - Dave Doeren continues his rotation-by-situation approach to each game. This time Chris Borland did not see as many snaps from scrimmage as he did against Minnesota, the defensive backfield did not see the same variety of substitutions and in general the base personnel played more minutes than earlier in the year. How will the Badger D line up against Iowa? Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi has shown a propensity to throw an interception or two when under pressure this season. Maybe Doeren will line up a linebacker on the end to make sure that pressure gets there.

2 - O'Brien Schofield is clearly more than just a team captain, he is close to a player-coach. The interaction between defensive line coach Charlie Partridge and Schofield is interesting to watch. It is often one more akin to collaborators than coach and student. Schofield is frequently discussing technique with his unit and they are always ready to play. Even during the waning moments of the loss, the D-Line was looking to get the ball back for the O, not just going through the motions. If effort is the measure there aren't any regrets when this unit leaves the field.

The Marching Band Refused to Yield: In one of the more amusing contretemps I've seen on a football sideline, the Ohio State marching band decided it might try to win the game before it began. As it ended its pregame routine the band marched all the way across the south end zone. This had the unfortunate result of blocking the Badger football team from running on to the field in customary fashion. Coach Bret Bielema could be heard shouting "no! no!" as the OSU band marched (ala Animal House) to a dead end that blocked the Badgers. The drums and Wagner tubas were soon parted and the Badgers made their way through. One would suppose that the OSU marching band had run its routine once or twice before.

Deep Inside: I had noticed some improvement from Josh Oglesby against MSU and Minnesota. No doubt OSU is a much more difficult challenge, all the same Oglesby took a few steps backward, irrespective of opponent. All too frequently Josh had no idea who to block, part of this was the strength of the OSU speed rush on his corner, but part was also being lost in space and hesitating out of his stance. Iowa should give him a chance to bounce back, but he will have to know where his first step and first punch is expected to land if he is to seize the opportunity. Energy and desire needed here!

As an aside, and to be as fair as possible to Josh, from the Badger O-Line only Konz and Carimi showed much on the day.

The Players Tried for a Forward Pass: A criticism of Scott Tolzien's throw on the first interception strikes me as some of the worst sort of fan speculation. It has been suggested that Nick Toon was breaking free and that had Scott seen him earlier or moved in the pocket and created more time that the completion could have been made. This ignores two things; 1 - Tolzien took another heavy hit as his line gave him no time and 2, Toon appeared to be free only because OSU defensive back Kurt Coleman had already broken on the wounded duck in order to make the interception. Coleman read the play all the way and had the pass been on line he would have moved up to cover Toon. Tolzien's best option would have been to throw the ball away. Criticism of the Badger QB seems to me terribly misplaced. He played the same game that beat MSU and Minnesota. It simply couldn't be executed against OSU as his O-Line and TEs were not up to blocking, chucking, bumping, chipping or any standard form of pass protection.

Good Old Boys: It's hard to put a finger on the exact quality and manner of the change, but head coach Bret Bielema seems to be much closer to this team than last year's team. Mostly little things, so I won't be specific until I have a better sense of the issue. Something to watch the next few weeks.

A short blog post this week, the circumstances of victory are much easier to remember.

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