Blog: Sideline Whispers

After bouncing back from back-to-back losses to deliver its first shutout of a conference opponent since 1999, Wisconsin football heads back to Indiana to take on a struggling Hoosiers team. Badger Nation takes you down to the field for whispers from the bench.

Happy to be back from the bye week.

The Injury Bug: It is difficult to understate the importance of staying healthy when it comes to college football. Two of the Badgers' future opponents know this all too well as Indiana has lost its No.1 return man and Northwestern's QB is questionable with an obvious hamstring injury. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald keeps 100 percent radio silence about team injuries. I mention this because sorting through Badger injuries can be difficult as little is ever made official. But here are a few unofficial observations:

- There is little doubt in my mind that Garrett Graham continues to battle through some discomfort. There was some concern about a concussion after the Iowa game, but in my opinion he has a more lingering injury to his upper body. The way he holds himself on the field (and his diminished status in the game planning) suggests that the bye week wasn't enough to get him healthy. Hopefully it isn't one of those injuries that needs to heal over the break before the bowl game. He would be a big boost against some bad Northwestern and Michigan safeties and linebackers.

- Jordan Hein put the bye week to good use. He did not put on the pads for the game against Iowa, but had his best game to date against Purdue. It's a shame the former wrestler runs out of eligibility, as he could have been a significant contributor on the D-Line in 2010.

- Future D-Lineman Tyler Dippel had his hand heavily bandaged for the Iowa game but wasn't wearing it during the Purdue game. Practice is always at a premium so every missed snap is important, especially on the D-Line for the Badgers. O'Brien Schofield is in his last year as is Dan Moore. Leadership will be a key as will be contributions from younger players such as Dippel, Shelby Harris, David Gilbert and others.

- John Clay shrugs off minor, and major, nicks as well as any ‘heavy' tailback in the conference. He takes some serious hits, gives out more, is rumored to be questionable just about every week, then come Saturday he lines up and moves the pile.

- Mike Taylor was on the field and walking without a crutch during the Purdue game. Hopefully this indicates Mike's injury is of the less severe nature. The Iowa game started to get away from the Badgers at just about the same time Taylor left the field with his knee injury.

Up and Over: It is interesting to compare the blocked two punts executed by the Badgers this season. They both came against a three-man wedge stationed in front of the punter. As this blog noted earlier, Chris Borland's block was made possible, in part, due to poor technique by the Wofford players as they blocked low. In contrast Purdue's blockers held a good vertical block. It wasn't enough as David Gilbert made one of the more athletic moves seen at Camp Randall this season.

Watching the Watchers: It must be hell trying to game plan against Paul Chryst's offense. This week's example comes in the form of Lance Kendricks and the (tight) end around. Kendricks had lined up in the slot for more than a few plays against Fresno State in week two. Against Wofford and Michigan State Kendricks had a break out games playing primarily out of a traditional TE alignment. Chryst in week eight employees Kendricks out of the slot and runs him around end. Was Purdue ready for something not on film for weeks? The answer is to be found in Kendricks' rushing stats: four carries for 91 yards.

What might be in store for Michigan or Northwestern? When is the last time the Badgers ran a bubble screen or a slip screen? Nick Toon, Isaac Anderson and Kraig Appleton were all lined up on the far hash mark several times against Purdue.

Chryst watched Iowa and Ohio State cut down on Scott Tolzien's production via the short passing game. Backing the safeties down field via end arounds was one answer. Running a few screens might be another.

The Watchers: The mixed up media coverage caused by the economic downturn has resulted in a declining standard of coverage for Badger football and Badger sports in general. One of the best reporters now writes mostly sidebars, the two best daily photographers no longer cover the team, a talented writer with a passion for hockey now produces video sidebars, and so on. I am not suggesting a solution as I don't believe there is one. Let's hope that things stabilize so that the downturn in quality does not become a downturn in quantity as well.

Don't threat though, as Ben Worgull has been working his butt off for you guys. Having to cover football, basketball, hockey, recruiting, publish a magazine every month and plan a wedding, it's easy to see why he's one of the best. Hats off to the boss.

Expectations: Purdue coach Danny Hope seemed genuinely surprised at just how well the Badgers played in all phases of the game. He noted that the Boilermakers had a good week of practice and a particularly good week of "pitch and catch", suggesting that the number of drops and erratic throws had as much to do with Badger coverage, chucks at the line, and concealed intentions as it had to do with a poor handling skills on the part of the Boilers.

Windage: It wasn't immediately apparent even at field level, but during the first half of the Purdue game, the wind did have an effect on passes and kicks once they got in the air.

That's all for this week, on to Bloomington!


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