Friday, September 27, 2013

Week 3 Reaction: Packers v. Bengals

It is amazing to hear some of the blow back from the Packers loss last Sunday.  Twitter has blown up asking, no, demanding Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson be fired.  “Mike McCarthy can’t call plays” and “Ted Thompson can’t build a team” are phrases bouncing all over the place.  Packer Nation, take a deep breath.  Let’s dive a little deeper into the game.

First of all, the play-calling is not to blame.  Mike McCarthy obviously called for Johnathan Franklin to fumble on 4th and 1 (insert eye roll).  The play calling is not to blame, the Green Bay Packers did not get the luck of the bounce and that play helped decide the outcome of the game.  The final 4th down play should have been effective, it was the left tackle who did not complete his assignment.  Bakhtiari should have taken Michael Johnson to the ground with his block, however he missed his block and Johnson was able to block the pass.  Again, not play selection, execution was the issue.

Aaron Rodgers needs to be better.  The Packers are going as far as Rodgers takes them, plain and simple.  Aaron Rodgers has spoiled Packers fans with amazing play since he has become the starter.  Fans really need to appreciate the level he plays at day in and day out.  All that being said, Rodgers had a sub standard game and the Packers cannot afford sub standard.  The first interception was not Rodgers fault.  James Jones needs to finish running his route and he just gave up.  The second interception was on Rodgers.  That throw needs to be put in a spot where only Cobb can catch the ball or it will go out of bounds.  Rodgers needs to lead the team to victory, but the blame should not be put squarely on Rodgers shoulders.  The team needs to execute and finish the game strong.

The Packers need to be able to take advantage when they get good field position.  The game was not lost when Franklin fumbled, it was lost during four series in the 1st and 2nd quarters.  Four consecutive series the Packers had amazing field position: GB 42, CIN 26, CIN 37 and CIN 21.  The Packers wound up with a grand total of six points from those possessions.  If this team is going to make a run at the postseason, the team needs to be held accountable for it’s execution, or lack there of.

Finally, some good news, the bye week has arrived!  When the Packers schedule came out, many fans were outraged by the week 4 bye.  Fast forward to present day and the bye week could not come at a more perfect time.  The list of injuries is a mile long, now add Finley with a concussion, Starks with a knee and Matthews with a hamstring.  The Packers should be able to get healthy and start to make a run.  Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward should be back to shore up a depleted secondary.  The running game will have a version of Thunder and Lightning with Lacy and Franklin.  Good things are coming Packer fans!  The Packers will regret letting this game slip through their fingers, but this is not the end of the season. 

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

- Steve Perhach (@Stevie2Westside)

Follow us on Twitter (@WISportsBlog) for up to date news on the Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks, and Golden Eagles. We feature live, in-game commentary, breaking news, previews and post game discussions. Follow the entire Wisconsin Sports Blog writing team on Twitter: @AndrewVrchota, @jheldred, @JoeP_Norton, @olewr7, @Stevie2Westside, @TABrown23, and @10iskristin.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Week 4 Recap Badgers v. Boilermakers

The Badgers opened Big Ten play shaking off the hangover from the poor officiated game last week handling Purdue in methodical fashion. It was a decisive response from what had to be a frustrating week dealing with the aftermath of the Arizona State game. It was nice to get back to deciding games on the field instead of analyzing screen shots of Stave's knee and highlighting the rule book. Without further ado, the week 4 Buckys!
James White en-route to the end zone against Purdue

Badgers running game has been nearly unstoppable this year. James White and Melvin Gordon are caught up in an exciting game of ‘anything you can do I can do better’ which has been a treat to watch for Badger fans, and misery for opponents. Currently the Badgers have three running backs in the top 40 for rushing yards Gordon(1), White(10) and Corey Clement (36). Additionally it seems the Badgers are finding ways to get White and Gordon on the field at the same time more often putting even more pressure on defenses. While the rush yards are likely to come a little bit harder in Big Ten play, the Badgers running back traditional is alive and well.

Joel Stave remains inconsistent. For whatever reason he has lost accuracy on his deep throws and has yet to shake off the habit of staring down receivers. Stave will need to be better in order to win at Ohio State this week and come up with two or three big throws to sustain drives or connect on long touchdown pass to swing momentum. As good as the running game has been, Ohio State’s defense will be good enough to shut it down if the offense becomes one dimensional.

One week after struggling big time to shut down the high octane Sun Devil offense, the Badger defense came out and reestablished themselves against Purdue. The Boilermakers came into the game averaging 272 yards of total offense per game, not a juggernaut but any stretch of the imagination, yet the Badgers held them to 180 yards total and just 3.1 yards per play. Sophomore(or hopefully redshirt freshman if his application ever gets approved from the Big Ten) Vince Biegel started at linebacker and was extremely disruptive in the Purdue backfield. True freshman Sojourn Shelton continued his excellent play adding another interception and is really developing into a top flight lock down corner.

Honorable Mention Bucky Рno matter how often these happen or how clich̩ they might seem, they are still awesome

Looking Forward – Ohio State
Another big road test for the Badgers and getting a win over the 4th ranked Buckeyes in Columbus would go a long way to forget the shenanigans that lead to a loss on their last road trip this season. Much like the Badgers, Ohio State has started out the year with an unimpressive non-conference slate. Unlike the Badgers they won their Pac12 road game against California. The biggest question facing the Buckeyes this week is who will start at quarterback? Kenny Guiton has started the past two games for preseason Heisman hopefully Braxton Miller, but most accounts indicate Miller will be healthy enough to play Saturday against the Badgers. The good news is Badger DC Dave Aranda should have enough film on Guiton in the 2+ games he's played to have a plan of attack for either QB. The key to both will be slowing down the read option. Urban Meyer's offense is predicated on getting fast athletes in space to make plays. The front seven has been stout against the run so far and the overall team defensive speed is improved compared to years past. This years defense has the pieces to slow down the Buckeyes offense but it will definitely be the biggest challenge they’ll face all year.

Offensively the Badgers need to find a way to be productive in the passing game. One dimensional offense will not cut it against Ohio State. Look for offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig to work the short to intermediate passing game early via screens and play action to build Stave’s confidence. Running between the tackles will be a challenge this week so anyway to get the ball into the hands of playmakers Gordon, White and Jared Abbrederis attacking the edges of the defense will be huge.

The Badgers quest to go to four straight Rose Bowls largely comes down to winning this game. Stealing a victory against a top five team on the road always requires a few breaks to go your way and this game might come down to a fake punt or other type gadget play to win. The Badgers have enough talent to compete but in the end the quarterback play is the difference.

Final Score: 21-27  Note – this is first Badger loss I predicted for the season, I’d be fine if I’m wrong

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

- Neal Olson (@olewr7)

Follow us on Twitter (@WISportsBlog) for up to date news on the Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks, and Golden Eagles. We feature live, in-game commentary, breaking news, previews and post game discussions. Follow the entire Wisconsin Sports Blog writing team on Twitter: @AndrewVrchota, @jheldred, @JoeP_Norton, @olewr7, @Stevie2Westside, @TABrown23, and @10iskristin.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Week 3 Recap Badgers v. Sun Devils

Wow, where to start. The Badger’s 2013 schedule has a few potential bumps in the road and the trip to Arizona State was one of them. I don’t think anyone quite expected this debacle. The last 18 seconds of the
Gordon ran wild against the Sun Devils
game has been rehashed ad nauseam already so I won’t delve into it further. Hopefully this becomes a small asterisk on what will otherwise be a successful season for the Badgers. Like Gary Andersen smartly noted in his weekly press conference, you cannot allow the ending of the Arizona State game beat you twice, time to move on. Before previewing Purdue, a quick non-botched officiating review.

Once again Melvin Gordon was absolutely spectacular. Gordon was clearly the most dynamic player on offense against Arizona State. Currently he is second in rushing yards and third in rushing yards per attempt in the country. Most amazingly he has needed only 37 carries to amass 477 yards and 4 TDs . Pretty safe to say OC Andy Ludwig needs to find more ways to get the ball into Gordon’s hands more.

Joel Stave and Andy Ludwig did not have their best day. Stave looked tentative and rattled early on and never quite settle down. However, he wasn't done any favors by the offensive play calling. Remember Stave is a true sophomore and was making only his ninth career start in an extremely hostile environment. They were backed up on the first two drives (first drive started on the 3, the second on the 8), a challenging situation for a young QB on the road. Yet both series saw only one run and two pass plays called putting all the pressure on Stave and not playing to the Badgers strength. Additionally it seemed most of the pass plays were deep drops with long developing routes, with very little of the play action setup the Badger offense has relied on so heavily in the past. Lastly, the inside running game bogged down even though the Arizona State defensive line was much smaller. For the most part the Badgers offensive line earns it’s keep by executing trap plays pulling from the backside of the formation to lead the running back through the designed hole. The undersized but quicker Sun Devil defenders were successful in shooting the gaps created by the pulling Badger lineman and disrupted the timing and bottled up the hole before it could even open. Ludwig was slow to adjust play scheme until late in the game. Most noteably on Melvin Gordon’s second touchdown run when they abandoned pulling any lineman and used a simple one step zone read straight ahead. Both Gordon and lead blocking back Derek Staus waltzed into the end zone untouched.

The Badgers secondary was picked on heavily to the tune of 352 passing yards. Certainly there is room for improvement here, but for the most part they were in good position and happened to get beat by good throws and solid catching from the Sun Devil receivers. I don't even mind the penalties. Playing physical in the secondary will result in an occasional penalty and I would much rather deal with a flag or two that sit back in a soft zone. Arizona State will have a lot of good passing days and ultimately the defense did enough to put the team in a position to win the game.

Honorable Mention Bucky – Chris Borland is awesome. If not for the referee’s botching the last 18 seconds everyone would be talking about this fake punt.

Looking Forward – Purdue

First a little history. The past two times these teams have played the Badgers have outscored the Boilermakers 100-31 and averaged 415 rushing yards per game. In 2011 the Badgers were coming off back to back Hail Mary losses and took out their frustrations on the Boilers. Last year Montee Ball ran for three touchdowns and moved ahead of Ron Dayne for first place on the Big Ten career TDs. Needless to say Purdue can’t feel terribly confident heading to Madison to face a Badger team looking to take out last week’s frustrations.

In my preseason preview I noted how Dave Aranda loved to bring pressure when he was the defensive coordinator at Utah State. Through three games this year the Badgers rank 116 in the country in sacks per game, not exactly what I expected. Purdue is a pass happy offense so the opportunity to turn up the blitz percentage will be there again this week. However I suspect Aranda is hesitant to leave his young secondary vulnerable with no safety help by bringing extra pass rushers, something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

This game will also be telling in regard to how Gary Andersen handles his first hurdle as Badger head coach. Both in postgame comments and weekly press conference, Andersen has handled the end of the Arizona State game with class and dignity. But ultimately it comes down to how the team performs on Saturday. As long as the offense starts quickly and scores points early, this game is relatively low on the threat level. If Stave starts shaky and the run game sputters the Boilermakers could hang tough make the Badgers sweat this game out for four quarters. I think the Badgers come out in this game a little out of sync before finding their stride and running the game out of reach in the 4th quarter.

Final Score: 35-10

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

- Neal Olson (@olewr7)

Follow us on Twitter (@WISportsBlog) for up to date news on the Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks, and Golden Eagles. We feature live, in-game commentary, breaking news, previews and post game discussions. Follow the entire Wisconsin Sports Blog writing team on Twitter: @AndrewVrchota, @jheldred, @JoeP_Norton, @olewr7, @Stevie2Westside, @TABrown23, and @10iskristin.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Week 1 Preview: Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

It has finally arrived, and football will be with us until February 5th.  There is no better season, than football season.  I never take much stock in the preseason, but it is worth noting the Packers finished with a 1-3 record.  I have a lot of questions going into the season and Week 1, so let’s dive in and hopefully get some answers.


Everyone should know this number.  The Packers defense allowed 579 yards against them in the playoff loss to the 49ers.  Colin Kaepernick personally ran for 181 yards, a rushing record for a quarterback in the playoffs.  So, what has changed for the Packers on defense?  I really think 1st round draft pick, Datone Jones, will be a difference maker for the Packers early and often.  He has the ability to break through and disrupt the read option in the backfield.  Nick Perry is back after being on the IR for half the season last year.  He is a definite improvement over Erik Walden (signed with Colts).  I will be intrigued to see if his pass coverage has improved with another year under his belt.  Let’s not forget, the Packers coaching staff studied the read option all off season and took a trip to Texas A&M to help learn more about it.  I truly hope they are more prepared for it this time around.  As long as the Packers can stay healthy on the defensive side of the ball, I really feel they will be stronger than most people are giving them credit for.

The Offensive Line

Let’s face it, the offensive line is going to be a question mark all year.  Their blocking in the preseason, left a lot to be desired.  With a rookie at left tackle and a second year pro at right tackle, it will be imperative that Rodgers gets rid of the ball quickly.  Especially in the first half, the ball should be gone within 3 seconds and the Packers need to be able to run the ball with some effectiveness.  The 49ers defense is still one of the best in the league and their front seven is their strong suit.  In order for the Packers to pull off a win, the ground game needs to be a priority.  If they can establish the run, strong play action plays follow and the front four cannot assume Rodgers is throwing every down.  The biggest key to victory today is through the ground.

Is Aaron Rodgers still the MVP?

Okay, before everyone calls me unspeakable names, take a little time and think about last year.  We are all very used to Aaron Rodgers being perfect.  Last year, he was VERY good, but there were several occasions where he missed on throws that should have been made.  Really think about it and you will start to remember some of those times.  We have been so spoiled by quarterbacks over the past 20 years, but if this team is going to make another run at the Super Bowl, Aaron Rodgers cannot be very good, he has to be the MVP.  Everyone knows he has it in him, but I think he needs that chip on his shoulder mentality again this year.

Today’s game is going to be a dog fight.  The 49ers are great team with a great head coach.  We will finally have some answers we have been waiting for all season.  My final prediction for today’s game: 49ers – 38 Packers – 31.  It should be quite a game, but I don’t think the offensive line will hold up, I don’t think we have enough on defense to stop their offense consistently, and I think Colin Kaepernick will rush for over 100 yards today.  All that being said, it will still be a good year to be a Packers fan!

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

- Steve Perhach (@Stevie2Westside)

Follow us on Twitter (@WISportsBlog) for up to date news on the Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks, and Golden Eagles. We feature live, in-game commentary, breaking news, previews and post game discussions. Follow the entire Wisconsin Sports Blog writing team on Twitter: @AndrewVrchota, @jheldred, @JoeP_Norton, @olewr7, @Stevie2Westside, @TABrown23, and @10iskristin.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Week 1 Recap Badgers v. Minutemen

Introducing the new Badger football post game rating system.  Points will be awarded in number of Buckingham Badgers from one(really bad) to five(outstanding). I will try to reserve the five and one Bucky ratings only for those events that are deserving and not hand them out like Bret Bielema pickup lines at a local watering hole(too soon??). Without further preamble, on to the ratings!

Gary Andersen and the new coaching staff. Starting with 70 yard TD drive march on the opening offensive possession to the players surrounding Andersen during Jump Around, the new staff has won over the players and it showed on the field Saturday. Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig was crisp in playing calling and utilized play action pass nicely to mix in the passing game. Defensively the new look 3-4 and pre-snap adjustments had the Minutemen confused all day long. UMASS is by no means a juggernaut and there were a few areas to clean up for the Badgers but this performance was exactly what the doctor order to open the Gary Andersen era in Madison.

 Fittingly three Buckinghams here, one each for the three running backs on Saturday.  Melvin Gordon, James White and Corey Clement all ran for over 100 yards and scored a TD.  As dangerous as the run game was against UMASS, we may have experienced just the beginning. The coaching staff has hinted they may get White and Gordon on the field at the same time in certain formations and packages. It’s unlikely to be unveiled until the conference slate, but the idea of contending with Gordon and White will keep Big Ten defensive coaches up at night.

The first of many 100 yard rushing games for Badger running backs

 Peniel Jean/Sojourn Shelton. Jean was a monster in run support. He attacked runners and had several tackles right at the first down line that prevented UMass from extending drives. His play was reminiscent of recently retired NFL player Antoine Winfield.  True freshman Sojourn Shelton has been making waves since enrolling early last January and he didn’t disappoint in his first collegiate action. Shelton read the quarterback perfectly, left his man in the flat and made an acrobatic catch dropping back into the passing lane. Badgers have not had many defensive backs with the athleticism and ball skills to make a play like that in recent years, I’m guessing we’ll see more plays like that from Shelton during his UW career.

 Joel Stave has had better days. Two botched snaps and an interception will need to get cleaned up before Big Ten play. His interception was the product of a bad read and an even worse throw. Even the two long TD passes were slightly under thrown and needed quick stride adjustment and good hands from Jared Abbrederis. Stave seems to have developed an extra little half shuffle before throwing deep passes which is just enough delay for the receiver to get a few yards out of range and hit perfectly in stride. Credit OC Andy Ludwig for sticking with the passing game when it wasn't really needed to help Stave settle into a better rhythm in the second half. Stave won the starting job in part because of his ability to stretch the field in the passing game. Improvement in that phase is needed for the Badgers to maximize their offensive potential this year.

UMass head coach Charley Molnar. Molnar managed to ice his own kicker calling a time out just before the snap of a made field goal by UMass kicker Blake Lucas. On the retry Lucas, pulled it left and kept the Minutemen off the scoreboard for good. After the game when questioned about the play, Molnar said of the missed retry “He should have made it the second time, just like he made it the first time.” Keep up the good work coach! (Editors note: his slicked back hair should earn him at least a 1.5)

Honorable Mention Bucky – Curt Phillips handed his playing time Saturday to Bart Houston near the end of the game so Houston could get some live game reps under his belt. While Phillips role on this year’s team seems to be more behind the scenes than out front on the field, leadership and selflessness like this speak volumes about Phillips character. Great to have guys like him on the team.

New alternate helmet to be worn against Tennesee Tech
Looking Forward
The Badgers host football championship division Tennessee Tech next Saturday at 11am in Camp Randall Stadium. Tech ran for over 300 yards themselves beating Cumberland 63-7 opening weekend. The strength of their team will once again be on the ground and shouldn't test the Badgers defense much. Offensively the Badgers should control the line of scrimmage and run at will much like they did against UMass. The biggest question will be how sharp Stave will be in the passing game, and getting out of the game without any major injuries. The Badgers will also debut their new alternate helmets exchangeing the color scheme of the traditional white helmet and red motion W. If all goes according to plan the new helmets will provide the most excitement for what should otherwise be another warm up type game for the Badgers.  

Final score: 50-7

Until next time, Beer, Brats, and Championships.

- Neal Olson (@olewr7)

Follow us on Twitter (@WISportsBlog) for up to date news on the Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks, and Golden Eagles. We feature live, in-game commentary, breaking news, previews and post game discussions. Follow the entire Wisconsin Sports Blog writing team on Twitter: @AndrewVrchota, @jheldred, @JoeP_Norton, @olewr7, @Stevie2Westside, @TABrown23, and @10iskristin.