Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Brief review: Wisconsin 35, Bowling Green 14

The Big Picture: We've got a team that's a little more complete than many of us might have assumed. Every unit had its successes and deficiencies, but the successes won out on Saturday.

On offense, it appears that Wisconsin has not one but three legitimate running backs. P.J. Hill looks to be That Man this year, the heir apparent to Brian Calhoun (although he is, of course, not at all the type of back that Calhoun was). He and Dywon Rowan are battering rams and gained a lot of their yards by running to the left side where Joe Thomas cleared the way (most of the time), but both backs also did their share of trampling hapless Falcons throughout the day. Stocco looked good, putting the ball where it belonged, save the moment of hennebriation that led to an interception in the end zone. However, while the ball flew with purpose to its intended destination, the hands of the receivers were rarely there to catch it; Stocco, being a smart quarterback will no doubt adjust appropriately. Travis Beckum, de novo tight end, appears to be the go-to guy for now, despite the fact that everyone who talks about him emphasizes the fact that he has a lot of work to do. Still, the playcalls were ~80/20 run/pass, which is great if you can get away with it ... but I don't think that's likely in Big Ten season.

Defensively, we saw Jekyll and Hyde (much as I hate making that stupid reference, it's so appropriate so often). To know this, all one needs to do is look at the Falcons' drive chart:

* 10 plays, 80 yards, touchdown
* 4 plays, 5 yards, punt
* 5 plays, 8 yards, punt
* 5 plays, 15 yards, punt
* 3 plays, -2 yards, punt
* 3 plays, 4 yards, punt
* 16 plays, 79 yards, touchdown
* 16 plays, 59 yards, turnover on downs
* 3 plays, 6 yards, punt

6 punts, 3 sustained drives. Not a bad ratio, but still, this was Bowling Green. Granted, one of those drives was kept alive by an ingeniously executed fake punt, and the other resulted in no points, but again: this was Bowling Green. Even without athletic, dual-threat quarterback issues, the Badgers still have a lot of work to do. 219 yards is too many to give up on the ground to a MAC team, especially when the D-line was supposed to be a strength. Jonathon Casillas and Mark Zalewski played great games, and the longest passing play given up was 18 yards, although that may have more to do with the fact that the run was always there if Freddie Barnes wanted it.

Special teams were as good as it gets, with the only blemish being that fake punt (which was relatively harmless in the end). Casillas blocked a punt that went for seven, and Ken DeBauche's two punts went for an average of 47.5 yards -- with no returns. Hopefully this underrated phase of the game will be one where the Badgers will excel.

Free advice for Bowling Green: keep that suspended quarterback on the bench. If Wisconsin had a tough time with him, how do you think he's going to look against Central Michigan or Akron?