I find it interesting that the Wisconsin Blog on SB Nation is named Bucky's 5th Quarter, because it seemed like that's what we were playing for Saturday night: A 5th Quarter. I have one thing to say though: TGINC. Thank God It's Non Conference. It took a while for these Huskies to wake up.
This game was just crazy. I was beginning to think it was over circa a typical 2007 game, but then things just came out of nowhere to surprise you. My sentiments to John Sahly's post-game remarks:
How it got there was paint-by-numbers with all the wrong colors. I'm still trying to piece it together.
I don't know what I just saw, but I know it was fun to watch...A game like this leaves a lot to dissect. But, for an opening-night game, I'm going to enjoy this scenic route to madness.
Let's take a look back at my keys to the game: Did we bring the heat? Not nearly enough. Tolzein had a clean jersey at the end of the game, and our pass rush was as responsible as anybody for the yards Wisconsin got through the air. Did we hold on to the ball? Mostly, except for a fumble given up by Me'co Brown late in the 2nd quarter. Brown apparently got hurt on that play as well and didn't see any more action for the rest of the game. Did we establish the run? Nope, 47 of NIU's 100 total yards rushing was by Brown's highlight in the 1st. Did we get rattled? Yes we were, until the 4th quarter of course. Everybody just looked out of place early on and nobody could find any sort of rhythm. That's 0.5/4 in case anybody was keeping score. Time for the positional breakdown:
Chandler Harnish looked pretty confident and was a successful game manager. Made plays when he needed to. Trouble was that his run game wasn't working (see below) and he wasn't getting enough time to throw (more on that later as well). 15 of 24 for 174 yds, no touchdowns, but zero INTs. Rushed 13 times for 37 yds, but then you have to takeaway the 21 yards lost because of sacks. Somehow you end up with 10 net for the game. Nice two-point conversion to put the Huskies in game contention there at the end. He could have probably made a couple more plays on his feet earlier in the game, but then again there was barely any room for him. Needs to work on the option if we are going to run that more this season. Surprised we didn't see any DeMarcus Grady.
Less than average with the exception of Me'co Brown's 47-yd scamper. Brown helped in both of the drives that scored field goals for us. Chad Spann was a beast in the 4th quarter, continuing his reign as red-zone demon scoring two touchdowns. Spann also caught 2 passes for 30 yds. Not to mention he also recovered the onside late. Brown had a great 5.8 ypc, but combined? 2.9 ypc...yuck.
Is it bad when 2 out of your top 3 pass-catchers in a given game come from this group? FB Kyle Skarb had 3 catches for 42 yds that included a sweet 31 yd gainer down the sidelines. TE Bryan Beckner stepped up big catching 2 passes for 41 yds.
Just blah all around. Nobody really stood out. Harnish went deep to Martel Moore and got a pass interference call. Moore also had a nice catch late in the game. Perez Ashford actually dropped a pass if I'm not mistaken, but then rebounded nicely picking up a few yards to set up Spann's last TD. My suggestion: Keep playing the freshmen and get them ready for MAC play. They deserve it and have the talent to dominate games. Both of them started the first game of their respective careers.
Just look at how the drives ended in the 1st quarter: 3rd and 2 - Brown only gets one yard. 3rd and 6 - Harnish sacked for 7 yd loss. 3rd and 9 - Harnish sacked for 9 yd loss. I think LG Jason Onyebuagu overslept or something, as he looked nowhere near the All-MAC performer that he is supposed to be with some whiffs that will make a long film session for JO. Wisconsin's DEs J.J. Watt & O'Brien Schofield were having field days with our tackles. RT Adam Kiel/Panan Tense had some trouble containing Schofield on his side. On the left side, Trevor Olson couldn't stop Watt, who is a physical freak at 6'6" 285...yikes.
There was a bright side, however, as the line came together late allowing Chad Spann to get both of his TDs in goal-line situations. Not bad run blocking at times.
Definitely a mixed bag. The pass-rush was virtually non-existent by these guys, but they did manage to keep Wisconsin to only 152 yds on the ground. Zach Brown and John Clay's ypc were only 3.6 and 2.9 respectively. Guys that made their debut yesterday: True Freshman DE Alan Baxter - 2 tackles, RS Freshman DT Brian Lawson - 1.5 tackles, RS Freshman DE Sean Progar - 1 tackle. Need I remind you that Wisconsin's O-Line averages 6'6" 325 per guy!
WLB Cory Hanson was a game-changer grabbing 2 interceptions. Other than that, these guys were pretty pedestrian. Alex Kube & Pat Schiller had 3.5 tackles a piece. Sophomore Jordan Delegal made his debut on the outside blitzing a little bit. NOBODY could cover TE Garrett Graham as he caught 6 passes for 82 yds.
A mess and the low point of the game. Starting off the game, who's fault was it giving up that long bomb: FS Mike Sobol or CB Patrick George? First of all, Sobol's natural position is SS and George was making his big debut as the starting CB. George was all over the place, but he learned as the game went on. One blitz he made set up one of Hanson's interceptions. SS Tracy Wilson led the team with 8.5 tackles and CB Kiaree Daniels made some nice plays. Obviously, its gonna be tough working all these new guys in like Chris Smith and everybody else but this game was just ridiculous. Didn't help there was zero pass rush. David Bryant didn't play much and there was no sign of Garrett Barnas anywhere.
OK, Kicker Mike Salerno is the best onside kicker in the world. I didn't even know you could be good at such a thing as usually luck comes in to play. Plus 2 great field goals to keep us in the game early. Salerno does weird things sometimes when he kickoffs, its not always hard enough even though he has the power. Punter Josh Wilber was a bit inconsistent and had a shankapotamus in the 3rd. Not bad though.
I would have liked for NIU to open up their playbook a bit more early a la Minnesota last year, but that wasn't the case until (sensing a theme here?) the 4th quarter. Too much conservatism after trying to rush against Wisconsin's big D wasn't working. Definitely need to see more deep passes and stuff on the perimeter. Would like to have seen a lot more blitzing on defense, but that's hard to do with so many inexperienced players.
Wisconsin had a habit of passing for it on 1st down. They opened the game with that 70 yd bomb and then Cory Hanson got interceptions on the first play of two separate drives by the Badgers.
3 and outs were devastating to NIU, especially in the 3rd quarter. The first drive in that quarter, WR Marcus Lewis had a catch to make it 2nd down and 2, but then we couldn't convert. RB Chad Spann rushed for no gain and then there was that tipped pass.
On the next 3rd quarter drive, we did nothing on offense after that run by WR Nathan Palmer. Spann rush for 3 yds, incomplete to Skarb because of a QB hurry. Then there was that pass where Clark trapped the ball and they had to review it to see that it wasn't a catch.
The time of possession was 12:11 to 2:49 and this game was won by the Badgers in the 3rd.
RB Me'co Brown has some sort of arm injury. Don't know if its too serious as of now. We could have used his athleticism for the whole game, not just part of the 1st half:
"I asked him 'Is it broke?' He said it wasn't but it was all wrapped up," Kill said. "I don't know what his status is. I think that's the biggest concern we have coming out of playing a physical football team."
Also apparently FB Kyle Skarb has some sort of injury. We'll know the results Monday about both these guys.
Next up on our path to redemption: The Western Illinois Leathernecks