Thursday, October 1, 2009

Badgers in Minnesota - Let's Block a Punt!

Since Erik isn't getting married this Saturday, I can actually watch Minnesota piss away the game live this year!

Hey, in case you have not heard, there are a couple of big games going on up in Minneapolis this weekend. And I am not talking about that exciting Royals/Twins series closing out the Twins run at the Metrodome. The game I am most interested in is the Badgers/Gophers game in which the Badgers attempt to maintain possession of the Paul Bunion Axe for what I believe will be the 36th straight year (or something like that divided by 6).

Anyhow, this game kicks off the most critical stretch of games for the Badgers this season and a win would go a long way in keeping up the momentum gathered in the first four games. After this game the Badgers go to Columbus and then face Iowa at home. I don’t expect the Badgers to go undefeated through these three games, but if they come out of it 2-1, I would be thrilled. 1-2 would not be good, but not the end of the world. 0-3 would be vomit inducing.

Wisconsin will look to continue to ride their balanced offensive attack. Tolzein has obviously been a heck of a QB so far this year. He has a great presence in the pocket and is aware of his surroundings. I think I read somewhere that Wisconsin has only given up 2 sacks so far this season. That has helped Tolzein’s confidence in the pocket. Minnesota would be wise to attempt to bring guys up the middle in an attempt to flush Tolzein out of the pocket. He has not had to throw on the run much this year and it would be interesting to see how good that aspect of his game is. He can run if needed, but can he throw on the run? The key to the passing game is how the Gophers attempt to defend Graham and Kendricks. If they try to double up on these guys, the Badgers have the receivers to get open against man coverage and do some damage after the catch. Tolzein hit a ton of passes in the flat early against MSU. When they brought guys up to defend against that, he hit Toon and Anderson deep. Tolzein is the first QB since Stocco who can throw a solid deep ball.

The O-line is still coming together for the Badgers. John Moffit got his first start of the season at guard last week and the rust showed. He picked it up in the second half but was relatively brutal in the first half. 3rd string center Peter Konz has been solid in the middle. Ogelsby appears to be having problems with speed rushers off the end. However, as mentioned above, the line has only given up 2 sacks this season (thanks to Tolzein’s pocket presence) and the pass blocking has been solid. The run blocking is not what it has been in the past for Wisconsin teams. However, sending the same guys out there on back to back weeks for the first time will help. The run blocking is coming together and the RBs need to do a better job of hitting the hole when it is there.

Speaking of running backs, I am still waiting for John Clay to have that truly big breakout game. I’m talking a 200-yard, 2 TD game. Last week against State he ran well but it seems he left some yards out on the field. However, the key was that he didn’t leave the football out on the field. I think the fumbles in the Wofford game were an aberration and this isn’t a guy with a fumbling problem. John needs to do a better job of finding the holes the line creates. I am excited to see him get in the open field and use his 250 pound frame to just blow up a DB. Zach Brown will get his touches as well. He did destroy the Gophers two years ago in the dome, but honestly, he is just a guy in terms of Big Ten running backs. A solid back up for sure, but not the workhorse.

The Badgers’ D has improved as throughout the season. The line is getting better now that guys are coming back from injury and a set rotation is in place. They are making plays in the backfield and getting to the QB off the ends. The problem is that they have no big run stuffer in the middle. Against the run game, they are vulnerable up the middle but do a good job of running to the boundaries. MSUs big runs were all up the middle. The Linebackers have been playing great. Schofield has been lights out all 4 games and the Freshmen Taylor and Borland really played well last week. Lot of young guys on this D that are getting playing time and will only get better.

The D-backs are still a work in progress but are getting better. Did a good job of containing the Spartan passing attack for 57 minutes last week. The ability to get pressure up front helps out this secondary immensely. There has been a lot of talk about the play of Chris Maragos. He has made some clutch plays and has had a handful of picks so far this season. However, he is no Jim Leonhard. Maragos is a solid player with good hands, but he doesn’t have the greatest speed and gets out of position sometimes.

The special teams have been solid this year. They don’t appear to be the best blockers in the world, but Gilreath came close to busting one last week. The kick coverage has been good so far this year. After a couple early misses, Welch seems to be back on track after bombing that 57-yarder against Fresno State.

After all that rambling about what Wisconsin has, lets actually get to the game. It will be Wisconsin’s first road game of the season and it comes at an unknown venue. How will Tolzein and the rest of the young team react in the first game on the road? Normally this wouldn’t be an issue in Minnesota since the crown is usually 40% Badger fans, but that will not be the case this season. Wisconsin has also done a piss-poor job of closing out opponents at home so far. Will the slip ups they have had cost them on the road?

From all reports, it sounds like Minnesota got their running game going last week. This will be big because if Wisconsin has to respect the run, it will be harder for them to generate a pass rush to help out the secondary. Also watch out the academic wizard MarQuis Gray running some out of the backfield. He has only gotten a handful of touches in the first few games but I am wondering if they were not holding him back a bit to unleash him against the hated Badgers.

It will also be interesting to see how Nutpunch Decker fairs in this game. He suffered an ankle injury in last year’s game. Last week, the Badgers shut down Blair White but MSU was able to work the ball to the other receivers. If the Badgers take away Decker (a humongous if) will Weber be able to find anybody else. Decker leads the team with 35 receptions and the next closest guys have 10. Hopefully Aaron Henry can step up his game and limit Decker.

All in all this should be a good game. I don’t see it as a blow-out either way. Will Wisconsin block any rugby style punts? Who knows, but it is always fun when these two teams play and your team wins. Wisconsin has won the past 5 meetings, so it has been pretty fun lately. I see that streak continuing this year. Wisconsin’s balanced offense will steal the show and the badgers will put up a 31-24 victory, but not before enduring some tense moments at the end of the game. I give this bad boy a 10 high lifes out of 10 high lifes on the Miller High Life Watchability Scale. Granted, that is for me. If you live outside of Wisconsin or Minnesota, this one would probably rank a 4.


  1. Disapointment. That long of a post and no "I hate that stinking Gopher" story?

  2. Awesome found 29 hands over mouth or hands on top of head in disbelief in the crowd. This is not counting the faces of shock or blank stairs.

  3. And one guy with no shirt on, a Sidekick Bob haircut, and a W painted on his chest, who is very excited.

  4. You'll note though, that there are no African-American students superimposed into the picture though, UW-style.