Woot! Go Badgers! I went to a Division 3 school for college, and my parents went to Wisconsin, so I’ve always been a fan of Wisconsin football and basketball (also UConn, for proximity to my college reasons). So with nothing else to do this afternoon I watched Wisconsin take on Fresno State. The short story is that they won. If that’s all you wanted to know, you can quit reading my blog now. The long story is that they just barely won and maybe didn’t deserve it. They played well, and came back from a big deficit, but I thought Fresno State was the better team. The biggest mismatch was definitely the Fresno wide receivers vs the Wisconsin cornerbacks. The WR’s were quite simply taller and faster than the CB’s, and it led to a highly effective Fresno passing offense. That combined with Mathews’ running, made it a long day for the Wisconsin defense. What saved the Badgers was their ability to buckle down when the backs were up against it. They picked off 3 Fresno passes in the second half and overtime, the last one setting them up for an easy game-winning field goal. I was especially impressed with O’Brien Schofield and his tackling.
The defense did enough to overcome what I felt was a relatively weak offense from Wisconsin. The rushing game was strong, but the passing game was not. Tolzien passed about as well as Fresno’s QB did, but he was unable to punch it into the end zone at all except for right at the end. Granted, this was an overtime touchdown that forced Fresno to respond in kind, so it was a huge play. But going all game without a touchdown pass and just 225 throwing yards to show for it is not enough if you want to get to a bowl game.
All in all, I felt that with a few less interceptions from Fresno the Badgers would’ve lost this game heartily. But throw the ball away they did, and Fresno was defeated. Wisconsin’s quest to get ranked continues. It was a rough game, but the roughness is what makes college football great. Pro football is glitzy, with everything looking cleaner and more polished. College ball is harsher, with more emphasis on power running and less emphasis on the long pass due to the weaker caliber of quarterback. And power running is what Wisconsin has always done well. Numerous running backs have come through Wisconsin, the most famous of recent probably being Ron Dayne, he of the Heisman Trophy and phenomenal Rose Bowl performance.
For Wisconsin to succeed, it will need its running backs to continue to perform well. Quite honestly, I wasn’t impressed with Tolzien at QB. More then anything else, he just struck me as an only “OK” quarterback. His arm strength seemed just OK, his running speed seemed just OK, his overall composure seemed just OK. And OK isn’t going to cut it by itself. But with a talented corps of running backs like the ones shown off by Wisconsin today, they might just have enough to have a decent season despite an only OK QB. Until next time, always remember to “jump around!”