Glen Davis Suspended Indefinitely

The Boston Herald reports that Glen “Big Baby” Davis has been suspended indefinitely by the Boston Celtics for fracturing his right thumb while involved in a fight with a former LSU teammate. In addition to the indefinite suspension, Davis will likely be fined a portion of his salary, due to the non-basketball nature of his injury. While this suspension is unfortunate, as it weakens an otherwise very strong Celtics bench, it cannot be unexpected. Davis, in short, did a dumb thing. He is a professional athlete who signed a contract that he will represent the Boston Celtics on and off the court and that he will do all that is necessary to protect the company’s assets. And as a player for the organization, “Big Baby” is such an asset.

Glen vs. “Big Baby”

It’s interesting to note that in his report, Danny Ainge referred to Davis by his first name, rather than his nickname. This is a solid way of calling out Glen Davis’s maturity level. He has to recognize that, as a professional organization representing a franchise and a city, he must behave in a mature and respectable fashion. He is, after all, a figure that young people will look up to. By calling him Glen, Ainge is hoping to appeal to Davis’s maturity. It was “Big Baby” who broke his thumb in a fistfight with his friend. However, it is Glen Davis who will pay the price for his actions. It is Glen Davis who was suspended, and it will be Glen Davis who will have to recoup the team for a part of his salary. Just as we’ve seen with other professional athletes (such as our own Paul Pierce, for instance), sometimes incidents like this are just what the player needs to complete the mental transition necessary to be a professional NBA player.

Effect on the Team

Glen Davis’ suspension will likely last only as long as he is in recovery from his surgery. As the second reserve forward on the team (behind Rasheed Wallace), the Celtics are unlikely to keep him on the bench unnecessarily. With Wallace’s history of foul trouble, it is likely that there will be times where neither he nor Kevin Garnett will be on the floor. And at times like that, the Celtics only other options are Shelden Williams, Bill Walker, and Brian Scalabrine. Davis has more experience that Walker and more skill than either Williams or Scalabrine. This means that while Williams will probably get more playing time now, the Celtics do not want to keep him on the court so long as they have a better option. This means that as soon as Davis is ready to play basketball again, he probably will.

As unfortunate as this incident is, it shouldn’t negatively affect the Celtics too badly. No clear-thinking player could argue that this punishment was unfair, especially when every player on Celtics has signed a similar contract asking them to behave in a manner that properly represents the Boston Celtics. It is also not as if the Celtics are losing one of their starting five, or even one of their key bench players such as Rasheed Wallace, Eddie House, or Marquis Daniels. Glen Davis is a role-player on the team, and it’s only a moderate role. The Celtics should be able to survive without him, as they showed Wednesday night in Cleveland. But when he comes back, the Celtics will be all the better.

Paul Pierce’s Double-Double Leads Celtics to Victory

The Celtics began there 2009-2010 season in convincing style, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 95-89. It was the first time in 9 attempts that the Celtics won on the road against Cleveland. The Celtics began the game very slowly, missing shots and turning the ball over multiple times. They quickly found themselves losing by 14 points, as the Cavs dominated offensively, led by early success from Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James, who finished the game with a whopping 38 points to go along with his four blocked shots and eight assists. The Celtics closed the first quarter with a solid 14-7 run, however, which cut the lead back to a more manageable seven points.

The tide turned in the Celtics favor as the bench was substituted into the game. In the first half alone, the bench put up 17 points against the Cavaliers’ two, which contributed to a 10-3 run which ended the half with the Celtics leading by six. The star of the bench? None other than newcomer Rasheed Wallace, who led the bench with twelve points and three 3-point shots. 3-Point shooting was another decisive factor that led to the Celtics’ victory tonight. The Celtics made nine 3-point shots tonight to the Cavaliers’ six, one of which came during garbage time in the final two minutes.

The Celtics came out of the half looking just as strong as they did before, opening up the game with a solid 10-2 run that pushed the lead to 15. The Cavaliers’ defense looked weak, and its offense looked stagnant, holding the ball for too long, never getting off the passes needed to overcome the Celtics’ suffocating defense. Unfortunately, the Celtics became a little overconfident and started to play sloppy basketball. The turnover problem that plagued them in the first quarter returned, and the shooting went cold. Paul Pierce, who led the Celtics’ scorers at the half with 13, failed to score at all during the third quarter. As the shooting cooled, the Cavaliers began to heat up. The Cleveland crowd, which had quieted in the face of the Celtics’ mid-game domination, returned in force when a combination of a James block and an O’Neal dunk swung momentum back in Cleveland’s favor. Cleveland finished the quarter with a solid 18-10 run to close out the 3rd quarter.

I wouldn’t say that the Celtics played particularly well in the 4th quarter. The shooting still was cold. The defense got sloppy, putting the Cavaliers on the free-throw line with seven minutes still to go in the quarter. And overall the sync and flow seemed to have left the Celtics, no matter what combination of players they tried out on the court. Thankfully, a Rasheed Wallace 3-pointer here, a Paul Pierce bucket there (he finished the game with 23 points and 11 rebounds), and the Celtics were able to hold on for the victory. Up six at the half, they held on to win by the same margin. That makes the entire second half, in my opinion, a wash.

Overall, the Celtics certainly started the season off on the right foot. They won a tough, tough road game against a very good team. This win may come back to help them when playoff seeding occurs. And this team looks like it can become something that can do well in the playoffs. All of the seeds are there: the starters can all still play, the bench has depth and ability, and the team can execute stifling defense and high-speed offense. As long as the team stays healthy and continues to grow, I predict this will be a very tough team to beat. Tonight was a good win: there will be more.

Goodbye Brad Mills, We Will Miss You!

ESPN.com reported today that Brad Mills has been hired by the Houston Astros to be their new manager. I, for one, am sorry to see him go. The bench coach is an often overlooked position on the coaching staff, but it is a very important one. The bench coach is the second in command for the team, acting as the sounding board for the manager and running the team in the manager’s absence. And Brad Mills did his job as well as anyone could’ve asked. Terry Francona’s history of health concerns, coupled with his propensity to get ejected from games (especially early on in his tenure as Red Sox manager), meant that Brad Mills was called on numerous times to lead the team. And he did so with honor and integrity.

In all likelihood, he could’ve left earlier on in his career and gone on to a manager’s position; there’s always a good deal of turnover at the top as bad teams seek to replace the managing staff in the hopes that fresh faces will bring fresh ideas and new-found success. But Mills chose to stay with the manager with whom he’d worked in both Boston and earlier in his career in Philadelphia. He stayed on, learned, witnessed two world championships, and then chose to leave.

Looking at the two, I see a lot of similarity between Brad Mills and Terry Francona. Both were players with mediocre stats and abilities whose careers were cut short by knee injury, only to find success in the coach’s role. And Brad Mills has had the luck to study under someone who is turning out to be an excellent baseball manager. Francona, in his tenure, has learned a great deal about managing in a sports-obsessed town such as Boston. He’s handled the press, handled good teams and bad, and handled problem players such as Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra. Presumably, all of the skills he has learned he has passed on to his coaching staff, so Brad Mills should have all of the knowledge that Terry Francona does. This will serve him well as he moves from Boston to Houston, another fantastic baseball city with a storied franchise and a decently large sports press.

Most will probably look at this story and not care very much. That’s ok, they have their right to do so. Other members of Francona’s staff have left, and some more important than Brad Mills. It’s not as if John Farrell is leaving, a coach whose work has translated more directly into on-field success and failure. But Brad Mills still played an important role in the Red Sox, and he was beloved by his manager. Another piece of the 2004 and 2007 World Series teams is leaving. I’m sad to see him go, but still I wish him the best. I think he has all of the knowledge and tools necessary to succeed as the Astros’ new manager. He has a lot of work to do (check out the link above to see how bad the Astros were this season), but I think he will be just fine. And so will the Red Sox.

Who Will Win the World Series?

Well this is it. It’s come down to two teams. For the American League, you have the New York Yankees, the winningest team in professional sports history. For the National League, you have the Philadelphia Phillies, winners of the previous year’s World Series. It’s a good matchup, pitting two fantastic sports towns against each other in a battle for baseball’s most coveted prize. So who will win?

The short answer is that I think the Yankees will win it all this year. You can stop reading now if that’s all you came here for. The rest will just be analysis.

The Yankees domination begins with their starting pitching rotation. C. C. Sabathia and A. J. Burnett are proving time and again that they can handle the pressure of the postseason. They are both pitching extremely well, even on short rest, and it doesn’t seem like they can be beaten. So far, neither one has (they have no losses in their postseason statistcs year). Facing them four or five times in a seven game series is a scary thought, and I just don’t think the Phillies have what it takes to beat pitching that good.

As if that weren’t enough to win a World Series on its own, the Yankees also boast a terrifyingly strong lineup as well. There are simply no easy outs on this team. 1-9, they are all dangerous and patient hitters, who will grind out at bats, build up pitch counts, and wait for the inevitable mistake pitch, which they will promptly crush. We all knew Alex Rodriguez would get over his postseason jitters eventually, and now we’re seeing how powerful a player he can actually be. And when your lineup also features Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and Robinson Cano, it starts to approach ridiculousness. That lineup is so good that I just don’t see any combination of pitchers being able to shut them down four times in seven games. The Yankees haven’t lost four out of seven in a long time, heck it’s been awhile since they even lost THREE games in a short timespan. They’re clicking offensively, defensively, and their pitching is on. I predict they win it in six games.

This is not to say the Phillies will just roll over and die, however. They feature a 1-2 punch in Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels that can dominate when they’re on their games. These will be low scoring games, which always gives either team a chance, because one or two mistakes from either side will probably be all it takes. And the Phillies have some hitters who can capitalize on mistake pitches. Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, and Chase Utley are all big-time players capable of rising to the occasion. They have plenty of World Series experience too, and that might play into their winning at least a couple of games.

The major difference between the two teams lies in the bullpen. The Yankees feature the best closer in postseason history in Mariano Rivera. He can pitch multiple innings if necessary, and he always comes through (except occasionally against the Red Sox). The Phillies counter with Brad Lidge, who I just don’t see as in the same league as Mariano Rivera. He blew 11 saves in the regular season and has had to work a fair number of innings so far this postseason. The Yankees are a scarier lineup than anything he’s ever faced before, and it might be more than he can handle. If called upon, I just don’t trust him.

All in all, the Yankees are better than the Phillies in all the important categories. The only chance I see is if the loss of the DH for the middle three games affects the Yankees enough to lose all three games there. Otherwise, I don’t see the Yankees losing two games at home, and that’s what they’ll need if the Phillies can’t sweep at home.

On a personal note, I will begin posting weekly to sportsofboston.com in an effort to share my writing with a larger audience. I will still be posting regularly to this blog however, and all blog entries to the new site will be double-posted here. Until next time!

To Pull or Not to Pull

That is most certainly the question when you build as big a lead as the Patriots did Sunday afternoon against the Titans. Tom Brady was pulled just after the start of the third quarter in favor of backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. Many have questioned whether it would’ve been better to leave Brady in longer and see if he could break the NFL record for TD passes (7) and total points (72). Quite frankly, I believe those people are sighted in their critique of Bill Belichick’s decision. Tom Brady has his name next to plenty of records already, and 2 more would be unnecessary at best, dangerous at worst.

The main reason to pull a quarterback is to protect him from injury. When said quarterback already has suffered a major injury once, it makes even more sense to limit his playtime. On Sunday, this was amplified by the severe weather conditions under which this particular game was played. A snowy, icy field makes it hard to get one’s footing, and it would have been easy for Brady’s feet to slide out from under him or twist the wrong way along the ice. The game was out of reach, so why risk an injury to the most important member of your team? The argument that it would give Brady more time to work on his mechanics falls in the face of the injury issue. Brady’s passing mechanics may have improved marginally (and he was throwing pretty well before he left; he had a passer rating of 152.8) if he continued to play in the second half, but the risk of injury is far greater than the opportunity to get a little better.

It’s also not as if Belichick pulled only Tom Brady. Backup running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was also substituted into the game, along with other rookies and backups as the situation allowed for. The game was over after one half, and rather than “run up the score,” he decided to use the second half as a sort of practice for his team, only with full pads and an opposing team that was playing at full speed (or as close as the weather allowed). He got unused players real, significant playing time (as opposed to “garbage time” at the end of games). This will only help the Patriots in the future, as it means these players, if called upon, will not be completely green coming into the game.

Moving on to the idea of “running up the score,” I think it’s a somewhat silly concept. Teams have come back from over 30 points down to win games before, so it’s safe to say that almost no lead is safe. Why wouldn’t a team, especially early in the game, try to put up as many points as they possibly can? It’s up to a defense to stop an offense, not an offense to stop itself. In some ways, things like going for it on 4th down when you have a big lead and are in the red zone (which the 2007 Patriots did all the time)  are the OPPOSITE of running up the score, even though people don’t see it that way. Instead of simply taking the points available, they gave the opposing team one more chance to stop them from scoring any points at all. Other aspects of “running up the score,” such as running trick plays like half-back options or flea-flickers, are also not in bad spirit. A team plays an entire season, not just a single game. Any play they get an opportunity to run once will be easier the second time around, and the third time, and so on and so forth. So Brady completed a flea-flicker to Randy Moss for an additional TD pass. So what? Brady has had trouble hitting Moss all season, so any extra opportunity to hit his main receiver should be taken, not passed up on the notion of scoring unnecessarily.

Next week the Patriots go to London and play Tampa Bay, another terrible football team. Brady will have more time to work on his passing mechanics then, under hopefully less adverse conditions than the ones he faced last Sunday. Any developmental argument against pulling him can be worked out next week. For now, we should just enjoy the victory for what it was: a complete and utter domination.

Patriots Castrate Titans

That was a classical mythology reference, for anyone paying attention. Well, that was a blowout if I ever saw one. New England put up 59 points to the Titans’ zero, and but that doesn’t even tell half the story. Tom Brady set a new record for completed TD passes in a quarter and matched or beat several personal and franchise offensive records, including total yardage and total points. Against a secondary that looked confused and incompetent, Brady pretty much had free reign to throw to anyone at any time. The offensive line did it’s job and protected the QB. Even the running game was on point, as Laurence Maroney, despite the snow, ran for over 100 yards and a TD. This was the most complete offensive effort I’ve seen from the Patriots in quite awhile, easily in the last 2 years.

Defensively, a combination of factors contributed to the shutout, but I’m not so sure the defense should get too much credit for this victory. First off, it was snowy and slippery. It’s more a testament to the skill of our wide receivers that we didn’t drop the ball very much than it is a testament to our defense that the Titans did. They dropped a ton of balls, but they WERE getting open. Overall, that offense played sloppy. Kerry Collins is just not that good a quarterback. The wide receivers are nothing to write home about. And again, the ball was slippery. Where an excellent QB can excel in these conditions, a mediocre one will struggle. All while the defense forced several fumbles and interceptions, they did not record any sacks the entire game. They also gave up nearly 200 yards in rushing to the Titans. I recognize how hard it is to stop the run in the snow, but the defense has to get better if they want to contend with decent teams.

So what do we take away from this game? Well to begin with, we know that the Patriots can play in difficult weather conditions. As we move towards November and December, those conditions will become more and more the norm, so that’s a relief. We also know that the Patriots wide receivers are smart and know how to exploit weaknesses in opponents’ secondaries. Tom Brady is getting healthier, and we know that he hasn’t lost his touch. He can still throw the short ball and the deep ball, and he is still as mobile and able to dodge tackles as he ever was. With the new rules in place protecting quarterbacks, he will continue to get better. And that’s a little bit scary.

We also know that the defensive unit can handle opposing quarterbacks. They got plenty of pressure on Collins and Young, even if they failed to record a sack. Our cornerbacks did fine, picking off 2 errant passes for interceptions. And it’s only natural to let up a bit on stopping the run when you’re up by 45 points after just a half. So we can let that slide. Next week, the Pats play against another terrible team in Tampa Bay. Hopefully they can continue to build on this victory and build momentum as we head into the second half of the season.

A Day at Camp Randall

I’ve had the pleasure of checking out a few of the real sports shrines in the US. I’ve been to Fenway numerous times, sung “Sweet Caroline” and “Dirty Water” and “Tessie” with thousands of Red Sox fans. I’ve been to Lambeau Park when Brett Favre was still there and sat on the cold concrete bleachers. I’ve even seen the Harvard-Yale football game. And today I can add Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, WI, to my list of awesome places to see sporting events.

The building was packed with 80,000+ Badgers fans, all wearing red, white, and black. And the place was LOUD. With every first down, everyone signaled with the ref. With every opposing third down, everyone shouted their lungs out. It was exhilarating. The entire stadium sang along with every song that came over the PA system. And there are so many things unique to the Camp Randall experience. They include:

1) The obscenity cheer. I’ll keep this PG, so one section of the stadium would in unison point at another and yell “Eat poo!” Not to be outdone, the other section would point right back and yell “Screw you!” It’s good to know that Badgers fans keep some of their intensity to themselves and don’t just dump it on opposing teams.

2) The wave. I’ve never seen waves like the kind I saw at Camp Randall today. Sometimes they would be at normal pace. Other times they would be super-slow, crossing the stadium bit by bit, a trickle at a time. And at other times the wave would just fly by. It was a unique variation on what is otherwise pretty standard fare for a sporting event.

3) “Jump Around.” I don’t think when House of Pain wrote this song they had any idea it would be used like this. But it was simply amazing to hop and dance and jump around with 80,000 other Badgers fans. The building rocked, and I was incredibly happy to have been able to take part in it.

As for the game, we’re beginning to see a pattern with Wisconsin against good teams: they hang with them for awhile, maybe even take a lead, but inevitably fade in the second half and then lose. It’s what happened against OSU and it’s what happened today.

The Badgers have a very good defense, there’s no doubting that. They stop the run with the best of them and are able to get decent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, forcing errant passes. Unfortunately, their cornerbacks aren’t quite as good as their front line is, which means that if a quarterback can avoid the sack, chances are a wide receiver or tight end will be open. This was evident today, as Ricky Stanzi threw for over 200 yards and averaged close to 10 yards per completion.

The problem with Wisconsin lies in its inconsistent offense, an offense which seems to have problems sustaining long offensive drives. They can usually do it a couple of times a game, but that’s it. And what that means is that the defense is constantly on the field (Iowa’s time of possession today was 33 minutes to Wisconsin’s 26). This is really hard on the defense, and it tires them. This leads to the second-half fade I talked about earlier. Without long offensive drives (which tend to breakdown in the second half, adding to the problem), Wisconsin cannot expect it’s defense to carry them to victories against these tough teams.

Overall, I had a blast visiting Camp Randall, watching their awesome marching band, and cheering along with everyone else for the upset that never came. Wisconsin has missed its only chances this season to get ranked, and all we can do now is root for a successful conclusion of the series. Oh, and congrats to my cousin Allison Coran, state singles high school tennis champion two years running.

Gearing up for the Championship Series

So we have 4 teams left in MLB playoffs: the Philadelphia Phillies, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the New York Yankees. This post will be an analysis of each team’s chances of making it into the World Series. Personally, I’m rooting for the Angels, but a Yankees-Dodgers match-up would be awesome because it would pit Joe Torre against his former team. The media will have a field day with this.

I’ll start with the Yankees. This is the best looking team on paper. It starts with their power pitching. C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett have been phenomenal this season, especially Sabathia. And both looked very good in the ALDS, giving up just one earned run apiece. They also have a terrifying line-up. Every hitter on their team has home run power, and every one of them can also hit for average. There are zero easy outs on that team. They have the pitching to match-up with the Angels, a more powerful offense, and Jose Molina, one of the very few catchers accurate enough to keep the Angels at bay on the basepath. This makes them my early pick to win the ALCS, and even the World Series.

The Angels are not exactly going to be pushovers however. John Lackey and Jered Weaver are very strong starting pitchers, and I think Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir can out-pitch Andy Pettite and Joba Chamberlain. Their 1-2 punch isn’t as strong as New York’s, but you need 4 starters to win an LCS, and the Angels are maybe the stronger team 1-4. They also have a dynamic and powerful offense behind them. They don’t hit as many home runs, but they are faster than the Yankees and will test them and their catchers, especially Jorge Posada, over and over again. Their speed and ability to manufacture runs means they can score easily once they get men on base. And that’s their one weakness. Without New York’s home run capabilities, the Angels will be relying on their ability to get on base in order to win. Keep them off base and their offense is diminished more substantially than the Yankees’, who can hit more home runs. The multi-faceted nature of the Yankees offense will outlast the Angels’ singular offense, and they will win because of it.

It was very impressive that the Dodgers beat the Cardinals in just 3 games. Unfortunately, I look at their rotation and their lineup and I just don’t see them advancing. Manny Ramirez hasn’t been the same since he stopped taking estrogen supplements (or whatever they were). Matt Kemp had a good season, to be sure, but he batted just .143 in the NLDS. And beyond that, they don’t have much in they way of big-time, impact hitters. Their offense is only ok, and their starting pitching is the same. Billingsley, Wolf, Kuroda, these are not strong pitchers to be putting out there. They did a great job against the Cardinals, but they are just an ok team that advanced against a superior but slumping team in St. Louis.

I think the Phillies have it in them to reach the World Series (and then lose to the Yankees). They have great starting pitching in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, and they have a strong lineup too. Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard are monster players. Combine them with players like Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino and you have a lineup that can easily overpower the Dodgers starters. Philly plays like an AL team, with power pitching and power offense. And as I’ve said before, the AL is simply better than the NL. So I think we’re looking at the World Champs defending their title against the team with the most titles of all time. It’s not Yankees vs Torre, and it’s not the All-L.A. Series (which virtually no one will watch), but as far as drama goes, I’ll take it.

A Sad Day for Boston Sports

Well, the results of today’s failures were both expected and unexpected. While the offense did it’s job against the Angels, the Red Sox were unable to pull out the victory and were eliminated from the playoffs in 3 games. The manner in which they were defeated was surprising, however. I thought the starting pitching did ok, with Bucholz just allowing 2 earned runs in his 5+ innings of work. However, the bullpen that had bolstered the Red Sox so often this season just flamed out. It’s perhaps ironic that Billy Wagner allowed the men to reach base that would ultimately get Anaheim back into the game. While it was Papelbon who blew the save, it all started in the 8th inning with Billy Wagner. I’d been scared since the beginning that this trade would not work out. For the most part it had up until today, when two closers combined to allow 5 earned runs in two innings of work. Papelbon looked bad today, and it cost us the postseason. While I expected this to happen, it still smarts.

Adding to the misery of Boston sports fans (at least for today), was the unfortunate and somewhat unexpected loss to the Denver Broncos, 20-17 in overtime. They played well in the first half, but looked lost in the second half. Once again, the offense was on-again-off-again. Brady and his receivers just aren’t clicking, and it’s making it harder and harder to sustain the kind of long, clock-eating drives that the Pats are notorious for. Right now, Welker is the only one Brady is hitting consistently, and even that isn’t as good as it used to be. I saw numerous passes today that were low or off-target, forcing Welker to settle for short-yardage gains when on-target balls would’ve resulted in long gains (and at least one touchdown).

Defensively, the Patriots strike me as lacking impact players. You know, players capable of making big plays in big moments. While they’re solid up front, especially with players like Vince Wilfork at tackle, their secondary looks weak. Jerrod Mayo is alright, but our cornerbacks are nothing to write home about. They strike me as competent at best. It says a lot about your team when the only player recording an interception is a wide receiver (Randy Moss).

Today was not a good day for Boston sports teams or their fans. Neither of our teams played well, and without the Celtics and just a mediocre Bruins team, we’re looking at a cold couple of months as we wait for our teams to come around. Baseball is over in Boston, and that saddens me. It’s the most intellectual of our four major sports, and the one-on-one head games between the pitcher and the batter fascinate me. So I’m most sad to see my favorite sport end for the year. Hopefully this will be an offseason of acquisition for the Red Sox. They need to bolster their starting rotation, solidify at shortstop, and re-sign Jason Bay. This team was just not quite good enough to go the distance this year. Hopefully next year’s will be.

Ohio State Dominates Wisconsin

I think Wisconsin was put in its place a little bit today. While they didn’t play badly, their flaws were exposed enough to show us that, right now, the Badgers are just an above average team beating up on worse teams. They went up against a ranked team today in Ohio State and, quite simply, were beaten. The most glaring flaw in their team, and I suspected this from the start, is their quarterback.

While other members of the Badgers probably stack up against upper echelon teams such as Ohio State, Scott Tolzien can not with. He is quite simply not that good a quarterback. Ohio State did an excellent job of stopping the run today, and it put the game in Tolzien’s hands. As I suspected, he was unable to handle the pressure and performed quite badly. He gave up two picks that were returned for touchdowns and failed to throw for any TDs whatsoever. Tolzien lacks the skills necessary to be a high-level quarterback in the FBS, and his lack of ability was on full display at the game today.

This is not to put the entire burden of defeat upon Scott Tolzien, because the loss was not only his fault. The offensive line of the Badgers was completely dominated by the defensive line of the Buckeyes. Winning at the line is the best way to disrupt good offenses. In this case, Ohio State’s trench victories worked on two levels. The first was that it prevented John Clay from ever getting going. It also meant continuous pressure on Tolzien, preventing him from ever getting into a throwing rhythm. The offensive line’s inability to handle the rush was most evident in the number of sacks they gave up: 6, when it had only given up two sacks through their first five games of the season. The game was won at the line of scrimmage, and the Badgers offensive line just came up short.

Defensively, I thought they played very well, especially for the first half. They got pressure on Terrelle Pryor multiple times, were able to sack him a few times, and even forced him to throw an interception of his own, one which the Badgers were able to convert into their one touchdown using a fake field goal attempt. Unfortunately, I think the inability of the offense to string together long drives kept the defense out there too long. While they played all right in the second half, they clearly tired towards the end, giving up a passing touchdown from Pryor that probably could’ve been defensed earlier in the game.

I don’t usually mention special teams, but there were two glaring moments in their performance today. The first, obviously, was the touchdown return they allowed to Ohio State, which gave Ohio State a 15 point lead and effectively put the game out of reach. The second was when Wisconsin received a kickoff, and the receiver ignored his blocker’s warning to just take the touch-back and ran it out of the end-zone. He was tackled at the 5-yard line, and it was simply too much distance for Wisconsin to cover, score, onside kick, and then score again. They strung a good drive together, but it killed most of the clock and came up with zero points anyway.

I don’t know if I would rank Wisconsin after this loss. I don’t think this was one of those defeats where you show you belong at the top even though you lost (think “Rocky”). This was just a defeat by a team that played better than you defensively, offensively (though maybe just barely), and on special teams. Wisconsin will get another shot to show it belongs on the list next week when Iowa comes to Camp Randall, but they better play a lot better than this.