Woohoo, 50th post! Seems like I just started this thing! Well, the Badgers continued the trend they showed last week in relying more and more on their running game and trying to limit Scott Tolzien’s passing attempts. Today, the ratio was 20 passing attempts to 52 running plays, almost 1:3. Basically for every 4 plays, 3 were rushes. And it worked. John Clay and Montee Ball had phenomenal days, combining for 249 rushing yards and 3 TDs. This strong rushing game led to long scoring drives that translated to the Badgers winning the possession game. Their time of possession was almost 8 minutes more than the Hoosiers’ (36:45 vs 23:15). It’s these kind of long scoring drives that the Badgers will need to generate over and over again if they want to finish the season strong and make it to a respectable bowl game.
What was different this game was the passing game. I can honestly say this was the best I’ve seen Scott Tolzien play. I’m not sure if his stats were his best for this season, but he looked more comfortable and stronger than I’ve ever seen him look before. He threw for 194 yards, didn’t give up an interception, and recorded a touchdown pass. Those are pretty good stats, especially considering the Badgers wide receivers dropped a few easy passes from him, and a touchdown pass was called back on offensive pass interference. All in all, Tolzien looked like a leader during this game. He especially impressed me during the final possession of the game. The Hoosiers had just scored a touchdown and brought the game to within 3. While Wisconsin used the run game primarily to run the clock down, the Badgers still found themselves in a third and long situation. But Tolzien didn’t panic. He dropped back in the pocket, found the open man, and hit Nick Toon for a key first down that allowed the clock to keep running and forced the Hoosiers into using the last of their timeouts prematurely.
The passing game on the whole looked very strong today. Nick Toon had a fantastic game, racking up over 100 yards on just 5 receptions. Although five receptions doesn’t seem like a lot, all of them were for first down yardage, and many of them came in 3rd-down situations. That’s clutch play if I ever saw it.
Defensively, I feel the Badgers took a step back today. The entire second half they looked tired. They started missing tackles and giving up extra yards. The cornerbacks looked slow and inferior. And the front line didn’t have anywhere close to previous games’ success at putting pressure on the opposing quarterback. I’m not sure entirely what the cause was today. It’s not as if they really had to play all that hard in the first half, since Wisconsin put up 24 points on several long, defense-resting drives. It might have been a combination of an off day combined with a strong game by Hoosiers quarterback Ben Chappell.
All in all, this was the most complete and efficient offensive effort I’ve seen from the Badgers. Their offense is rounding into form at exactly the right part in the season. As long as they remain healthy, I think they’ll do well in whatever bowl game they wind up in.