Typical Badger team to lay an egg when the nation is watching in a primetime, big-time football game. I posed the question in my season preview of can the Badgers FINALLY win these football games and get over the hump to join the Big Ten elite once again? Apparently not. I wouldn’t go as far to say the Spartans dominated in their 34-24 victory over Wisconsin, but they were in control of the game for a good portion of the 60 minutes.
Two keys to the game I had were third-down conversions and how penalties would effect the game. The Spartans came into the game 103rd out of 120 teams, converting only 31% of their third-downs this season and the Badgers came in at a magnificent 53% clip. Needless to say, the Spartans completely flipped the switch, going 9-18 in the contest. Meanwhile, the Badgers stumbled all over the football field in big-play situations converting just 3 of 11 third-downs.
In order for a good football team to be great, they need to be able to go into a hostile environment on the road and play solid, fundamental football. Repeatedly on Saturday afternoon, the Badgers shot themselves in the foot with negative plays and penalties. Nick Toon may have played his worst football game as a Badger. He was clearly rusty and obviously this turf toe injury is a major concern. He dropped a wide open pass which would have been good for a first-down on the Badgers opening possession. He committed a block-in-the-back penalty that was clear as day right in front of an official. And Toon and Tolzien had no chemistry. Tolzien didn’t have chemistry with anybody on Saturday as he spent most of the game picking himself up off the Spartan Stadium grass.
Credit the Michigan State defense which was lead by All-American linebacker Greg Jones. They slowed down everybody on the offense with the exception of James White. John Clay got banged up early with an ankle injury and was not as effective as Badger fans have become accustomed to. The veteran Badger line was repeatedly beaten off the ball against the Spartans front seven throughout the afternoon. And Michigan State’s secondary kept all-world tight end Lance Kendricks in check with solid bracket coverage during the contest. Toon, David Gilreath and the rest of the receiving core were a non-factor.
Michigan State controlled the football game from a possession standpoint as they held the ball for more than 36 minutes. It’s hard to put points on the board when you don’t have the ball. And it’s hard to put points on the board when your defense is out there giving up 444 yards of total offense. If there’s any positive to take from this game it was the play of defensive end J.J. Watt. The guy is an absolute monster but he needs help from the rest of his teammates.
Up next for Bucky is the battle for the axe against Minnesota. They have had a brutal season to date but you can throw records out the window when these two squads square-off. They better get their game together as a showdown with Ohio State lurks in two weeks. If they play like they did today, they’ll have no chance of even hanging with the Buckeyes.
About the Author
Written by Chad Seely
Hey sports fans! Welcome to my Wisconsin Badgers football blog. For any Badger scores, news or questions you may have, come check out this blog! For those who don't know me, I'm a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. I graduated in May 2009 with a Broadcast Journalism degree and returned in Fall 2009 to get a Minor in Multimedia which I completed in May 2010. In the summer, you can catch me on AM1230 WSBB, splitting time as the play-by-play announcer and color commentator for the Daytona Cubs, the Advanced-A Affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.