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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Zetlin: UW outdated, change needed

As Bob Dylan would say, “The times, they are a changing.” We have iPhones, wireless internet, podcasts and DV-R.

Someone needs to remind the Wisconsin football coaching staff of that.

If there’s any team in college football that has an excuse to be old school, it’s Penn State. Why? Because its 81-year-old coach makes your grandfather look like he still needs a pacifier.


But the Nittany Lions are everything but old school. They run the “Spread HD” offense, part defenders like Moses did the Red Sea and allow junior quarterback Daryll Clark to run, pass and put crooked numbers up on the scoreboard.

The results: 6-0, 2-0 in the Big Ten and a No. 6 national ranking.

Here in Madison, the outcome has been a bit different, as the Badgers have dropped their first two conference games, erasing all hopes of a Jan. 1 Rose Bowl berth.

This summer, head coach Bret Bielema was certain that a pro-style offense featuring a fullback would give his team an advantage because so few defenses practice against anything like it. Wisconsin and Iowa are currently the only two Big Ten teams that do not run some form of the spread. The truth is, their decision makers are being stubborn and out-coached, their offenses are more outdated than Atari, and neither team has yet to win a conference game this season.

What was glaringly obvious in the Badgers’ last two affairs was that they lack playmakers at the quarterback and wide receiver positions. And it’s not just the starters, either. The whole depth chart at those positions lacks true big play ability.

Why, you ask? It’s simple. Why would top wide receiver and quarterback recruits — like a Terrelle Pryor, for example — want to play in this kind of offense? It’s built for offensive linemen, running backs and 1960s football.

Like it or not, new age college football is about spreading the field and airing it out, with more speed than Talladega. Instead, the UW offense is in neutral because it doesn’t have enough firepower to move the chains on a consistent basis.

If the Badgers want to compete with the NCAA elites, they need more talent at the skill positions. But the only way to accomplish that is to change the system.

In other words, Bielema needs a new blueprint if he wants long-term success in this conference.

In terms of the rest of this year, it’s easy to blame Allan Evridge for the 0-2 conference start; he touches the ball on every offensive play. But quite frankly, although he’s been mediocre at best, he’s played well enough to win at least one of the past two games. He didn’t drop half a dozen passes in Ann Arbor, and he wasn’t responsible for tackling Pryor and Beanie Wells Saturday night.

That said, it’s time to pull the plug on No. 4 anyway.

This is Bielema’s third season coaching the Badgers, and for the third straight campaign he’s started a different quarterback, all of whom have been seniors. This year it was Evridge’s turn after waiting patiently behind John Stocco and Tyler Donovan. Again, you can’t fault Evridge for the last two overall team performances; he was thrown into an unfair situation, his duty merely to lead a team after growing mold on the pine for two long years. Oh, and don’t lose because the bar of expectations is set higher than the top of Yao Ming’s door frame.

Quarterback is arguably the hardest position in all of sports to learn. Reading defenses, memorizing playbooks and leading an 11-player unit: all near-impossible feats to master, especially for someone with only a little more collegiate game experience than I have.

Does Evridge deserve another chance? Of course he does. Will he improve? No question. But when all chances of a legitimate bowl berth this season have flown out the window, there is no room for sympathy or emotions, and there’s only one goal: rebuild for next season.

So this Saturday No. 6 Penn State comes to town. Which UW quarterback gives the Badgers the best chance to win? Evridge, simply because a debut against Penn State on national TV is too much to ask of anyone else. But for what, a winter trip to Detroit, San Antonio or Orlando if they’re lucky? We’ve seen that for longer than any of us would like.

What Evridge could have used was some experience last season, after the Badgers dropped back-to-back games against Illinois and the same (only now they’re 10 times better) Nittany Lions they’ll see three days from now. But he sat behind Donovan all Outback Bowl-bound season, and now there’s a glazed doughnut in Wisconsin’s Big Ten win column.

Coincidence? Don’t think so.

Next season, Juice Williams will be back for the Illini, and Pryor, Clark and Steven Threet (Michigan) will all have a year under their respective belts when their teams hit the gridiron come fall. You think the Badgers stand a chance against any of them with a quarterback going through the same growing pains we’ve seen with Donovan and Evridge?

Unless Brett Favre comes back to the Dairy State dressed in cardinal and white, I wouldn’t bet on it.

You’ve got to feel bad for Allan because he was thrown into a near-impossible situation and was the product of significant injuries to his tight ends and poor play around him.

Nevertheless, the time has come to make the switch. Either that, or get used to offensive mediocrity a year from now, too.

Derek is a junior majoring in economics. Agree? Disagree? Agree to disagree? E-mail him at [email protected].

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