Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Hughes: Thankfully, Bucky starts fast

Between the third and fourth quarters of Thursday night’s 51-17 butchery by Wisconsin unto Nevada-Las Vegas, when the obedient student section jumped around, turning the press box into a swing set, I sat there, enjoying the closest I’d ever come to an earthquake, thinking: “Tonight couldn’t get much better for the Badgers.”

Total satisfaction is not something that always accompanies Wisconsin when playing humble non-conference teams. Sure, head coach Bret Bielema has never lost to a non-conference foe before, now 21-0, but many’s-a-time over the last few years the Badgers came away from wins against lowly foreign opponents with some pretty big if’s and’s and but’s.

Not totally true for this game. It all went according to plan.


Here are some things that should happen when a team that ranks No. 10/11 meets one that says is the 112th best in the country.

1) You score seven touchdowns on your first eight possessions and the only reason you don’t score eight is because you ran out of time at the end of the half and kicked a field goal anyway (Check).

2) The punter does not see the field until sometime after the second-string quarterback and other reserves do (Check).

3) As you zip by defenders to accumulate six plays that go 20 yards or more, give the impression that the opposing defense is slow and stiff (Check).

4) Miscellaneous: keep the opposition out of the endzone until the second half (Check), commit zero turnovers (Check), sack the opposing quarterback at least three times (Check), never allow your quarterback to be touched (Check), allow no more than one play of 20 yards or more (Check), do not allow the opponent to convert 25 percent of third downs (Check).

Not to get too carried away, though, the game wasn’t a masterpiece. Penalties crept up (six), fourth down conversions were conceded (2-2), zero turnovers were forced and Bielema himself thought the tackling could’ve been better. But this game still went according to plan. UNLV never looked as if it were up to the task.

And that was the opposite of a year ago, when things failed to go according to plan and Wisconsin didn’t look the part for a good amount of the non-conference season.

In Las Vegas for the 2010 season opener, the Badgers (then ranked No. 12) pummeled the Rebels 41-21 but lead by just 17-14 at half. In that game, UNLV returned an interception for a touchdown and recovered a fumble inside its own 5-yard line to run it back 82 yards and set up another score.

UW cleaned itself up in the second half, but overall, it was labeled as a sloppy beginning and the games that followed weren’t much better.

Against unranked San Jose State, fumbles abounded and horrendous tackling reserved UW to a modest 27-14 win. That preceded a game versus Arizona State that was won by the thinnest of margins – a blocked PAT and a tackle at the 1-yard line.

The Badgers put it together in a record-breaking 70-3 win the next week, but that was against Austin Peay, a school with an enrollment one-fourth the size of Wisconsin’s. So kudos for that.

But then came the Big Ten opener, where a strong and inspired Michigan State team dispatched Wisconsin “convincingly” – as head coach Mark Dantonio will remind you – by a score of 34-24.

You see, the point I’m trying to make is that it took a while for Wisconsin to reach its full potential last year. The Badgers beat the bad teams (despite sometimes playing down to their level), and when their first test arrived, they failed it and jeopardized a trip to Pasadena.

Fortunately, the loss had its silver lining. The Badgers cut out the nonsense and played to their true potential after that game. Things went according to plan after that – except, of course, for the fact that UW lost in the Rose Bowl. Still, the point remains.

Wisconsin played so well Thursday night it almost caught center Peter Konz by surprise, simply because it was the first game of the season. Montee Ball called the win “a lot” more satisfying than the 2010 season opener.

Against these lesser-talented teams, it’s obviously much more about how the Badgers win rather than if they win. Last season, it took the Badgers a few weeks to patch up deficiencies, but on Thursday night, there were no red-alert complications.

The Badgers simply looked better prepared and more focused than they did at the outset a year ago, which is all the more important. Wisconsin needs to be on a roll by the time Nebraska visits Madison. UW cannot be sitting like a lame duck after barely skirting by hapless opponents.

The most important thing about Thursday: it went according to plan. And if Wisconsin continues to produce that, the results will get bigger each time.

But hey, that is some quarterback they got, too, huh?

Elliot is a junior majoring in journalism. Were you surprised at how well UW played Thursday? Tell him about it at [email protected].

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