Following their Saturday loss to Wisconsin, the Hilltopper squad lined the sidewalk outside UW’s athletic training facility, the McClain Center, in their sweat suits and warm-ups, waiting for their equipment to be packed and their bus to arrive.
Inside, the victorious Division I-A squad met with the media, family and friends in their post-game wear of suits, dress shirts and ties. The Badgers then headed upstairs to the dining hall where a buffet and congratulatory banners awaited them.
And the Hilltoppers? As UW enjoyed its meal, Western Kentucky greeted the Camp Randall concession carts like they were floats on a parade route, begging for leftover popcorn from the game. The concession workers obliged, and threw four or five boxes for the team to share.
Off the field, these were the differences between the Division I-AA Hilltoppers and I-A Wisconsin. Western Kentucky was brought in to Camp Randall to perform like a I-AA team; to give Wisconsin a confidence building victory. In return for their cooperation, they would receive a large check for their appearance fee, an amount that will make up a fourth of their athletic budget this year.
However, on the field WKU didn’t behave the way they were supposed to. For the first 14 minutes of the game it appeared like the Toppers thought they could walk away from Wisconsin with more than just a check — they might be able to pull out a win.
They didn’t, of course, but the 3-3 score in the first quarter was enough to make UW realize that their dominance over Penn State last weekend could have been a fluke. There need to be improvements fast, because from here on out there are no more I-AA teams on the Badger schedule.
UW played well last week, but Penn State is still not an opponent that should have given Wisconsin trouble. After having lost to Iowa this week, PSU drops to 0-3, and Joe Paterno is making many doubt he will surpass “Bear” Bryant’s all-time win record this year, or even tie it, for that matter.
But Saturday, UW didn’t even play well over the supposed cake-walk opponent. The defense held up their end of the bargain, but WKU only uses the run, so the game plan wasn’t that difficult to defend.
The real problem this week lay in the offensive game plan. Alvarez and offensive coordinator Brian White praised the Badger offense last week, saying that this was the way the offense was supposed to be run — with Brooks Bollinger back in the starting role, using his feet to gain yards and successfully handing off to Anthony Davis. This week, Alvarez had nothing but criticism for his offense, saying that they couldn’t get anything going, failing to establish both the pass and the run. Bollinger was ineffective in the first half, scoring only three points. Jim Sorgi came in and jump-started the passing game while still getting Davis yards on the ground, and scored two touchdowns before the half. However, Sorgi hit a wall in the second half when he made a bad decision that led to an interception.
The two QBs did not have an outstanding outing, but don’t forget to give credit to the WKU defense. They successfully defended both Bollinger’s ground-orientated game and Sorgi’s air attack.
“That’s a team that’s won the I-AA championship and they’re always in the run for it,” Lee Evans said. “We knew that they had some good talent that was going to be flying around out there. They’re definitely guys that could play I-A football.”
Kyle Moffatt recorded both of the interceptions thrown by Sorgi (he also threw one in the first half), and he deflected two passes. Erik Dandy had 14 tackles, and Mel Mitchell had 13. And, more importantly, they held both Davis (89 yards rushing) and Evans (85 yards receiving) to under 100 yards. That’s over 70 yards under Davis’ season average (153.5 yards) and 20 yards under Evans’ (121.2 yards).
So when the Hilltoppers return home, they can take with them more than just a hefty sum of money. They can take pride in the fact that they gave this I-A team a scare last Saturday.