All-season UW head coach Barry Alvarez has embraced the notion that having two quarterbacks is a luxury, not a problem.
During his team’s 24-6 victory over Western Kentucky last Saturday, Alvarez learned why he needs two quarterbacks.
“I didn’t think we played well on offense, and that all starts with the quarterback,” Alvarez said following the game. “We didn’t throw the ball; [we] never could establish the run.”
Brooks Bollinger was given the nod to start the game for the second week in a row, coming off of a solid performance against Penn State that earned him praise from his head coach. Following the win over the Nittany Lions, Alvarez said that he was pleased with the offense Bollinger produced. He added that now UW was playing football the way he liked it — earning first downs and getting away from the big plays in order to concentrate on just moving the chains.
Against WKU Bollinger was not as effective in his game plan and was unable to successfully get the run started or gain first downs. He led Wisconsin’s offense to a field goal in the first series of the game, but in his next two series he was forced to punt.
In the fourth series, as planned before the start of the game, backup quarterback Jim Sorgi took over for Bollinger. In his first series, Sorgi connected with receiver Lee Evans for two completions and then gave the ball to Anthony Davis for the rush to lead UW downfield and into the endzone. Sorgi used the talents of Davis and Evans again in his second series, and led UW to another touchdown.
To open the second half, Bollinger once again took the snaps for UW. This time he was more productive, connecting with Nick Davis in the Badgers’ third series of the half for a touchdown. However, the offense as led by Bollinger, punted in the first two possessions of the half, as well as the possession following the Nick Davis touchdown.
Sorgi took over the offense for the rest of the game, but his sharpness from the first half dimmed, as he was unable to move the ball and threw for an interception, his second of the game.
“Sometimes you just throw the ball up for grabs, and I just can’t do that,” Sorgi said of his interceptions following the game. “I’ve got to get things back in order.”
Following Sorgi’s second interception Alvarez pulled him over on the sidelines and had a lengthy conversation with his quarterback.
“[Sometimes you have to] listen to what [the coaches are] saying, not the way they’re saying it,” Sorgi said. “[Alvarez] just told me not to hurt the football team.”
On the following possession, Alvarez went with Sorgi again, showing his backup quarterback that the coaching staff still has confidence in his abilities.
“My quarterbacks coach Jeff Horton says ‘I’m with you on the good days, I’m with you on the bad days, I’ve got your back,” Sorgi said. “It’s just nice to know that they’re not just going to sit you down after a mistake. They’re going to hang with you because they see something good in you.”
What Alvarez also saw in Sorgi was a body to replace Bollinger so that he wouldn’t take any more hits. In the first half, Bollinger took a hit that bruised his forearm and caused him to leave the game with over two minutes left in the second quarter in order to receive x-rays. All of the tests revealed that Bollinger’s arm was fine, but Alvarez still didn’t want to risk him suffering another injury.
“I didn’t want Brooks to take any shots,” Alvarez said. “[I] made my mind up to hand the ball off and go with Jim.”
Sorgi took over for the majority of the fourth quarter, but the inconsistent play of both quarterbacks means that when UW plays again next Saturday, the playing time of Bollinger and Sorgi will once again have to be decided.
At the conclusion of the game, Bollinger (3-10, 50 yards passing, 44 yards rushing) improved his record to 20-3 as a starter. Yet his superior record (Sorgi has not yet recorded a win as a starter) does not make him certain that he’s the one quarterback that should be taking snaps.
“We’re both out there trying to help each other as much as we can, and just [having] another set of eyes that can maybe see one extra thing that can maybe help break something free for us,” Bollinger said of he and Sorgi sharing time.
And as for Sorgi? The backup was displeased with his performance Saturday and vows to be a better player next week.
“I’ve got to look at myself and I’ve got to take a good long look at the man in the mirror and say ‘what can I do, what am I doing wrong, what do I have to stop doing, what do I have to start doing to help this football team,” Sorgi said.
Next week, Alvarez is looking for both of his quarterbacks to step up and establish some consistency in all aspects of Wisconsin’s offense, something that was absent this week.