Last Saturday’s game against Indiana left the Badgers beaten, dismayed and wondering what went wrong. Not storming into Saturday’s game quite the way they envisioned earlier in the season, the Badgers are hoping that a victory against a good Ohio State football team will lead to a rebirth for a young team that has looked very shaky in the first half of the season. The Badger Herald provides the five keys to a Badger victory Saturday.
1. Get up and fight back
The Badgers were indeed dealt a tough blow last Saturday. There is no question that the Badgers are, or at least were, viewed as one of the big guys on the block in the Big Ten before last Saturday. Now the question arises: Are they or aren’t they? Do the Badgers give in and allow a lesser team like Indiana, clearly an underdog in the conference, to force them from their esteemed position, or do they get up and pummel their next opponent with unmatched ferocity that leaves no question that Indiana slipped them a lucky punch that will never be repeated? The Badgers must fight back; pride and the reputation that Barry Alvarez has built at Wisconsin are on the line.
2. Hold onto the football
This is something that the Badgers did very little of last week. While the defense was faulted by the media and Alvarez for what was surely a horrendous game, the offense was equally to blame. The offense turned the ball over five times, which led to 23 Indiana points. Those 23 points do not reflect points given up as a result of several early-game three-and-out situations. Amazingly, the Badgers’ time of possession ended up being greater than Indiana’s; however, this is more a reflection of quick scoring by Indiana than offensive control by Wisconsin. The Badgers must do a better job of holding onto the ball against Ohio State. The Herald’s third key to victory may help the Badgers do just that.
3. Anthony Davis in the lineup again
Where would the Badgers be without freshmen tailback Anthony Davis? If last weekend’s game was any indication, we don’t want to know. After a week’s absence due to a turf-toe injury, the Badgers’ freshman sensation is expected to return, and that’s good news: he still leads the conference in rushing by over 200 yards. In his absence, backups Jerone Pettus and Broderick Williams both showed the ability to run the ball well in spurts, but neither player was as consistent or explosive as Davis has been this season. Ohio State sports the fifth-best run defense in the Big Ten, and they are third in total defense. To overcome the Ohio State defense, the Badgers will undoubtedly attempt to lean heavily on Davis this Saturday in what will likely be a smashmouth football game that features no one that even slightly resembles Indiana’s Antwaan Randle El. If Davis is able to return in midseason form, the Badgers may receive the boost they need to leave Ohio State with a victory.
4. Defense must stop powerful running attack
Defense was a sore spot last week, but fortunately they don’t have time to dwell on it. The players must regroup quickly to stop a Buckeye running attack that features freshman tailback Jonathan Wells, who ran for 179 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 8.1 yards a carry versus conference-favorite Northwestern. During the Big Ten season he has emerged as the workhorse for the Buckeyes. Wisconsin had looked solid against the run all season, but after last week’s difficulties the Badgers are now ranked 10th in the Big Ten in run defense and ninth in total defense. The Badger defense is simply not as bad as those numbers suggest. After their embarrassment last weekend, look for Wendell Bryant and Nick Greisen to be key in stopping the Buckeyes’ potent running attack.
5. Badgers are 3-0 when they have the better quarterback
Quarterbacks have beaten the Badgers all season. They haven’t been beaten by anyone else. Yes, I know there are 70,000 people that watched last Saturday’s debacle ready to tell me Levron Williams scored 36 points, enough to beat the Badgers all by himself. True, he did score all those points, but he certainly would not have produced even half that number without Indiana’s real weapon, Randle El. In the three games that the Badgers have lost, they have been beaten by Joey Harrington and David Carr, who are both leading Heisman candidates and are considered first-round draft picks. Indiana’s quarterback, Randle El, is also a Heisman candidate and a sure NFL draft choice. If you are going to be beaten by somebody, those three players are a good place to start. In games in which Brooks Bollinger and Jim Sorgi were not clearly outmatched from the start the Badgers are 3-0. This bodes well for the Badgers on Saturday. Steve Bellesari is the Buckeye quarterback. Last week against Northwestern, Bellesari was just four of 10 for 109 yards, while only rushing for one yard on three attempts. In a battle of quarterbacks, Bollinger or Sorgi would be the favorite over Bellesari, and so far this season the better quarterback has won the games