Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badgers fall to Illini

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Eight games into the season, Wisconsin has become consistent in being inconsistent.

After Saturday’s loss the team addressed what went wrong in the game, but the problems listed are the same things that have plagued UW all season.

For one, head coach Barry Alvarez addressed the fact that his team is, well, inconsistent. They play well one week, then they don’t the next. They score seven points in the first half, as was the case against Illinois, then they some how find offense and score 35 points of their own in the second half. They give up a big lead in the first two quarters — see the Ohio State and Illinois games — and then fight back to make a game out of it in the last two quarters.

Following the 42-35 loss to the Illini, Jim Sorgi, Lee Evans and Wendell Bryant all said it — they have to find consistency.

“[We] play one way one week, [then we] play another way another week,” Bryant said. “We have to play better. We can’t just think one win is the end of the world, that it’s the greatest thing that ever happened to us.”

Bryant’s defensive line is another area that has faced the same problems. Their problem isn’t quality, it’s quantity. Delante McGrew suffered a knee injury during the first play from the line of scrimmage on Saturday, an injury that could cost him the rest of the season.

“I have a feeling we’ll probably lose him for the year,” UW head coach Barry Alvarez said.

McGrew’s absence laves a hole, but it’s not the first injury this unit has suffered. Jake Sprague hasn’t played all season. Darius Jones is nursing a hand injury, which is his second injury of the year.

“That just tells our young guys they’re going to have to step up,” Bryant said. “Right now people are going to have to take notes; they’re going to have to play.”

Which brings up another problem that has been addressed since training camp — the youth factor.

UW is young, and its inexperience is leading to mistakes. The kicking unit has a different lineup each week with no one kicker proving reliable thus far. This week Mike Allen took the kickoffs, Mark Neuser handled the placekicking and R.J. Morris was responsible for the punting. Neuser and Allen have held these positions for the last couple of games, but Morris’ role was relatively new.

However, with a 42.7-yard punt average against the Illini, Morris might be seeing more time on the field.

The secondary has also seen its share of mistakes with the lineup it’s running. They were out-sized by Illinois’ receivers Saturday, but it’s not like Mike Echols and Scott Starks shrunk since last Saturday. And, as Starks said, size is not an excuse.

“I know my size is kind of small, but that shouldn’t really matter,” Starks said. “I have to make plays at the right times.”

The problem is the talent and accuracy of the opposing quarterbacks. Kittner threw for 401 yards Saturday, but again, facing a top quarterback should be nothing new for this unit at this point. They used the young secondary/top quarterback excuse in the second game of the season against Oregon and Joey Harrington, then against David Carr and Fresno State, then Indiana and Antwaan Randle El. Kittner is a talented QB with Heisman hopes, but so are Harrington and Randle El. The situation is not new; the Badgers just need to find a way to defend against these players.

Then there’s the struggle that everyone wants to be the deciding factor — the quarterback situation. Is Brooks Bollinger the problem? Is Jim Sorgi the solution or the downfall? Even this pseudo-controversy has reached a certain level of consistency.

Bollinger will be the starter because he runs the ball and leads a conservative offense — just the way Alvarez and offensive coordinator Brian White like. When he gets hurt (which is actually a pretty regular occurrence), making Sorgi’s replacement role a consistent force, Sorgi will come in and spark the offense with his aerial attack.

The Badgers will battle back in the game under the leadership of Sorgi, creating an extended recovery for Bollinger as he sits on the sidelines the next week. But then Sorgi will start the game, throw an interception or get sacked a few times, get blamed for a UW loss, and Bollinger will once again take over.

Again, this is a predictable situation, one the offense is used to playing under.

“[Sorgi’s] done that plenty of times: come in when Brooks has gone down and come in and play a terrific game, make plays all over the place,” Evans said.

Bottom line? The problems are not unique week after week, and they are not the reason why UW loses every other week. The variance is what happens when the Badgers forget these problems exist and play out of their game plan.

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