Despite Wisconsin’s convincing 27-7 victory last Saturday at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and a 2-0 start to the 2002 football campaign, a feeling of frustration has been circulating throughout the Badger locker room.
No, it doesn’t surround the sub-par play of the secondary this time or the inexperience at the linebacker position. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the kicking game.
This time, it is the play of the offense that has been placed under the microscope of the coaching staff.
“We’ve been very inconsistent so far,” said offensive coordinator Brian White. “We’ve got a long way to go to be a good offense.”
Entering this season touted by many as one of the most explosive offenses in the Big Ten, the Badgers barely managed to squeak by Fresno State at home and failed to seriously capitalize on a plethora of turnovers in their win at UNLV.
Regardless of the 50 points Wisconsin has produced in its first two games, the inability of the offensive unit to repeatedly get on the same page mentally has caused some concern for UW coaches.
“We’re improving a little bit,” stated White, who is in his eighth year at Wisconsin. “But we’re not nearly at the level we need to be.”
The Badgers enter Saturday’s game against West Virginia with a 19 percent third down efficiency, converting only five of 29 attempts.
“It’s important that we get better on third downs,” White commented. “We got to stay on our game and make plays in that area.”
Further hindering the potentially vaunted attack of Wisconsin’s offense has been the uncharacteristically high number of penalties committed so far this season. Stressing the importance of mental discipline, Badger head coach Barry Alvarez has made clear his intention to rectify these costly mistakes.
“We put ourselves in the hole six different times on offense because of our penalties,” noted Alvarez, referring to the UNLV game. “That put us behind the eight-ball, and that’s something that we must correct.”
The absence of All-American Lee Evans has certainly been one of the main factors in the offense’s inconsistent start, putting the receiving burden on a group of inexperienced underclassmen. Quarterback Brooks Bollinger has completed only 23 of 49 passes without his star receiver, a number well below his normal completion percentage.
Nevertheless, White acknowledges the patience required in the development of the young receiving corps.
“They’re a talented group, and they’re getting better,” commented White. “It’ll take some time, but we just got to keep them coming.”
Perhaps the next four games being played at Camp Randall, the field on which Wisconsin practices, will ignite this potentially dangerous offense to the desired heat. Mental errors and inability to move the chains won’t win games once conference play begins in October, and the Badgers must take advantage of the cushy remainder of their non-conference schedule to iron out the wrinkles in their offense.
Although it has been disappointing out of the gates for the Wisconsin offense, the team is undefeated and approaching the upcoming month salivating. They eagerly await the return of a record-holding receiver, and optimism appears on the horizon.
“We’re not quite there yet, but we’re definitely improving,” said running back Anthony Davis. “Our offense hasn’t even begun to explode and play to our ability.”