After a tough loss against the Michigan Wolverines last week, the Badgers looked to bounce back at home against the Ohio State Buckeyes Saturday night. Despite holding the lead with 6:31 to play in the fourth quarter, the Badgers came up short in a 20-17 decision, dropping their second straight game behind the inconsistent play of senior quarterback Allan Evridge.
Before Saturday night’s showdown, the Badgers had not lost a home game under head coach Bret Bielema. Behind the outstanding play of freshman Terrelle Pryor, the Buckeyes snapped the nation’s second-longest home winning streak as the Badgers saw their record at Camp Randall slip to 16-1.
Bielema discussed the loss at his weekly press conference Monday afternoon.
“I was proud of the way they competed through four quarters,” Bielema said of his players. “But the bottom line is that we didn’t win the football game. There are a lot of positives out there, but ultimately, the loss is what sits in everybody’s hearts until we have an opportunity to get back out there this coming Saturday.”
Evridge will start, Sherer looms
Though the last two games have ended with senior quarterback Allan Evridge unable to make the game-saving play, Bielema will stick with his starter for Saturday night’s matchup against Penn State.
“Allan is going to start on Saturday,” Bielema said. “But there comes a point in time where you have to make an assessment as to where we are as a football team. … The next guy would probably be Dustin Sherer.”
Still, Bielema recognizes there are aspects of Evridge’s game he must work on.
“The part that Allan has to improve on more than anything is his accuracy as a passer,” Bielema said of the left-handed quarterback. “The bottom line is that we have to expect the ball to be delivered with better accuracy. … He has to see a clearer picture of what we’re trying to get done.”
Game honors go to…
Though Bielema praised his entire offensive line for their outstanding effort against the Buckeyes, the offensive game ball went to senior Eric Vandenheuvel.
“I thought our offensive line in particular played as good a football game as I have seen them play since I’ve been a head coach here at Wisconsin,” Bielema noted.
Freshman running back John Clay also received recognition for his role in the Badgers’ offense, as he led the team in rushing with 69 yards on 10 carries.
“John Clay played his most complete game,” Bielema said. “He did a good job for us running the football. He’s made a gigantic step forward.”
Senior defensive back Allen Langford and sophomore Jay Valai both earned defensive honors as Langford recorded his first interception of the season, and Valai had seven tackles and a sack.
“Jay Valai played his best game here as a football player and was really easy to pick up on film. … (He) just made some great breaks on the ball and really played physical,” Bielema said.
Bielema also praised senior fullback Bill Rentmeester for his exceptional effort on special teams.
“Rentmeester was unbelievable,” Bielema said. “He had five knockdowns, three of which were big-time hits. He really made a statement in the return game.”
Rentmeester also contributed to the special teams unit with a 20-yard kickoff return.
From an injury standpoint, the Badgers may be the strongest they have been all season as they prepare for the No. 6 Nittany Lions to come to town.
“Our expectation for this week is that we will probably be as healthy as we’ve been since our opening game,” Bielema said.
Senior tight end Travis Beckum appears to be fully recovered, catching six balls for 60 yards while taking some big hits in the process Saturday night.
“He really had no ill effects from last week,” Bielema said of Beckum. “He performed fairly well for us on the offensive side (of the ball).”
Sophomore tight end Garrett Graham “feels a lot better than he did a week ago at this time,” said Bielema, who expects Graham to participate in practice this week.
Sophomore offensive lineman Gabe Carimi left the game with an injury in the first half and did not return. His status is still uncertain.
“I have not gotten an update on him as of yet,” Bielema said of his lineman. “But I do know from yesterday’s evaluation that he is in a better situation than we originally thought after the game.”