A record of 2-0 is a record that any football coach would like to have two games into a season.
But when those two wins come against opponents with inferior talent and your team makes major mistakes in both games, it’s a cause for concern. Bret Bielema understands however, that this can be a learning tool.
“A great teaching film,” Bielema said. “Because there were some things that popped up that we can clean up.”
The Badgers have quite a bit of cleaning up to do but there were plenty of positives to pick up from the Badgers performances so far this season. J.J. Watt, the 6-foot-6-inch, 292-pound junior defensive lineman, has been on fire through the first two games of the season and he’s fulfilling the preseason hype that was draped on him.
“He’s been all over the place. High motor, high intensity, doing everything we asked him to do” Bielema said.
John Clay has also played up to his high expectations coming into the season, with 260 yards and four touchdowns in the first two games. Bielema called his attitude and play on Saturday “encouraging” and added that San Jose State “came up and supported the run very well.”
The Badgers have one of the most respected power running games in the country, but Bielema admitted his running backs had an off-day. When considering mistakes such as James White’s crucial fumble in opposing territory, as well as errors in footwork, such as Montee Ball being tripped on Tolzien’s feet, the picture Bielema was trying to paint in his statements becomes clearer. Also, much of the performance offensively has been positive, but the team has made small errors in crucial situations that have negated much of their success.
“The main issue I’ve had is with the red zone inconsistencies,” Bielema said.
The red zone is where offenses succeed or fail, and Bielema knows it.
The missing men
One thing that will hopefully help the badgers for the Arizona State game at Camp Randall Saturday will be the possible return of some key players that were absent last week due to injury. Nick Toon and Chris Borland, both of whom were missing from Saturday’s game, may play against Arizona State, as well as Josh Oglesby, who missed much of last weeks game due to a knee injury midway through the game.
“You really saw the loss of No. 44 (Borland) out there pressuring the passer,” Bielema said.
Bielema described Borland as being day-to-day, and perhaps the most encouraging injury news of the day was that senior receiver David Gilreath was released from the hospital with just a concussion. The bone-jarring tackle in which a second San Jose State defender made incidental helmet-to-helmet contact with Gilreath appeared much worse than it actually was. Gilreath was carted off the field, and though his concussion will likely keep him out of the next game, the news is definitely better than expected.
The Badgers are a deep team, mostly thanks to Bielema’s emphasis on second team reps in practices. He told his players that eight of the Badgers current starters, including Lance Kendricks, John Moffit, and Oglesby, and Borland made their first collegiate start because of injury to the man above them in the depth chart.
A Worthy Opponent
Bielema has spoken with reverence of ASU coach Dennis Erickson leading up the Saturday’s matchup.
“He’s a football coach who has had success in so many different areas,” Bielema said. “Someone who’s helped make this profession what it is today.”
Bielema compared ASU’s spread offense to the Big Ten attacks utilized by Northwestern, Indiana and Michigan. If the Badgers want to truly prepare for the grind of their hearty Big Ten conference schedule, Saturday’s game may be a good place to start.