After one of the biggest wins in program history against a Louisiana State University team many experts picked to make the College Football Playoffs, the Wisconsin football team returned home this weekend with high expectations for the rest of the season.
To fulfill those lofty expectations, however, the Badgers still have their work cut out for them.
When asked about his team’s performance Saturday, Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst’s answers began to follow a pattern that grew more noticeable as Monday’s press conference wore on. With each compliment he gave his team, he also issued a challenge.
The message he was trying to make was clear — despite the well-played game, the Badgers need to get better if they hope to achieve what they have set out to do.
“There’s areas where we’ve got to get better, and that’s what we’ve got to focus on this week,” Chryst said.
While never giving specifics about where his team can improve, Chryst made it clear that he believes each player is capable of playing better and growing as part of the team.
Fullbacks, the offensive line, the defensive secondary and his quarterback Bart Houston were all examples the head coach gave of groups that can improve their play heading into this week’s match up against the Akron Zips of the Mid-American Conference. Even Rafael Gaglianone, who went 3-3 on his field goals, including the 47-yarder in the fourth quarter to cap off the comeback, was at one point the focus of a conversation on where the team could improve as a whole.
With Akron, Wisconsin turns its attention to a mid-tier program fresh off a 47-24 win over the Virginia Military Institute, but MAC teams have a history of taking advantage of unsuspecting Power Conferences teams. At least one team from the MAC has defeated a Big Ten team each of the last 10 seasons after Western Michigan defeated Northwestern 22-21 this past Saturday.
While discussing Akron, Chryst noted the powerful spread offense they run in contrast to the power running LSU team.
“It’s going to stress us differently than last week,” Chryst said. “They’re going to spread us out and we’ve got to play good assignment football.”
Doing so will be even harder now with the news that inside linebacker Chris Orr is sidelined for the rest of the season with a right ACL injury suffered in the game against LSU.
With the way Ryan Connelly stepped up during the game, Chryst isn’t worried about individual players. The focus right now is the team as a whole. In Chryst’s mind there’s a lot of work that needs to be done — a concept he made abundantly clear.