These are the words going through my mind after watching the awful display the Wisconsin Badgers offense put on yesterday. #13 Wisconsin lost on Saturday to unranked Oregon State, only mustering 207 yards on offense. The once feared Wisconsin offense seems like a thing in the past.
Who's to blame for Wisconsin's poor play?
There was no where to run.
For Wisconsin, the past two weeks have been an awful display of offense. Montee Ball only had 61 yards on 15 carries and no scores. He struggled get through the line as well as display his quickness and speed. His Heisman hopes have taken a giant step back. Last year, Ball averaged 142 rushing yards per game and had 39 total scores. The past is in the past.
There was no where to hide.
Like last week, not all the blame goes to Ball. The dairy state's offensive line looks as if it's made of Swiss cheese. Ball was hit and dropped too many times in the backfield and quarterback Danny O'Brien was sacked four times. I'll get to O'Brien next, but at this point, it seems as if the offensive line couldn't stop a Pop Warner peewee football defense. The Badgers were once nationally recognized for developing great offensive linemen. The past is in the past.
There was no room for error.
I don't even know where to start with O'Brien. At the beginning of the season, Badgers coaches touted the newly transferred O'Brien as the successor to Russell Wilson.
Successor? Far from it.
O'Brien showed flashes of promise last Saturday against Northern Iowa, only throwing four incomplete passes. However, this week was a completely different story.
O'Brien went 20-39 for 172 yards, one touchdown, one interception, one fumble. Not to mention a whopping two for 14 on third down. What the stats won't tell you: O'Brien was lost. O'Brien panicked in the pocket, made poor decisions and, many times, ran straight into oncoming traffic. O'Brien lacked command and control over his offensive regime as well as his throws. Many passes were off target as receivers had to readjust their routes to the ball. Many incomplete passes were thrown too short, which makes one believe he's too scared to throw the ball. As if O'Brien himself lacks faith in his decisions and ability.
Perhaps O'Brien didn't see the Beaver's defenders, but he left standout wide receiver Jared Abbrederis out to dry. O'Brien threw a pass to Abbrederis over the middle, but Abbrederis was immediately sandwiched by Oregon State linebackers Reuben Robinson and Feti Taumoepeau. Abbrederis would leave the stadium in an ambulance and transported to a local hospital. The good news is, the wounded Badger left the hospital and flew back with the rest of the team last night.
Last year, Badgers offensive coordinator Paul Chryst had one of the best offensive schemes in the country. Under his play calling, the Badgers averaged over 40 points a game. They also put up 35 points against Oregon State in Camp Randall. Chryst went on to leave during the off season to take over the head coaching spot for the Pittsburgh Panthers.
This year under newly hired Matt Canada, it took the Badgers a grand total of 58 minutes and 29 seconds to finally put points on the board. O'Brien threw an 11 yard pass to tight end Jacob Pederson to end the scoreless drought. But the play call stayed sporadic, never flowing together quite smoothly. Again, I know the Badgers are a run first team, but when the defense brings eight men into the box on first down, you might want to try a play action. That's just my opinion of course.
One play call that stands out over all the others in my mind was a call in the middle of the fourth quarter. It was fourth and one, Wisconsin stayed on the field to attempt to go for it. They snapped the ball and O'Brien fell forward and tried to crawl over the offensive line for the first down. It looked like a drunk person stumbling out of a bar at closing time, as O'Brien flailed on the ground, actually losing a yard in the attempt. What I don't understand is, you have a Heisman candidate running back and you call a quarterback sneak? You have a running back who is one of the most prominent players in the nation, and you call a quarterback sneak? You have a potential first round draft pick at running back, but you call a quarterback sneak? I understand Ball didn't have his best game, but he's clearly better than a quarterback sneak. Either the Badgers didn't want to risk Ball getting injured in the scrum for the first down, or they've lost faith in him. Word of advice for Canada- don't let your ego get in the way of winning (sounds like another coach we know), do what it takes to win.
Finally, there was the controversial onside kick. It was a beautiful kick from Wisconsin kicker Kyle French, who faked kicking it to the sidelines like most onside kicks are and kicked it straight ahead. He ran side by side with the ball until covering it up around the 45 yard line, as the ball must go 10 yards before the kicking team can legally touch it. However, the referees ruled that French had touched the ball at the 44 yard line, making it an illegal touching penalty and Oregon State ball. Though on the replay, you can see from two different camera angles that the ball did cross the 45 yard line, then jump back because it bounced off of an Oregon State player's foot. After the game, Oregon State coach Mike Riley even said "From my angle, it looked like one of our guys touched it first."
The referees must have not seen it from that angle, or the other two shown by FX.
However, I'm not one to blame the refereeing for Wisconsin's loss. I'd rather stick the blame to Canada and his play calling, O'Brien's poor quarterbacking and the atrocious offensive line.