Final Score: MSU 34 UW 24
-Early in the season Bret Bielema mentioned how his team needed to learn resiliency (Copyright: Coach’s Cliché Buzzword Inc.). Michigan State was more resilient. The Badgers had something going early but the Spartans snapped back to pull ahead and held the Badgers off, meeting every push to get back in the game with equal and opposite force.
-Wisconsin’s defense is sorta ok. So they seem to give up a lot of rushing yards, secondary coverage can be a problem and their blitz packages just got abused (ASPCA will be starting a campaign in defense of said blitz packages). The pass rush got some timely sacks, a nice goal line stop and was good at catching turnovers it didn’t exactly force. Some nice moments wrapped in a thick blanked of ugly play.
-Problem area… special teams. STOP LETTING PEOPLE RUN 70+ YARDS STRAIGHT THROUGH COVERAGE TEAMS!
-Linebackers and tackling are an issue. How many times can D-Linemen get right into the play or get two hands on the quarterback and still let the play get past them? The answer, it turns out, is many, many times. When linebackers got penetration they also had issues finishing the plays but play-action was their main concern. Michigan State was excellent when they faked the run as the Badger ‘backers constantly got caught up in traffic. MSU made a number of big gains on play-action, including its last two TDs (though the second was more the result of a great throw from Cousins).
-Nick Toon not ready for the prime time that is a 3:30 game. Dropped two early passes. Got a penalty blocking. Didn’t catch a pass until the game was all but out of reach. He, along with Isaac Anderson’s early drop and good MSU pressure, earn a lot of credit for Scott Tolzien’s turrible game (10-24 for 113 yards, 1TD).
-Meet the next big thing in the Wisconsin backfield. Last year the fifth game saw Zach Brown fall out of favor with a five carry, one fumble that was scooped for a touchdown day. It set the tone for Brown’s near disappearance from the offense. This fifth game saw James White come just short of 100 yards on 10 carries with a pair outside runs for touchdowns. Beating up on Austin Peay was one thing; doing against a Big Ten defense is another altogether. Look for him to get even more carries after outperforming John Clay (17 carries 80 yards). Note: this game was also reminiscent of the fourth game of 2008 against Michigan, when Clay flashed what he could become with 51 yards and a score on three carries. After that game many fans furiously wondered why he didn’t get the ball more. In the coming week that same question will be asked about White.
-Anyone who watched the first four games knew there was a chance Wisconsin might be though of too highly as a top-11 team (that chance should have been around, oh, 100 percent, but some loonies always keep it from perfection). The Badgers probably played better in many senses than they did against Arizona State or even San Jose State, but MSU was still the best team on the field. The question now quickly turns to bouncing back. It has been four straight seasons that the Badgers’ first defeat was immediately followed by a second one. Recovering against a team like Minnesota shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but if it is, the call for Bielema’s head will grow louder.