October 23, 2010

Wisconsin 31 - 30 Iowa: Letdown game avoided

By Grapthar's Hammer, by the Sons of Worvan, what a ballgame. Strangely enough, Wisconsin pulled through despite all the "keys to the game" pointing in Iowa's direction. White was ineffective and injured early, and Iowa managed to keep Clay from being the force that he can be on offense. Furthermore, Wisconsin was missing several players on offense by halftime, with Toon out after last week, White out with his injury, Kendricks out, and the starting center out. Iowa also managed to stymie Wisconsin's pass rush. Stanzi had all sorts of time and the only sack that Watt managed was a (well-timed) coverage sack during Iowa's last drive. Due to their limiting of Clay and White's injury the UW offense leaned on Tolzein's arm, and he looked great despite missing his two favorite recievers. He even gave them a gift INT at the 26 yard line in the 4th quarter but Iowa didn't do much with it (though the FG definitely gave UW a higher mountain to climb)

How Wisconsin won: Aside from the excellent execution mentioned above, the big thing I took away from this game was the preparation and playcalling. Bielema and Christ had the stones to go for it on two 4th downs, one on fourth and goal at the 1, and the other at 4th and ~4 at the Iowa ~35 yard line in their final drive. However, my favorite play call was the fake punt that sparked that last drive. The coaching staff noticed that Iowa was not sending many players forward on the punt block, and the punter just took it and ran. He had run 10 yards or so before any of the players running back to cover the kick even realized it.

How Iowa lost: Special teams, poor clock management, and erratic passing. Stanzi's overall numbers were great but Wisconsin's coverage today was garbage and he should have had an even bigger game. Iowa left 4 points on the board early with a missed PAT and a bungled FG snap, and further hurt themselves with some dumb penalties in the second half. In Wisconsin's second drive of the 3rd quarter, the Hawkeyes pinned Gilreath deep on a kickoff that was erased by an offsides call. Gilreath took the next punt to the 50, and nearly all the way were it not for the kicker doing just enough to trip him up.

Game ball: Bret Bielema and Paul Chryst
Honorable mention: Clay, Ball, Tolzien, Gilreath

Bielema has completely erased all of my reservations about him in this win. Not only did the team show up (preparation has always been my main complaint with Bielema), but they made several great playcalls and the UW special teams unit seems to have fixed some of the mistakes that were plaguing them early in the season.

Looking ahead
10/30: BYE
11/6: @Purdue
11/13: Indiana
11/20: @Michigan
11/27: Northwestern

Wisconsin gets a week to heal up, then gets to face the two soft Indiana teams before taking on the Denard Robinson Show at the Big House and seeks to avoid another typical Northwestern wrench-in-the-gears game. I shake my fist at them for not being able to close it out against Sparty this week. Ugh. That would have been perfect.

Michigan State is still in the driver's seat, and the rest of their schedule looks favorable (even if they lose at Iowa next week).
10/30: @Iowa
11/6: Minnesota
11/13: BYE
11/20: Purdue
11/27: @PSU

I expect them to lose at Iowa, but I don't really see them losing any of their other games. They'll know exactly what they're playing for if they're still undefeated by the PSU game, and PSU is fading fast. The big question is which team of UW and aOSU gets selected behind MSU to go to a BCS bowl.