Badger Bits: Rare empty backfield formation pays off for Badgers

Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was asked when was the last time he utilized an empty backfield formation on offense, after the Badgers pulled it out of nowhere on Saturday against the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. "I think we did it with Brian a few times, but not too much," said Chryst. "Brian" is referring to Brian Calhoun, some guy who set a Wisconsin football single-season record with 22 rushing touchdowns in a season in 2005. This means that on Saturday, Chryst pulled out something he hadn't used since the Barry Alvarez days.

And if it wasn't enough that we hadn't seen that formation in forever, Chryst was also using it during important drives near the end of the game. Remember the big 4th-and-5 in Iowa territory where Montee Ball caught a pass just past the line of scrimmage to keep the drive alive with 3 minutes left? Yup, nobody in the backfield.

The other thing that makes the usage of this formation so remarkable is that three of the five receivers lined up normally wouldn't have been on the field if not for injuries. Ball was in where James White would have been, Jacob Pedersen filled in for an injured Lance Kendricks, and no Nick Toon meant the Badgers had to look to Anderson, Gilreath, and Abbrederis at wideout. Even Chryst acknowledged that the formation was designed to get White and Kendricks open, not Ball: "It was actually to get Lance and James matched up," Chryst said. "So much for that."

Chryst deserves a lot of credit for bringing out plays that Iowa likely didn't focus on much during practice last week. Montee Ball turned in a heroic performance, no matter what formation he was lined up in. It would have been easy for him to pout about falling to third string status, but the guy kept working so he'd be ready whenever his next opportunity arose. And did even he expect that opportunity to come on crucial 4th down empty backfield plays?

The Tuesday Top Five - Things to do on a Saturday when Wisconsin has a bye week

1. Chill at home and watch college football all day. Cheer especially loudly for the other top Big Ten teams to lose.

2. Attend another Wisconsin Badger sporting event. There's a pretty good chance at least one of our other squads will be in action in Madison.

3. Take a weekend vacation somewhere nice. This trip may include taking in a college football game at a campus inferior to Wisconsin's, but isn't mandatory.

4. Get some work done around the house. Paint that big red W on the front of your abode that you've always dreamed of. Trimming your shrubbery to look like Bucky Badger is another solid option.

5. Sleep in. Have a nice dream in which the BCS actually gives Wisconsin the respect it deserves, for once.

More Links:

Adam Rittenberg weighs in on Wisconsin's BCS problem.

Andy Baggot notes that what we as Badgers fans should root for to happen in Big Ten games not involving Wisconsin largely depends on what we find to be more desirable: a Big Ten title, or a BCS berth.

The ending in Wisconsin's win over Iowa was very reminiscent of how Barry Alvarez's first Rose Bowl victory ended.

One of my favorite rankings, Rivals.com 120 at 1:20, has the Badgers at #10. Our next opponent, Purdue, checks in at #69. Minnesota is surprisingly high at #100.

The hockey team is grinding their way through a difficult early schedule.

Wisconsin is not the only Big Ten school struggling with student attendance. From Facebook: "In 2005, Penn State was blessed with a gift and a curse. The moment we were hailed the "Best Student Section In The Country" we relaxed into complacency. Getting to the game before kickoff was optional, filling the student section before the 2nd quarter sometimes happened. I'm a student I know the line can be long, but I also know we can fill Beaver Stadium before kickoff, I've seen it happen."

Note of the Day, courtesy of the Wisconsin Football Facebook page: In consecutive weeks, Wisconsin scored 31 points against both Ohio State and Iowa. Both teams had entered the respective games ranked sixth in the country in scoring defense, giving up less than 14.0 points per game. The Badgers are the first Big Ten team to score 30 or more points against OSU and Iowa in the same season since Wisconsin did so in 1999 (the last time UW won the Big Ten title).

If you're in the Midwest today, be careful out there with this wind, people. Wouldn't want the sweet Badgers cap you just bought to be swept away by a wind gust.

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