Win sets up showdown against OSU that could include College GameDay
MADISON, Wis. -- They're not who we thought they were.
Sure, the Badgers won Paul Bunyan's axe for a record seventh-straight time Saturday with a 41-23 win over Minnesota, but while convincing, it was hardly a flawless performance.
At 5-1 and 1-1 in the Big Ten, the Badgers are off to a very respectable start, but have yet to play up to the high expectations they and their fans set for them this season.
Wisconsin put it all together for the majority of the game, but a disasterous second quarter let an awful Gophers team back in the game and a slippery fourth left more to be desired. The Badgers have yet to put it together for four full quarters against anyone not named Austin Peay and that's not exactly a good sign with No. 2 Ohio State coming to town next Saturday.
The Badgers gained a total of 47 yards in the second quarter and 36 of them came on one pass from Scott Tolzien to David Gilreath. That play was the only bright spot in what was otherwise a dismal quarter as it set up a 49-yard field goal for Philip Welch with six seconds left in the half. Welch shanked the kick left, however, leaving a bitter taste in the players' mouths going into halftime.
"Obviously we need to stop them a little bit there," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "They got a little drive going. They had the ball for a little bit and started to gain a little momentum. So we came into halftime and made some adjustments and obviously came out in the second half and played a little bit better."
On the bright side, the Badgers were clearly the more dominant team for 45 of the 60 minutes. James White continued his stellar freshman season with 118 yards and two touchdowns, while John Clay added 111 yards and three touchdowns. Clay received 21 carries on the day and White got 19. While fans continue to call for a primary running back, UW's two-headed monster continues to roll and there's no reason change it up.
Maybe the best sign of the day came from UW's passing game, which has been inconsistent at best this season. Tolzien had a much better day completing 17-of-23 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown. Nick Toon caught six passes for 52 yards, while Lance Kendricks racked up 75 yards on only five catches. Jared Abbrederis scored his first career touchdown and caught a total of three balls for 33 yards on the day.
But the Badgers know they have to do better the next two weeks. The offense needs to be more consistent over four quarters and the defense needs to get off the field and stop giving up big plays.
Overall, the defense gave up six plays over 20 yards Saturday.
"To beat Ohio State you have to play 60 great minutes of football," Watt said. "I mean you don't have to be perfect by any means. They aren't the Green Bay Packers out there. We just need to play great football. We need to be tough, physical and we just need to be Wisconsin."
While Minnesota was only 3-for-13 on third down, two third down conversions and two fourth down conversions resulted in the Gophers holding the ball for 12:17 in the second quarter, something the Badgers can't let happen against the Buckeyes.
With a strong second half, the Badgers ended up winning time of possession 34:02 to 25:58. It helped that the Badgers were 7-of-9 on third down themselves.
The scoreboard shows Wisconsin got a huge victory over their arch-rivals, but the play on the field indicates the Badgers have a lot of work to do if they want to upset No. 2 Ohio State in Madison next Saturday night.
Bret Bielema said after the game that Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster was not happy with him after he elected to go for a two-point conversion with a 25-point lead in the fourth quarter.
"I don't think he was very happy," Bielema said. "We weren't talking car dealers. I know that."
Bielema said there is a coaching card he carries that indicates when you should go for two-points. They don't use the card until the fourth quarter, but it says when you are up 25-points, you go for two.
Obviously, the card doesn't take into account common sense.
Valai out, Gilreath in
Valai only practiced on Thursday and even though he participated in pregame warmups, the coaching staff wanted to make sure he was healthy next week against Ohio State.
Meanwhile, David Gilreath, who was limited last week, played a good amount Saturday and got his kick returning duties back. The senior caught two passes for 59 yards and returned five kicks for 86 yards. Aaron Henry continued to return punts and looked comfortable doing so.
College GameDay coming to our city?
It's customary not to talk too much about the next opponent immediately following a game, but none of the players were hiding their excitement about playing No. 2 Ohio State next week.
There's going to be a lot of hype surrounding the game and it appears ESPN's College GameDay could be coming to Madison. The game is the network's No. 1 primetime game next week because ABC will be broadcasting a NASCAR event.
Meanwhile, two of the network's radio shows have plans to broadcast a show live from Madison during the week and sources inside Camp Randall Stadium said ESPN already requested extra space on the television deck.
None of that confirms that GameDay will be coming to Madison, but all indications point to ESPN wanting to put on a show in Madison next Saturday.