MADISON - Well, at least the Badgers won the game.
That was the sentiment coming from Camp Randall Stadium Saturday as the Badgers beat San Jose State 27-14 despite committing a number of mistakes and suffering quite a few injuries.
It started with a few fumbles, continued with some very poor passes and then ended with at least three key players going down with injuries.
The worst of those injuries came in the third quarter when starting wide receiver David Gilreath was taken off in an ambulance after Spartans safety Dominique Hunsucker connected on a helmet-to-helmet hit when Gilreath failed to call for a fair catch on a punt return.
After catching the punt, Gilreath was immediately hit and in the process of being tackled when Hunsucker came in from the side and delivered the blow with his helmet. Gilreath immediately fell to ground was motionless. No penalty was called.
"He was basically concussed pretty heavy on the field, and probably was out for that first minute or so," Bielema said after the game. "A minute and a half into it he started talking and moving his arms. He was trying to get up and they were pushing him down."
Gilreath was diagnosed with a concussion and released from the hospital later in the afternoon.
But UW's depth at receiver was tested even before the game started. Nick Toon didn't play after his turf toe injury flared up in practice this week.
The Badgers also suffered a blow on the offensive line after Josh Oglesby went off with an apparent left knee injury in the third quarter. Bielema called the injury "minor" after the game.
Fortunately, UW's depth can help the injury problems. What is of greater concern is how the team played on the field.
Quarterback Scott Tolzien had three fumbles in the game and was very wild at times, as he also threw an interception while missing a number of open receivers. The senior finished the game 15-of-22 for 191 yards and a touchdown.
Like they did in their first game at UNLV, Wisconsin's offense was moving early but then allowed the opposition to hang around after turning the ball over. After John Clay scored a touchdown on UW's first drive, freshman running back James White fumbled the ball through the endzone on the second drive, giving San Jose State the ball at UW's 20 yard line.
Then on UW's third drive, Tolzien missed a wide open Jacon Pedersen on third and four and the Badgers were forced to punt. After throwing for a 14-yard touchdown to Lance Kendricks on the next drive, UW went three-and-out on the next two drives, both of which included a fumble by Tolzien.
The second of those drives came after Spartans punter Harrison Ward fumbled the snap and lost 24-yards on fourth down. That gave Wisconsin the ball at the San Jose State 13-yard line, but the Badgers failed to get any points after Tolzien fumbled the snap on 4th-and-1.
It didn't stop there. Wisconsin was able to drive all the way to the Spartans 15-yard line on their first drive of the second half, but on 3rd-and-2, Tolzien again fumbled when he ran into fullback Ryan Groy. UW settled for a field goal to take a 20-0 lead. Then, after going three-and-out on the next drive, Tolzien threw an interception on a play where Oglesby suffered his knee injury. On the play before the interception, Oglesby committed a holding penalty that wiped out a 21-yard completion to Kendricks.
You get the picture.
The truth is that the game was never in doubt. While never dominant, the defense was good enough to prevent the Spartans from ever making it a game after the Badgers took a 14-0 lead.
But no one can ignore the fact that after UW took the 14-0 lead, the next six drives went like this: punt, turnover on downs, field goal, field goal, punt, interception.
If the Badgers are serious about contending for the Big Ten title and a BCS bowl, that's not going to cut it and they know it.
The concerns are not just limited to offensive mistakes. UW's supposedly improved secondary allowed Jordan La Secla to complete 20-of-26 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Overall, the Spartans dropped back to pass 30 times and UW failed to register a sack.
It didn't help that linebacker Chris Borland missed the game with a shoulder injury and defensive end David Gilbert went out with a concussion in the first quarter, but overall, the Badgers didn't put too much pressure on the Spartans' quarterback. Senior safety Jay Valai looked lost at times and the Badgers missed four tackles on SJSU's first touchdown -- a 37-yard pass to Chandler Jones, who finished the game with eight catches for 113 yards.
The good news is that almost all of UW's mistakes are curable. Despite the stalled drives, UW's offense still managed 403 yards on the day and John Clay ran for 137 yards.
But coming off a season in which the Badgers were just a handful of mistakes from going undefeated, it's not a good sign that in their first two games of 2010, those same blunders are popping up again against inferior opponents.
Everyone knows UW can't get away with this kind of play against Big Ten teams, but forget conference play. If the Badgers don't get these mistakes corrected by next Saturday, a very good Arizona State defense might hand them their first loss of the season.