I just got done re-watching UW's 27-14 win over San Jose State and there's a lot I want to go over before we turn our attention to Arizona State this week.
First, let's hand out Saturday's game ball and look back on the defining plays of the game:
Game Ball - After watching the film, the three candidates I looked at were John Clay, Blake Sorensen and J.J. Watt. I narrowed it down to Sorensen and Watt and eventually went with Watt because other than a really tough missed tackle on SJSU quarterback Jordan La Secla, he really didn't make any mistakes. Watt finished the game with six tackles, two tackles for loss and threw in a blocked field goal. He was upset about a missed block when he was in on offense in a goal-line situation, but overall, Watt played great.
Sorensen was also impressive, finishing the game with seven tackles and an interception, but on a key 4th-and-9 conversion for SJSU in the fourth quarter, Sorensen failed to stay with Noel Grigsby in zone coverage and the Spartans' receiver was wide open for the first down. San Jose State went on to score a touchdown on that drive to make it a 13-point game.
Play of the Game - Lance Kendricks' touchdown catch in the second quarter was a brillant display of Wisconsin football in the Paul Chryst offense. On 3rd-and-2, UW lined up in a run formation with Issac Anderson as the only receiver on the field. The Badgers sold the run with the entire line and both tight ends (Kendricks and Jake Byrne) pinching in to block. Instead, it was a play-action fake and Kendricks slipped out of the pile of bodies in the middle and was wide open for the 14-yard touchdown pass. (Teaser Alert: We'll break this play down in more detail later today in this week's "Monday Film Session".)
Anti-Play of the Game - Just moments after Wisconsin got the ball at the SJSU 13-yard line because of a botched snap on a punt, the Badgers elected to go for it on 4th-and-1 at the 4-yard line. Right before the snap, I leaned over to BadgerBlitz.com's Tom Lea in the press box and said, "You know there is zero chance the Badgers don't get this here, right?"
Obviously, I was wrong. With Clay in the backfield, Tolzien fumbled the snap and was stopped short of the first down line after recovering it. This was Tolzien's second fumble of the game and the third time this season the Badgers came away with zero points in the red zone. After watching the film, it was obvious the fumble was more center Peter Konz's fault, as he never really got the snap up to Tolzien's hands. Instead, it seemed like he fired it right into Tolzien's left leg.
The Badgers missed another opportunity to put points on the board and could have taken a 21-0 lead.
Speaking of Tolzien - Fans were all over the senior signal caller Saturday and for good reason. Tolzien had problems holding on to the football, was very wild at times and threw a pretty bad interception in the second half. But after watching the film, he wasn't nearly as bad as it seemed on the surface Saturday.
The first fumble came as a result of right tackle Josh Oglesby not holding his block. Forget holding the block, he never made the block. Tolzien probably needs to have better hands while holding the ball close to his body, but Oglesby's guy got a clear shot at the ball while Tolzien was stepping up in the pocket. The second fumble was more on Konz than Tolzien as I mentioned above. And the third fumble was an alignment issue by fullback Ryan Groy. He was lined up too close to Tolzien and clipped the ball as he broke from his croutch at the snap.
There were some things Tolzien can be blamed for, however. On 2nd-and-4 with 3:23 left in the first quarter, Tolzien got Kendricks blasted after he waited too long to get rid of the football on a short out-route. You could see the disaster developing from the press box and you knew right when Tolzien let go of the football that Kendricks was about to get hit hard. The ball never should have been thrown. That's a good way to get your No. 1 tight end killed.
On the ensuing play, Tolzien missed Jacob Pedersen by at least five yards when he was wide open for the first down. UW was forced to punt.
The interception was definitely on Tolzien. He overthrew Anderson and never gave his receiver a chance to make a play on the ball.
Tolzien was also guilty of tripping running back Montee Ball in the fourth quarter after handing the ball off to him. Quarterbacks are taught to get out of the way on handoffs and to make sure you allow the back plenty of room to make a move.
Overall, not a great game for Tolzien by any means, but everything here is correctable and the senior quarterback did make a number of impressive throws in the game. No need to worry about Tolzien. He's still poised to have a great year.
Not time to panic about the secondary - Jay Valai told me last month that he knows the secondary was the biggest problem on defense last season and vowed to get it fixed this year. But on Saturday, he was guilty of being lost on a 46-yard pass play late in the second quarter and as a whole, San Jose State managed 252 passing yards in the game. The problem last season was the amount of big plays the secondary gave up and considering the Spartans were able to complete that play and a 37-yard passing touchdown in the third quarter, it was easy to worry about the pass defense Saturday.
Thank goodness we have the ability to re-watch the games. After reviewing the film, I wasn't nearly as worried about the secondary as I was leaving the stadium Saturday. Valai did get caught napping on the 46-yard completion and Niles Brinkley was guilty of horrible coverage on SJSU's second touchdown (he had his back to the quarterback during the entire play and never even made an attempt to locate the football), but as a whole, most of the lapses in coverage actually came from the linebackers.
As I mentioned above, Sorensen was guilty of not picking up Grigsby on SJSU's 4th down conversion in the fourth quarter and as a whole, it was the linebackers who were stuck looking around at each other on most of the Spartans' completions in the second half. Most of the corners actually played well and Aaron Henry continues to look more than capable at free safety.
I mentioned Saturday that the Badgers were unable to rack up a sack on 30 passing attempts by SJSU, but give credit to the Spartans for coming up with a game plan that negated the UW pass rush by running a ton of swing passes and short dropbacks. The Badgers missed Chris Borland's rushing abilities, but even he would have had trouble getting to the quarterback as quickly as La Secla was getting rid of the football.
Still, one of those swing passes went for a 39-yard touchdown and there is no excuse for Culmer St. Jean, Devin Smith, Henry and Brinkley to all miss tackles on that play.
Should you be worried about Mike Taylor? The linebacker played for the first time since tearing his ACL against Iowa last season and had a very quiet game. He was credited with two tackles, but considering he was leading the team in tackles last season before being hurt, you might be concerned. Don't be. Dave Doeren rotated a lot of linebackers in the game and Taylor actually did not get as many reps as you might have thought he would. Sure, he had a quiet game, but they are easing him back in there.
While I wasn't upset overall with the corners' play, Niles Brinkley had a rough game. He had the worst of the four missed tackles on SJSU's first touchdown and was guilty of horrible coverage on the second touchdown, but he also had a boneheaded pass interference penalty in the first half. It was a questionable call because the ball was overthrown, but he blatantly shoved the receiver from behind when it was obvious he wasn't going to have a play on the ball. It was just an unnecessary play by Brinkley.
Finally, there were a lot of comments after the game about Kendricks having a quiet day. Go back and watch the game. He had a monster of a day blocking. One time he completely leveled a blitzer just by hip checking him before he released to run a route. Not to mention, he still racked up 60 receiving yards on three catches.