Quarterback Sean Mannion #4 of the Oregon State Beavers celebrates with fans after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers 10-7 on September 8, 2012 at the Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon.
Wisconsin Offense Invisible In 10-7 Loss To Oregon State
One season after running an offense that seemingly couldn't be stopped, the Wisconsin Badgers are running an offense that can't be found.
Wisconsin was embarrassed on Saturday afternoon in Corvallis, dropping their first non-conference game since they fell to UNLV 23-5 back in 2003. The loss ended a 33 game non-conference winning streak, which was the second longest in the country behind LSU.
The Badgers entered the season with plenty of hype. Coming off consecutive trips to the Rose Bowl, the Badgers were ranked 12th by both the AP and Coaches poll to start the season. After their loss today, it would be surprising if the Badgers received any votes.
There were multiple scape goats on Saturday, but the majority of the issues were on the offensive side of the ball. The Badgers were able to manage just 207 yards of offense against the Beavers. That includes a paltry 35 yards on the ground, despite featuring arguably the best running back in the country in Montee Ball.
Currently ranked No. 13, the Badgers actually had a chance to win the game late, despite looking like they were playing 7 on 11 with their offense most of the day.
After Danny O'Brien connected with Jacob Pederson for an 11 yard touchdown pass with 1:31 remaining, the Badgers trailed by just three.
An onside kick attempt by Wisconsin kicker Kyle French was recovered by the Badgers, which would have given them plenty of time to drive into field goal range to force overtime. However a review by the officials overturned the call, as they ruled that the ball had been touched by a Badger before going the required 10 yards.
On the replay shown to the television audience, the ball appeared to travel the required 10 yards, and bounce back where kicker Kyle French pounced on the loose ball.
Fox Sport's Mike Pereira, who is a referee expert tweeted after the game that he felt the call should not have been overturned, and that Wisconsin should have been awarded the ball.
After further review...I don't feel onside kick in the Wisconsin game should have been reversed, Ball looks to be touched by # 8 OSU first.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) September 8, 2012
If Wisconsin got the ball back, does that mean that they would have traveled down and kicked the game tying field goal, or maybe even scored a game winning touchdown? Hard to say, especially given the inability of the Badger offense to move the ball on Saturday.
Heisman favorite Montee Ball was rendered useless against the Beavers, recording just 65 yards on 14 carries Saturday. He also chipped in 18 yards on 4 receptions, to lead the Badgers in all-purpose yards with 79.
But Ball wasn't the problem. Barry Sanders in his prime couldn't have done much for this Badger offense on Saturday. There were no holes, and what holes were created evaporated awfully quick.
For the second straight week the Wisconsin offensive line has looked mediocre at best. The Badgers were unable to open up holes for the running backs, and had quarterback Danny O'Brien scrambling for his life on virtually every pass play.
O'Brien had a tough day against the Beavers as well. The Maryland transfer looked solid last week under offensive coordinator Matt Canada's conservative game plan. When given an opportunity to open up the offense on the road this week, O'Brien was just 20 of 38 with one touchdown, and one interception.
The stats don't tell the whole story though, O'Brien looked flustered more often than not. O'Brien also had a serious issue feeling pressure in the pocket, as he was strip sacked twice. O'Brien also more than once stepped up into the pressure instead of away from it.
As my father texted me after the game, O'Brien looked lot more like Allan Evridge than Russell Wilson.
Ain't that the truth.
Wisconsin also had to deal with a major injury issue on the offensive side of the ball Saturday. Top receiver Jarred Abbrederis was knocked out of the game and sent to the hospital after taking a vicious hit on Saturday over the middle. Reports after the game were that Abbrederis suffered a chest injury, but that he would fly back on the team charter after the game.
With the Badgers top target out of the mix, O'Brien struggled to find someone to throw the ball to. Jeff Duckworth was his top target, registering seven catches for 55 yards, despite starting the season behind a number of underclassmen on the depth chart.
One thing that can't be overlooked is the loss of offensive coaches Paul Chryst and Bob Bostad. Chryst, who was the Wisconsin offensive coordinator last season took the head coaching job at Pitt. Bostad, who was Wisconsin's O-Line coach originally left the Badgers to be Chryst's coordinator at Pitt, but found a better gig in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Their replacements, Matt Canada as Offensive Coordinator, and Mike Markuson as Offensive Line coach have been at the top of the list of scape goats for Wisconsin's (lack of) success this season.
The game plan has been called into question by many. In week one Wisconsin refused to throw the ball more than 10 yards down the field. In week two, the play calling was so predictable that high school teams could have put up a good fight on defense.
Obviously there is supreme disappointment in Saturdays result given the current expectations in Madison. That said, a Big Ten title is still well within reach if there is improvement in a number of areas, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
Ohio State and Penn State are non-factors in the race, so it's likely going to come down to Wisconsin and Purdue for the Leaders Division representative in the Big Ten Title Game.
A number of Wisconsin leaders tweeted after the game that they were going to use Saturday's result as motivation the rest of the season. And since I don't feel like watching Barry Alvarez have a heart attack, let's hope they truly do use this to propel the squad the rest of the season.
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