The Morning After: UMass vs. Wisconsin

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Since my affinity for “Wedding Crashers” is probably greater than just about anybody I know, now is a good time to pull out this line: “It’s wedding season!” Only we know, of course, this time of year we replace "wedding" with "football," and boy does it feel good!

Game one is officially in the books and Wisconsin took care of business in a big way, blasting an overmatched UMass team, 45-0. Prediction kudos goes out to our editor, Mike Fiammetta (45-7), and the reputable Andrew Rosin (38-0) for nearly pegging the score dead on.

Wisconsin did some things well, obviously, but I think the coaches will find much to critique in film sessions this week. The passing game wasn't as crisp as it will need to be later in the season, but then again, rusty miscues in the season opener are to be expected.

Here's a breakdown of some of the things seen on Saturday:

What we liked

The running game started the Gary Andersen era off right, gashing the UMass defense to the tune of 393 yards and four touchdowns. The big hogs up front opened up big holes regularly for James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement. The running backs looked as good as advertised, and I couldn't help but notice that White looks like he added some bulk to his upper frame. I don't think the stiff-arm we saw on his 51-yard touchdown run was in his arsenal in previous years.

But the most impressive guy in the running game was Ryan Groy. The Badgers were routinely going left behind big ol' No. 79 and Tyler Marz to start, and then on the two long touchdown runs right, Groy perfectly executed a pull and seal from his left guard position to open up monster holes for White and Gordon.

The defense was certainly impressive, most notably the 3-4 scheme as a whole. Chris Borland commented after the game that he could sense the UMass offense was confused for much of the day. The one play that sticks out in my head was on a Minutemen 3rd-and-15 in the early second quarter, Wisconsin put no defensive linemen down in a stance. Everybody stood up, started rotating and stunting at the UMass o-line, and it caused a delay-of-game penalty. I'd love to see that confusion continue, especially vs. Ohio State Sept. 28.

What needs to improve

The passing game could be an obvious answer here, but I'll say the overall consistency of the team. I think we all expected a few first-game mistakes, but I saw more than I would have liked. Things can definitely tighten up and get a little crisper prior to the flight to Tempe, Ariz., in two weeks.

Special teams kick-off coverage was lackluster, as the Minutemen return guys seemed to get to at least the 20- or 25-yard line each return before their jerseys were touched. The Kyle French field goal miss was disconcerting, because the 40-yarder was from the dead center of the field and he just yanked it left. The kick felt eerily similar to some of his misses last year, and on WIBA after the game, Gary Andersen wasn't shy about his dislike for the miss.

The receivers dropped some balls that need to be caught, and that includes Jared Abbrederis. Yes, he was underthrown on almost every deep ball, but I think he'd tell you he normally corals the couple balls that he didn't come down with.

Which players impressed?

I noted Ryan Groy above, but he's expected to play like he did Saturday. But again, too easy of a selection.

I'm going to say Sojourn Shelton. The true freshman made an acrobatic catch along the sideline to reel in his first career interception. I knew he was athletic, but that was impressive nonetheless.

Other candidates: Peniel Jean, Clement, Curt Phillips (for passing up playing time so that Bart Houston could get some game reps. What a guy, what a Badger.)

Which players underwhelmed?

I wouldn't be surprised if this was a consensus pick across Badger Nation: Joel Stave. Stave looked like a quarterback seeing his first real action since October, especially in the first half. Aside from displaying those suddenly nimble feet on his touchdown scamper, Stave didn't look all that good.

The interception throw in the first quarter was just a poor decision, and I don't think he ever saw the retreating safety that picked him off. But you can't turn the ball over the first play after your defense creates a turnover.

Then, in the Badgers' first offensive drive of the second quarter, Stave missed on three consecutive throws. First on a deep ball down the middle to Abbrederis that hung up on him -- if that's thrown well, it's an easy touchdown grab. Next was on inside post to Jacob Pedersen that was well behind the tight end. Finally, he had Doe on a wheel route in the endzone but overthrew him. Wayne Larrivee noted it was a difficult throw and I agreed, but still one Stave is capable of completing.

I think the amount of times Andy Ludwig went to the vertical passing game shows in and of itself why Stave won the starting job, but Stave's got to hit better on those throws downfield. Even the 57-yard strike to Abbrederis in the third quarter was slightly underthrown.

Stave also mishandled a couple of exchanges with his center -- once with Dallas Lewallen and once with Dan Voltz -- but we're just nitpicking now.

I still have the utmost faith in Sunshine moving forward, and he should be able rectify these mistakes come the Arizona State game. So for now, I'll chalk up his opening day miscues to early-season rust.

Next up

The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles, headed by Lester Watson Brown, now in his seventh season. Brown is the older brother of Texas head coach Mack Brown.

2012 record: 3-8 overall; 1-7 Ohio Valley

Saturday's result: TTU romped Cumberland (Tenn.) 63-7, and did the majority of its damage in the running game, amassing over 300 yards on the ground.

Prediction: It should be a cakewalk for the Badgers, but still an opportunity to tighten the screws before heading west for Arizona State. Wisconsin wins 48-7.

Have a great Labor Day everybody!

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