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Empty spring game leaves Badgers wanting more

MADISON, Wis. -- If you're looking for a football team that believes it is ready to start the season tomorrow, don't bother looking in the Wisconsin Badgers locker room.

After a lethargic spring game which ended with a 33-11 Cardinal victory in front of a generously-announced crowd of 23,567 fans, a dejected Badger team called itself out and said it wasn't good enough.

"I think we were pretty stagnant today and it's a tough note to end on," offensive lineman John Moffitt said.

"Disappointed" was the way quarterback Scott Tolzien said offensive coordinator Paul Chryst felt about his team Saturday. "I think there was a lot of disappointment for everyone because we need to be better than that."

Offensive tackle Gabe Carimi added that the coaches made it clear they aren't good enough yet.

And after more thought, Moffitt decided "stagnant" didn't even do it justice.

"I don't think we were as mentally prepared as we should have been" he said. "There wasn't a lot of emotion. There weren't any big plays and there wasn't anything really great. I think that's why we didn't move forward today. We probably moved backwards so maybe stagnant isn't even a good thing to say."

But don't panic Badger fans. An angry team after a meaningless scrimmage is hardly a bad thing.

"Maybe that's a good thing because it means something to guys. And I hope it does because we will never get this day back," Tolzien said.

Indeed, every player that criticized their performance Saturday said it can only help with preparing for the fall.

"We're just gonna attack these next three weeks and go into summer conditioning with a whole new mindset of knowing we have to work and be kind of angry and want to be better," Carimi.

What happened?

So what was so bad about Saturday’s performance? On the surface, it didn’t look that bad. Sure, there weren’t any standout performances, but there also weren’t any horrible developments that should cause concern this summer.

Tolzien had an average day, completing 12-of-22 passes for 138 yards and no touchdowns. Montee Ball picked up 75 yards on 24 carries and Lance Kendricks caught six balls for 63 yards.

Offensively, UW looked like the same run-heavy group run by a quarterback who is in love with his tight ends. And there is nothing wrong with that considering John Clay missed the entire spring and Nick Toon sat out Saturday’s game with a concussion.

But Tolzien, Moffitt and Carimi were clearly not happy by a number of drives that stalled out in the red zone and it doesn’t sound like they are going to let that go any time soon.

Defensively, the No. 1 group looked great. Defensive end Louis Nzegwu had three sacks, including a safety and after the game he said he wants to emulate the offseason O’Brien Schofield had last season. Saturday was a good start.

Meanwhile, the secondary looked much improved and Bret Bielema seemed happy with how it progressed during the 15 spring practices.

Bye, Bye Appleton

After the game, Bielema confirmed what many had assumed since Kraig Appleton was suspended from the team at the beginning of spring practices: he won’t be playing for the Wisconsin Badgers this fall.

That brings an end to what appeared to be a very promising Badger career for Appleton. Bielema stole the wide receiver from Illinois on signing day in 2009 and while Appleton did not contribute a whole lot in his freshman season, he did enough to provide a glimpse of hope for what is a pretty thin group at wideout.

Meanwhile, Nick Hill and Shelby Harris – who were both suspended at the same time as Appleton – still have a chance to stay on the team. Bielema said he would be looking over some new information in both of their cases and make a decision in the next few weeks.