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Badger Bits: Mistakes on special teams beyond maddening

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Mistakes on special teams threaten to derail what could have been a special season.
Mistakes on special teams threaten to derail what could have been a special season.

I'm not an advocate of booing your team at home, especially in the college ranks where most of the players aren't being rewarded handsomely for their exploits. But when the boobirds came out Saturday following Raheem Mostert's 74-yard kickoff return in the first quarter, I at least understood where the sentiment came from.

With sounder special teams play the Badgers could very well still be in the national title picture, occupying the No. 2 spot in the BCS currently held by Oklahoma State. Over the last three weeks Wisconsin has had a field goal and two punts blocked, and allowed kickoff returns of 42, 49, 74 and 40 yards. The blocked kicks, especially, contributed to the Badgers' demise against Michigan State and Ohio State. Poor kickoff coverage reared its head mostly in the Purdue game, and though it didn't affect the scoreboard much it is still a frightening development.

The special teams gaffes are all the more frustrating because there is no simple solution. Every mistake is a fundamental one--missing tackles, blocks--meaning players either "get it" or they don't. The scheme isn't complicated, nor is it adjusted much on game-by-game basis. Players just aren't executing.

Fixing the unit goes way beyond my abilities as a basement blogger, and outside of more reps in practice I'm not sure how much the coaches can really do. Unfortunately it feels as if all we can do is hope that something just "clicks," or just accept the fact that this a solid team with one very obvious Achilles' heel. 


Monday's links:

The Big 2 newspapers give their takes on special teams, with player quotes. Unfortunately, they don't offer much in the way of concrete solutions either.

The State Journal says the Badgers are back on track after the win. We'll see, but at least the team doesn't lack in the leadership department. This week, Aaron Henry steps up. 

Journal Sentinel notes from last week's game: Marcus Cromartie steps up with two big plays in coverage in the first quarter.

The offensive line came into Saturday's game angry after being handled by Ohio State. They came through against Purdue, paving the way for a Montee Ball's career rushing day.

The odds of Ball not setting the school single-season rushing touchdown record against the Gophers this weekend are astronomically low.

Aaron Henry left Saturday's game with an ankle injury, but should be okay for this weekend.

Reggie Love is a future starting wide receiver at Wisconsin, and not a sex-talk radio DJ.

This week's Badgers Roundtable. Special teams and defense obviously take a lot of scrutiny.

Postgame stats and notes from the Journal Sentinel.

Off Tackle Empire and Adam Rittenberg both see Wisconsin making a BCS bowl.

Bball Badgers are ranked No. 15 in SI's early power rankings. Jordan Taylor is tabbed as the best point guard in the country "until proven otherwise."