It was never going to be easy. But for two quarters, Wisconsin had scrapped to being down only seven as halftime approached. One Alabama shanked punt and a Joel Stave dime to Alex Ericson, the Badgers were setting up for a field goal to set up a four point deficiet and receiving the second half kickoff. Alas, Rafael Gaglianone missed the kick and the Badgers never quite recovered.
The game got off to a rough start. Senior leader Michael Caputo took a knee to the head and after a scary moment trying to join the Alabama huddle, sat out the rest of the game due to concussion. Missing the heart and soul of the Badger defense, Alabama's offense went to work.
Tide quarterback Jake Coker took advantage of Caputo's absence to pick apart the Badger secondary on crossing routes. Once the defense was on it's heels, running back Derrick Henry gashed the Badgers for several big runs and finished with 147 yards and three touchdowns.
Wisconsin certainly missed Caputo's sure tackling and leadership, but it was unlikely his presence would have changed the outcome of the game much. The Badgers defense was unable to handle the dynamic attack of the Bama offense. Missed tackles and miscommunication were rampant. While concerning, especially not too long after the 0-59 shellacking of the Big Ten title game last season, the Badgers are unlikely to face a team as talent as Alabama for the remainder of the season.
There were a few bright spots defensively. Sojourn Shelton defended well and showed a nice burst in breaking up a few deep balls. Joe Schobert also made several nice plays, continuing his penchant for tackles for a loss.
On offense it was quite a mixed bag. Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, the Badgers were unable to establish any running game. Corey Clement, Dare Ogunbawale and Taiwan Deal finished with 39 yards on 17 carries. Considering the wealth of NFL talent along the Crimson Tide defensive line and Wisconsin starting three new offensive lineman, the yardage total is not surprising.
What was pleasantly surprising was the passing game led by Joel Stave. We have heard/anticipated/prayed the wonders Paul Chryst can work with quarterbacks and that was on display against Bama tonight. Stave was quick on his decisions and accurate with his delivery. If not for a late minute interception Stave's line of 26-of-38 for two touchdowns would be more than respectable.
Alabama did a phenomenal job of making the Badger offense one dimensional. Without the balanced attack and long sustained drives, the defense just ran out of steam. The game against a top five team with national title aspirations showed Wisconsin there are plenty of areas for improvement to be had. However, regardless of the outcome tonight, the Badgers are still positioned to win the Big Ten West division.