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Roundtable: Making sense of Wisconsin’s loss at Penn State

Four writers sat down on computers and discussed Saturday’s outcome.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers dropped its fourth contest of the 2018 season in Happy Valley on Saturday in a 22-10 loss to Penn State.

Wisconsin (6-4, 4-3 Big Ten) only gained 269 yards of offense—209 on the ground with Jonathan Taylor tallying 185 yards on 20 carries and a long 71-yard touchdown. The offense only converted four of 15 third downs, however.

The defense gave up 183 yards rushing but only 343 overall to a balanced Penn State offense that came into Saturday’s contest gaining over 200 yards in both rushing and passing categories.

In a hint of a different way we’re conducting these B5Q roundtables, our writers came together in our Slack chatroom on Monday night to discuss the good, the bad, and more. Our responses are lightly edited for viewing purposes.

THE GOOD: Start this off on a positive note. What went well for Wisconsin on Saturday?

Bob Wiedenhoeft: Watching it was better than burning myself doing pipe work. Probably would be better than changing a toilet.

Drew Hamm: Put that game in a toilet in my opinion.

Owen Riese: Jonathan Taylor is the best running back in the country, so I feel like he’s already began to be taken for granted. It’s our pleasure to get to watch him run the rest of this year and next year.

Bob: Rinse and repeat with the good: Taylor/T.J. Edwards/Ryan Connelly are great. Yeah, Owen, I completely take Taylor for granted.

Drew: Taiwan Deal was good too!

Jake: Until the leg injury. [Note: he’s questionable this week with a right leg injury]

Bob: Taylor’s set the bar so high and keeps meeting it.

Owen: It’s not what fans want to hear, but the offensive line has really been fine, above average in the run game.

Drew: The running backs and the linebackers played well. That’s it.

Jake: Agreed with Owen on Taylor. Leads the nation in rushing with over 154 yards per game.

Owen: Offensive line is weird because you can have two bad plays and everyone says you suck, but on the defensive line you can have one good rush every other game, and “had a great year, six sacks.”

Bob: I like that take.

Jake: Does Taylor need to improve catching the ball and becoming more of a complete back? Absolutely. And I agree with you, Owen on the offensive line ... good in the run game, pass blocking though...

Drew: The offensive line played well when the Badgers ran the ball. They played worse when the Badgers passed the ball, but some of that is on Coan.

Bob: I don’t think Taylor needs to improve anything. It’s always nice to improve on weaknesses.

Owen: If he was a better pass protector, they wouldn’t take him off the field.

Drew: He can’t catch. I think it’s against his religion or something.

Owen: But saying the best player on the team NEEDS to improve something is weird. He had a nice 30-yard catch precisely nine days ago.

Bob: That’s what I meant to say Owen, haha.

Drew: That was a nice catch! And we remember it because it was basically his only one in his career.

Owen: Recency bias is very underrated!

Drew: Recency bias ain’t played nobody. Jonathan Taylor and Jack Coan has the same amount of attempts at their respective positions.

THE BAD: Lots to go from this game, but what popped out the most to you?

Owen: Pass protection at Wisconsin is always going to struggle against very athletic defensive lines, at least until Chryst get’s a few more classes in and the kids who were here early in his tenure cycle through.

Drew: Offensive line penalties were also bad, and uncharacteristic.

Bob: I’ve got 239 words ready to go on the world chess championship today, but it looks like we’re going to play this one straight. The worse thing for me in Saturday’s game was getting a potentially game saving turnover at the end ... but since the offense was so slow the previous possession it didn’t matter.

The pass protection seems to be the biggest issue.

Drew: Coan had nine completed passes and four turnovers. I might need Bob to chart the ratio for me, but it seems bad for Wisconsin chances at winning football games if he keeps it up.

Jake: Drew’s got a huge point. Three offensive line penalties in a second half series (two false starts and an illegal procedure)

Owen: It’s not really their fault, but the defensive line is so indifferent to the impact of games against teams like Penn State because they just don’t offer anything outside of run defense

Bob: Do you all get the sense that they’ve packed up their bags for the season?

Owen: No.

Jake: The BAD for me personally, was trying to change a toilet hours before the game and almost being late to cover the game from the couch, because changing a toilet sucks.

Drew: The Badgers had twice as many penalties and over twice as many penalty yards as Penn State and when you combine that with twice as many turnovers you’re going to have a bad time.

Owen: No I don’t get the sentiment about the kids quitting. no one wants to win these games more than the kids who are actually playing.

Bob: What about the coaching staff?

Jake: I don’t think they’ve packed up their bags. Not one bit. I’ll talk with the defensive players on Wednesday. Some of the seniors won’t be playing at the next level. They have three more college games left before their eligibility expires.

Owen: I think fans identify “quitting” with a lack of emotional outbursts or something, which is not something Wisconsin has often.

Drew: I don’t think Wisconsin has quit on the season. The first defensive possession and the first offensive possession for them were great! But then PSU punched back and Wisconsin and the Badgers didn’t seem prepared for it.

Bob: I’d agree with that. I think it’s easy to watch a losing team and say they’re under-motivated. They don’t have the tools right now.

Jake: Wisconsin did allow 183 yards on the ground during the game, which is not great, but they did hold PSU to only 343 on the game, which I think is admirable for a unit so mired in injuries.

Drew: I think the team won so many games last year that maybe they thought games would be easier this year? Maybe they ::puts on Skip Bayless hat:: CANT HANDLE ADVERSITY!

Jake: OK, let’s move on to the next question before we have a 4,000-word longform roundtable.

Owen: I say this as humbly and trying not to sound condescending as possible, but like, I coach high school, and sometimes personnel times get tough. Like you try to use your regular gameplan as much as possible, but a lot of times there are things that fans take for granted in just playing the game that are super underrated by the players that do them routinely, and when you’re down to reserves (I know, they’re scholarship athletes), but it limits what you can do. You can say “next man up” until you’re blue in the face, but some things just ain’t gonna happen.

**steps down from soapbox**

Jake: Point well taken, Owen.

Bob: I coached high school chess, and the same is true.

Drew: I guess I do take for granted the fact that the quarterback can complete simple passes.

Owen: *raises glass*

GAME BALLS: Who deserves them?

Jake: We mentioned Taylor/Edwards/Connelly but I honestly liked how Zack Baun has stepped up recently. He recorded nine tackles, three for loss, with 1.5 sacks.

Owen: Zack Baun 100 percent played his best college game on Saturday.

Drew: Taylor gets a game ball (duh). All four linebackers (duh again). James Franklin (for going for it twice on fourth down and getting it!). Baun was a monster.

Bob: I never know what to say here with the game balls. It’s gotta be Baun, right?

Owen: Imagine there is one team in the game that had Trace McSorely to go for it on fourth down, and the other had Jack Coan. That’s the game.

Bob: Eek

Owen: Roll tide

Bob: That’s horrifying. I’d never want to watch that game.

Drew: Owen, plz tag your hypotheticals as NSFW

Jake: Dare I blow up this chat with the hypothetical of having Baker Mayfield on the 2017 Wisconsin squad? *ducks*

Owen: No.

Drew: Go Browns.

Bob: Hey Schobert is having a crazy good year with the Browns. Had a Pro Bowl year last year.

Drew: Oh! Another game ball goes to that PSU defensive lineman from Wisconsin that Gary Andersen didn’t offer a scholarship.

Bob. Ugh.

Jake: Haha, Robert Windsor? Yes, game balls to him and Penn State running back Miles Sanders.

Drew: I hope Gary Andersen spends the rest of his life getting something wrong in his to-go orders at restaurants but not noticing until he gets home.

UP NEXT: Purdue. What Boilermakers squad will we see on Saturday—the one who blew up Ohio State for 49 points or the one that only gained 233 yards against Minnesota? And what does Wisconsin need to do in order to get a win in West Lafayette?

Bob: ::flips coin:: The one that lost to Minnesota!

Drew: Purdue is a weird team, man.

Bob: Beating Purdue is all about the running game. Just run for 400 yards and UW will be fine.

Drew: Who loses their first three home games to Northwestern, Eastern Michigan and Mizzou and then beats a ranked BC? A fucking crazy team, that’s who!

Owen: Hornibrook will play (my guess) and to be completely honest, that will be the difference.

Bob: I think if Hornibrook plays (who should only play if he’s 100 percent healed in my opinion) that does it.

Owen: Hornibrook’s floor is considerably higher than Coan’s, though his ceiling is also lower than Coan’s, but that’s for another time.

Drew: They blow out Ohio State and then GET blown out by Minnesota????? I want a federal investigation done on this year’s Purdue team.

Bob: You think they’re shaving points like Boston College?

Owen: Purdue is an enigma like [WWE superstar] Jeff Hardy, man. Rondale Moore gonna try a swanton bomb off the top of a ladder on the Badgers, and whether or not he hits it will determine their fate, in my opinion. High risk offense, to be honest.

Jake: LOL. That ends the roundtable right there, and is perfect for our #brand.

Drew: Keep Rondale Moore off the top rope and turn it into a Royal Rumble type match.

Jake: I will add that I wonder how the Bobby Petrino firing at Louisville affects Purdue’s players. Will they be distracted with their coach potentially being targeted by another program? That may play into Wisconsin’s favor if the team isn’t focused.