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Wisconsin football: Heartland Trophy roundtable

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The Badgers were just good enough to beat Iowa. What did B5Q think about the game?

NCAA Football: Iowa at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin beat Iowa 24-22 on Saturday afternoon to retain the Heartland Trophy for the fourth straight year. That was good and we liked it. But the Badgers allowed the Hawkeyes to claw back into the game and needed a stellar stop on a two-point conversion to secure the win.

Drew, Belz, Tyler and Ryan worked through their thoughts about the game and give an early look about what needs to be done to avoid being upset in Lincoln next weekend.

What are your overall thoughts on the game? Wisconsin won, which is good, but let Iowa back into the game in the fourth quarter, which is bad. So, yeah...overall thoughts?

Drew: This game was fine. A win over Iowa is always something about which you should be happy. Did the Badgers look super impressive? No, but they beat the Hawkeyes for the fourth straight time and finally got back in the win column for the first time in three weeks. It was nice to see the running game look dominant against a team that doesn’t allow many running games to even gain 100 yards, let alone 300. The defense was mostly pretty good, I guess, especially on third down.

Belz: Wisconsin was able to take care of business. Plain and simple. While the game itself wasn’t always pretty, the Badgers got back to their bread and butter. Jonathan Taylor was able to run for 250 yards on 31 carries. The defense was once again stout against the run. Wisconsin could have easily pulled away in this one, but it was nice to see the Badgers clean up the running game woes on both sides of the ball.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Iowa at Wisconsin Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tyler: I think the offense looked more like itself which I sort of expected out of the bye week. JT was dominating and the offensive line appeared to once again be the strength of the unit. However, I think I was most impressed with the play calling for guys on the perimeter. I thought they did a good job of getting the ball to the other playmakers. Defense was really good in some tough spots, just had really one bad play that could have cost them.

Ryan: I thought Wisconsin played well with its back against the wall on defense, they held Iowa to 1-of-9 on third down and kept them out of the end zone early on in a goal-to-go situation and not to mention the two-point conversion. Offensively, penalties really held them back and at times they got away from what was working, which was running the ball. However, they were able to keep the ball moving to close it out. I guess my overall thoughts are that it was a good win, when you factor that they did what they had to do, when they needed to to win, but they could have won the game more easily.

What would you change about the offensive play calling?

Drew: Someone needs to tell the Badgers that you are allowed to throw the ball inside of the hash marks. There is a whole area in the middle of the field that players like Jake Ferguson or A.J. Taylor or Garrett Groshek can operate! I liked the fact that the Badgers didn’t always run the ball in running situations, but when you are gaining 6.5 yards per carry against Iowa maybe don’t throw it so much in running situations. Kind of an annoying answer, but that’s what you sign up for when you become a college football coach: dipshits like me shouting about your decisions.

Belz: There were multiple times where the Badgers tried to get too cute. The Badgers averaged 6.5 yards per carry on the day, and for some reason Wisconsin tried to throw the ball in running situations after gashing Iowa on the ground for the majority of a drive. For example, the late Jack Coan interception was unfathomable considering the way the offensive line was leaning on Iowa’s front seven and imposing their will. Keep it simple.

Tyler: I like when Wisconsin got out of their comfort zone. Eventually I’d like them to develop more throws downfield like they did a bit in the second half. I would recommend whatever that Groshek direct snap/timeout/false start play get fired directly into the sun and never heard from again.

Ryan: Wisconsin has gotten into this pattern lately of running shorter routes and there have been a lot of passes being thrown toward the boundaries, across the field, which only yield a couple of yards at a time. I would like to see their pass plays coming off of longer routes.

Who gets your game balls on offense and defense? Remember, this doesn’t have to be a Wisconsin player.

Drew: Taylor on offense, obvi. I think Jack Sanborn and Keeanu Benton had really nice games, but Orr helping to make the stop on the two-point conversion is going to get you the game ball every time.

Belz: JT on offense. Iowa came in the ninth best defense against the run, and he ran wild. On the defensive side I will go with Chris Orr. That two-point conversion stand was a thing of beauty. He filled the gap and delivered a big hit to keep Nate Stanley out of the end-zone in potentially the most important play of the game.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Iowa at Wisconsin Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tyler: JT on offense no question. Chris Orr on defense no question.

Ryan: On offense, I would give the game ball to Jonathan Taylor, his 31 carries for 250 yards. While he didn’t find the end zone, he was the driving force for Wisconsin’s offense. Defensively I would give the game ball to both Chris Orr, for his stop on the two-point conversion and also to Hawkeye’s defensive back, Matt Hankins, who led all players in tackles and also made a diving catch, intercepting Jack Coan.

What should be done about the field goal kicking?

Drew: Never do it.

Belz: Recruit two for next season. I think Collin Larsh is what the Badgers have for the remainder of 2019, but an influx of talent would be nice to challenge him for next years duties. The kicking game has just not been good enough.

Tyler: Go for it. Kicking is for losers. Or if you aren’t comfortable with that give Hintze a shot. The guy has a mega leg, it can’t get any worse at this point.

Ryan: It’s hard to say… Collin Larsh said after the game that his confidence is as high as it can be, but he’s .500 on the season, so maybe his confidence shouldn’t be as high? Wisconsin could try out Hintze, but just because he can kick touchback after touchback, doesn’t mean he could hit field goals. It’s a crapshoot. Regardless, it needs to get better.

Is Jack Coan the right starting quarterback for this team?

Drew: He is, but I don’t know if I’m happy about it. Graham Mertz aka “The Mystery Box” has already said that he plans to redshirt this year, and saving a year of his eligibility is important and the correct decision, and Chase Wolf appears to have fallen to third on the depth chart. Coan is a known quantity at this point. He’s better than Alex Hornibrook and won’t lose you a game single-handedly but he’s not as good as Justin Fields or ::shudders:: Tanner Morgan and he won’t win you a game single-handedly either.

The fact of the matter is, changing the quarterback would not have won the Ohio State game. Changing the quarterback is not winning the Badgers the conference and changing the quarterback is not qualifying the Badgers for the Playoff. Until overall recruiting improves there is no sense in arguing about the quarterback when Coan is 7-2 on the season and doesn’t make mistakes regularly.

Belz: Similar to the kicking situation Jack Coan is who the Badgers likely have for 2019. I don’t see Graham Mertz playing in excess of the two games that would keep his redshirt status. I think Mertz is the more talented option in the long run, but I don’t believe Jack Coan is the sole reason for the offensive struggles. Coan clearly missed some throws on Saturday against Iowa, but his body of work this year has been solid, and he is a leader for the team to turn to. If things go sideways against Nebraska or Purdue then this question should be revisited, but as of now Jack Coan is clearly the guy.

Iowa v Wisconsin Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Tyler: Ehh, I think so but I don’t think anyone would be at fault for allowing doubt to creep in. If there was a proven other option maybe you take a shot and make a change, but Mertz is young and unproven and you don’t have the assurance that he is better right now. Plus, I really would love to save a year of his eligibility at this point. I think if they were going to make a change it would have been before this game, so I wouldn’t expect 17 to not be under center anytime soon.

Ryan: I think so. Wisconsin’s loses haven’t rested squarely on his shoulders and he’s done enough to carry a 7-2 record. I think most of the issues Wisconsin has in the passing game come from route running, and the length of the routes being run.

Early takes on traveling to Nebraska? What do the Badgers need to do to avoid the upset?

Drew: Nebraska’s defense sucks. Jonathan Taylor should run for another 200+ yards. Maybe let Nakia Watson get 100 too.

Belz: Nebraska is one of the worst teams at stopping the run. Hmm. What should Paul Chryst do? I think if Wisconsin cuts down on self imposed mistakes, and play their game, Wisconsin should take care of business against the corn crew.

Tyler: Run the ball on every single down until they stop it and then run it again. I want nothing more than to run up the score on everyone’s “Big Ten West Favorite”. Please.

Ryan: Play Badger football, meaning RUN THE BALL and bring the pressure on defense.