The Wisconsin Badgers lost the Rose Bowl on Wednesday evening to the Oregon Ducks. You know this. I know this. We all know this. It sucks to lose a game by one point and it sucks even more when that game is the last one of your season and you effectively gifted the opposition most of their points.
Regardless! It is time to discuss the game with our panel of writers. Owen, Bob, Belz and Ryan gave us their thoughts after this heart breaker.
Ok. Let’s start off with something positive before we dive into the ::gestures wildly at the rest of the game::. Who gets your game ball for the Badgers?
Owen: I’ll go with Jonathan Taylor here. Probably not the right pick, but damn it I’m kinda bummed out that we’re probably never going to see one of the most prolific collegiate running backs in the history of the sport play for Wisconsin anymore. An unspectacular game from Taylor, but his career deserves a send off, and this is it, I guess.
Belz: I will go with Aron Cruickshank and Jim Leonhard. Cruickshank had a monster return in the first quarter that gave Wisconsin life after being dismantled by the Oregon offense on the first drive of the game. He averaged over 40 yards per return on the game, and he helped Wisconsin have great field position throughout the game. After that initial Oregon drive, Jim Leonhard called an amazing game. The Wisconsin defense was stuck in tough situations all game long due to some unforced errors. The defense was the lone unit on the team that held up their end of the bargain against the Ducks.
Bob: I really like how Quintez Cephus played. Seven catches for 59 yards does not sound all that eye-popping, but I love how he battled every play. I think it’s between Cephus and Aron Cruickshank, who scored and sparked a TD drive, for a game ball.
Ryan: I’m going to agree with Bob here and give it to Cephus and Cruickshank. Cruickshank sucked every ounce of momentum Oregon had in the game following their opening score and Cephus was impressive, working against a talented defensive backfield. His “catch” on the pass interference call was eye-popping, even though it was ruled incomplete, but he was still able to draw the penalty, which helped Wisconsin keep the drive going.
Now that we’ve gotten the niceties out of the way...WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!?! What was the most egregious thing that went wrong for the Badgers, and you can’t say the officiating because we are going to talk about that in the next question.
Owen: I think probably the Anthony Lotti fumble on the punt. The Coan pick sucked and he got hit in the face, but I’m very “let the boys play” so I don’t mind that one so much. But the punt fumble, which obviously resulted in a touchdown for the Ducks, was a kick in the nuts. Completely routine and avoidable and ultimately helped lead to the demise of one of the better Badger teams we’ve seen in recent memory.
Belz: I’m with Owen. The Lotti play was infuriating. It was fairly telling when he was pulled for the rest of the game after that. Just a terrible mental lapse that quickly afforded Oregon seven points when the Badgers defense was playing so well.
Bob: For me, the Danny Davis fumble was the most difficult one. I think Owen makes a lot of sense with his explanation, and that Davis fumble was with a six point lead with less than eight minutes remaining. The Davis fumble was the final mistake after many serious errors. Like in chess, the team to make the second-to-last mistake usually wins close games.
Ryan: I have to go with the Lotti fumble. Routine play and he just couldn’t hang on. And the nonchalant way that Brady Breeze pick picked it up with one hand… it couldn’t have been an easier score for Oregon.
Was that offensive pass interference? Because, like, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that called that way before.
Owen: In a word: no. But like even in a reality where it was, or it was called, I wouldn’t have THAT MUCH of a problem with it if it had impacted the play. Like, Jake Ferguson still would have caught the ball and it still would have been a first down. That call effectively ended the game for Wisconsin, as it went from a 1st and 10 and driving, to a 3rd and 20 which *checks play sheet* there aren’t many good calls for.
Belz: My TV definitely heard from me loud and clear my thoughts on that call. I convinced it that it was a bad call, I swear. The sheer magnitude of the call in the situation was the worst part. Keep that yellow hanky in your pocket next time bud, you shouldn’t be determining a game.
Bob: It was the antithesis of pass interference. The call was vacuous, I refuse to accept it as legitimate, I oppose the call, I renounce it and it should be voided. (HT thesaurus.com)
I was so mad about the rules “expert” coming in afterwards saying that the receiver needs to get out of the way of the defender. What century is he in? His explanation implied that any contact is offensive pass interference.
Ryan: No, not a chance. It looked to me like Davis was running his route and the cornerback grabbed him and Davis followed suit. It was a terrible call and effectively ended any chance Wisconsin had in the game.
What do you think was on Anthony Lotti’s hands the past two games?
Owen: Yeah that sucks. He’s a senior, and one of Paul Chryst’s biggest sayings with the media, which I agree with, is always “he’s not intentionally making the mistake, he doesn’t want to do it.” Stinks that’s how it ends, but /shrugs
Belz: His reaction on the sideline summed it up. He looked shell-shocked on the sidelines when the camera cut to him. Tough experience for a young person, and those two plays will likely be ingrained in the minds of fans when he is brought up.
Bob: Not ideal, one of the saddest ways to end a career. I hope his teammates give him support the coming hours / days / months because the public is going to drag his name hard for the next day or so.
Ryan: A lack of confidence? I’m not sure, but it’s a terrible way to end your football career.
How do you have these advantages, time of possession (38:03-21:57) and total yards (322-204), and still lose a football game? I KNOW THIS IS BASICALLY THE SAME AS QUESTION 2 BUT I’M ANGRY AND WANT ANSWERS!
Owen: Turnovers, dude. Oregon didn’t do anything offensively after the first drive of the game, but Wisconsin gave them two short fields and a freebie touchdown on the fumbled punt. That’s 21 points gifted to Oregon (important when they scored 28 and the Badgers scored 27 tbh).
Belz: Turnovers kill. Couple four turnovers with not converting with touchdowns in plus territory, and there is the recipe. Wisconsin kicked three field goals. Made two. A team can possess the ball for eons, but if you don’t finish the drive off with seven points, or even a field goal it doesn’t matter. Paul Chryst said it best: “We couldn’t overcome ourselves.”
Bob: I think that time of possession is one of the weakest stats for predicting victories, so don’t get too caught up with that. The yardage is a mess. A huge negative turnover margin will undo quarters of hard work.
Ryan: Four turnovers and nine penalties for 79 yards. That sums it up. Oregon only had to work for one of their touchdowns, which was the opening drive, the rest were gimmes thanks to turnovers.
What did you think about the offensive play calling? I, for one, loved the aggressiveness on fourth down.
Owen: I didn’t have many complaints. I think objectively the Oregon defense was on its collective heels for most of the game. Wisconsin mostly stopped itself, and agree with the fourth down aggressiveness. They were in the right situations, and they worked well.
Belz: The play-calling was not a problem in my eyes. Penalties derailed them offensively all game long when they started to get a drive going, not Joe Rudolph and Chryst.
Bob: I think it was mostly fine. They didn’t do any jet sweep / end runs in the first half and went to it too often in the second.
Ryan: I didn’t have an issue with it. Oregon is a good defensive team and it showed in the game. I would have liked to see the jet sweep used more throughout the game, than so frequently in the second half and I would have liked to see Cruickshank in on some of those plays. The fourth down calls were aggressive and I loved it. Especially the pass play to Taylor. That was perfectly executed.
Early thoughts on next season...do the Badgers beat Indiana at home to open up the 2020 season and who is under center for Wisconsin?
Owen: Yes, and Jack Coan is. This is probably a weird take, but next year’s team is, in my opinion, going to be more talented, despite losing AJ Taylor and Jonathan Taylor and (probably) Tyler Biadasz and Chris Orr. The collective fruits of the recruiting success should start to be seen next season.
Belz: Wisconsin will beat Indiana with Jack Coan taking the snaps. I think Coan will be the guy unless Chryst deploys a platoon with Graham Mertz. Mertz is definitely the future at the position, but Coan has been solid and the Badgers potentially return a lot of talent. If Quintez Cephus returns, the Badgers could be really good in 2020, regardless of who is throwing him the ball.
Bob: Yep, and I have a feeling Graham Mertz will win the job, but it’s probably a coin-flip. He would have to be significantly and consistently better than Coan in the offseason to merit the switch since he does have a lot of experience and has been pretty good. There was one throw tonight, though, to Kendric Pryor deep that I think Mertz would have turned into a touchdown. Instead, it was a little under-thrown and therefore a jump ball.
Ryan: Yes, they will beat Indiana. As for who is under center… I think it’s going to be a toss up. I don’t think Coan has done enough to warrant him losing the job, but I also don’t think he has done quite enough to keep the job, if that makes sense. I could see Chryst sticking with Coan, just because he will be the returning starter and it’s clear that the team is behind him, from a leadership standpoint. Regardless, the QB battle will be an interesting one and should be the biggest story of camp.