In the loss, the Badgers struggled heavily on both sides, with the offense failing to capitalize on opportunities throughout the game, while the defense came out flat-footed, allowing 24 points in the first half.
“We’re going to have to look at tomorrow and we’re going to have to be one day at a time and one practice at a time, one moment at a time, and find a way, with the guys we got, and the guys that want to be here and the guys that want to do it, to push forward and do the things that we can do and do them better,” Fickell said.
When asked about his comment about finding out who wants to still be here, Fickell swiftly responded, “We’ll find out this week.”
Then, following the game, an irate Hunter Wohler took to the podium and shared his two cents on the Badgers’ recent slide, blasting the players for their effort, while defending the coaching staff.
“There’s zero words. I have no words. I really don’t. Feeling sucks. I can’t even describe it,” Wohler said after the loss. “This hurts a lot. And where to go right now, I don’t know, but we’re going to have to find a way. We’re going to have to figure it out, and we will. But right now, I really have no words.”
“There’s no answers. We just have to play better. I mean, we come out soft, we come out flat. We have zero energy on either side of the ball, and we get whooped around the field. There’s no answer to getting smoked. We have to be better. I mean, we’re soft. We’re not physical. We’re not doing the things that coaches ask of us, and we go out there and expect to win. And that’s not how this game works, especially not in the Big Ten.”
Wohler went further, pointing out that the current state of the Badgers was not at all what he envisioned when joining the program, and calling for his fellow players to start figuring out their priorities.
“Guys got to look inside themselves and find out who they really are and if they really want to play this game and if they really want to be a part of this team, because this is not what I came to Wisconsin for, to be completely honest. This is miles different from what I grew up watching. And obviously, I take responsibility for it, being a part of the team,” Wohler said.
“And whatever we can do to figure this thing out, we’re going to do. It’s got to be individually, saying one thing and trying to get everyone together. It only gets you so far. It has to come from within. And like I said, guys got to take a look inside themselves and find out what they really want.”
When asked about the coaches and their role in the losses, Wohler placed the guys in charge, sharing his belief that the staff couldn’t have done any more in helping the team to win, instead pointing the blame at the players and their energy in the loss.
“Yeah. There’s no perfect call. There’s no perfect assignment. Nothing that the coaches could have done differently tonight that would have made us win that game,” Wohler said. “I mean, we played horribly. We were flat. We had no energy. We couldn’t do anything on either side of the ball, 100% on the players.”
“I don’t blame Coach Fickell. I don’t blame Coach Tress (DC Mike Tressel). I don’t blame the coaches for what happened today, what happened last week. We’re not good enough right now and we have to find a way to get that right along those lines.”
Are the players bought into Fickell in his first year at Wisconsin?
Wohler questioned the matter, revealing his belief that the team is currently not fully bought in, but reiterating the fact that the loss was solely on the players, not the coaches.
“I think that’s a tough question,” Wohler said. “I think there’s some people that are bought in and we need to get everybody. This game doesn’t happen with one or two people. It happens with a full team.”
“Whether you play, whether you start on Saturdays or whether you’re running scout team during the week, it takes everybody, and clearly we don’t have everyone on the same page. I don’t blame the coaches. Again, there’s nothing that the coaches could have done to fix what happened today. There really isn’t.”
A big issue that led to the downfall defensively was the issues on third downs for the Badgers, as Wisconsin allowed Northwestern to convert each of their first 10 opportunities, leading to 24 first-half points on four offensive drives.
What were the issues for the Badgers on third down specifically Saturday?
Wohler attributed the poor performance to execution and the passiveness that Wisconsin played with, which allowed Northwestern to easily convert those opportunities.
“We didn’t execute. We didn’t challenge them. We know where the sticks are on third and five. We know they have to get five yards to get a first down,” Wohler said. And when we play passive, we don’t challenge them. They’re going to take what we give them and we give them easy yards, we give them easy first downs.”
“And we didn’t come out and we didn’t do what we talk about doing, do what we say we’re going to do. Came out flat, didn’t challenge anybody and we got pushed around.”
I noticed this factor too, especially when the Badgers played zone coverage, as it seemed that Wisconsin was just too soft in their zones, specifically at the sticks, allowing Northwestern to consistently gain a rhythm offensively.
#Badgers defense has too many flaws right now:— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 11, 2023
- Can't stop the run, consistently lose battle at LOS with their personnel
- Not a great understanding of their zones, especially near the sticks. Leads to a lot of chain-moving catches
- Still missing number of tackles, reads
Is there an explanation for the constant defensive woes that the Badgers have faced, especially early in games?
Wohler didn’t really have an answer, instead pointing to the players’ desire, which he believes just isn’t enough at the moment.
“[I don’t] really [have an explanation for the defensive issues],” Wohler said. “I think it just comes down to want to and how bad do you really want to be a part of this team? How bad do you really want to play this game? How bad do you really want to win? And you can look at all the different statistics, you can look at this and that, but at the end of the day, it comes down to who wins the game, who has a higher score at the end of the game.”
“And defensively we aren’t doing enough, obviously. Just have to play. We have to be better. There’s no formula, there’s no one solution. Just got to be better.”
Continuing on, Wohler raised an ultimatum to his team, calling out for some potential “weeding out” in the program due to the porous performance recently.
“Our backs are up against the wall like they have never been before. How many guys really do give a sh*t about this team, about this program, about the culture, about winning and losing and about each other? There might be some weeding out that we need to do, because right now, the things that we have going on is not what Wisconsin Football is,” Wohler said. “It’s not what WWisconsin Football represents. And we have to find a way to get rid of the problems and come up with some solutions right now.”
Wohler questioned the team’s will after their lack of a response in each of the last two weeks following beatdowns to other opponents, which he feels should make the locker room pissed off to a higher degree.
“Is there a ‘Come to Jesus’ moment or is it just quiet? There’s nothing to say after getting your asses mean. We just got pushed around the field and for some reason, we had nothing to say about it. We got beat by Ohio State. Come out last week flat. I mean, I was pissed. You should be pissed after losing a game that you could have won. Come out last week and we’re flat and we stink. Should be pissed after that. And you come out this week and do the same thing,” Wohler said about Saturday’s loss.
“There’s nothing to say around the locker room and to the guys that can change the way anybody feels right now. You got to take a step back and figure it out. During the week, that was alarming.”
With the Badgers at an all-time low point of their season, Wohler feels that somebody needs to step up and be the “a**hole” because of the lack of effort and responsibility at the moment.
“[It’s just a] lack of effort, lack of care. And I take responsibility for not calling guys out. I think the locker room is very tight and we have a lot of guys that really, really love being together and love being around each other,” Wohler said.
“But, it comes a point where someone has to speak up and be the asshole. Someone has to tell people to stop screwing around and stop going through the motions and play. Otherwise, get out. We don’t need people here that aren’t going to give their hearts for this team. So there’s going to be some weeding out, and every team has to do that.”
Most importantly, the Badgers have a quick turnaround, as they’ve got the Nebraska Cornhuskers to focus on next weekend, which means that the team will have to figure it out real quick.
“We’ve hit rock bottom right now. And when you hit rock bottom, you take a long, hard look at yourself, and that’s what’s going to have to be done over the next 24 hours,” Wohler said. “And over the next, really 24 hours. That’s all we have. Because there’s a game next week, so we’re going to have to figure it out real quick.”
The Badgers have slid recently, and it was clear that some accountability needed to be tossed around.
Wohler’s frustrations show that there’s a different dynamic around the Badgers locker room at the moment, and that needs to fix, and fast, if Wisconsin is to turn it around over the next two weeks and salvage what’s left of their season.