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Four B1G Things vs Nebraska: The Final Day

30 Sep

Stop Taylor Martinez. Smash the Husker defensive line in the mouth. Play great under great expectations. These were the three B1G Things we’ve discussed over the past three days that the Badgers must do to beat Nebraska. That brings us to the last day before the big game and ultimately the last B1G Thing the Badgers need to focus on to walk away victorious. Here goes.

Prove it. Earn it. Win it.

That’s it. It’s that simple. It’s no longer a question of talent; we have it in abundance. It, now, all comes down to beating the guy across from you. If the Badgers focus on doing that every play, the rest will fall in place.

So come on, Badgers. We know you’ve put in the work and have the hunger to be great–we’ve seen the glimpses. So go out and embrace playing a damn good team. Sure, they’ll make some plays, but take the field with the mentality that you’ll win every play. Do that and make history.

We’re dying to celebrate again.

On Wisconsin.

-Mitch Larson

 

Four Big Things vs Nebraska: Day Three

29 Sep

Last year’s Ohio State game was one of the greatest atmospheres and moments in Wisconsin football history. To this day I still get chills thinking about it. I’m here to argue, however, that this upcoming game is bigger. Much bigger.

The Badgers came into last year’s game against No. 1 ranked Ohio State  limping off a loss to Michigan State and holding the 18th position in the polls. Sure, we thought we were good, but we had yet to prove it. We hoped we would win, sure, but that’s all it was–a hope. Going into the game we hoped it would it be a great atmosphere, but we didn’t know if it would be. We hoped we’d play the Buckeyes tough, but we didn’t know for sure. We hoped the Badgers would smash the Buckeyes in the mouth and come away with a magical win, but…we had no way of knowing.

Bottom line: those things did happen, and now we know how great it is to play in a Camp Randall night-game shrouded in national hype. Last year we hoped to play for a BCS birth. Now we know we’re fighting for one. We’ve seen what can be and we know what to expect–now we’re fighting for the chance to repeat it. We’re not the underdog anymore, Wisconsin. No more are we the darkhorse–we’re the front runner.

Or at least we think we are.

That’s where the third installment of Four Big Things vs Nebraska comes in:

Playing With Expectations

Here come the bright lights, Badgers. Last year you demonstrated you could win the big game–but that was last year’s team. The players from last year’s team understand what it takes to pull off the big win–and how it feels to lose the big one. They should be prepared for Nebraska. There will be no surprises. There will be no wide eyes. The Badgers no longer have the luxury of coming into College Game Day’s showdown as a relative underdog. They’ve got the target on their big cardinal-clad back. It’s here we see if they are truly continuing the momentum they started last year. It’s here we see if the Rose Bowl loss has kept them hungry. It’s time to see what they’re made of.

Gut-check time, Badgers; time to prove you’re worthy of another magical Camp Randall celebration.

On Wisconsin.

-Mitch Larson

Four Big Things vs Nebraska: Day Two

28 Sep

What does the “N” on the side of Nebraska’s helmet stand for? Knowle–err, never mind. I did, you know, promise myself I wouldn’t make any Husker jokes this week. But man, it’s been tough…

Anyways, all sad attempts at humor aside, let’s jump right into it. Yesterday we discussed how important it will be for the Badgers to contain Taylor Martinez. For today’s Big Thing we turn our focus back over to Wisconsin’s offense.

The Big Uglies: Wisconsin’s Offensive Line

Russell Wilson gets all the media attention. James White slashes defenses and Montee Ball is a scoring juggernaut. And nobody gets a stadium to scream in unison like Nick Toon. But what these play-makers have in common is that all of their success starts in the trenches with the offensive line.

Week One of the NFL saw three of last year’s Wisconsin offensive lineman start for professional teams. A pretty amazing stat. What makes it more amazing? So far, this year’s version of the Badgers haven’t seen much of a drop off. Yet. Gabe Carimi played phenomenally last year against elite B1G players like Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn and Ohio State’s Cam Heyward. This upcoming game against the Huskers will once again test the Badgers. Nebraska’s Jared Crick is a monster-of-a-man and Wisconsin’s interior lineman will have their hands full.

With Nebraska’s secondary being its biggest concern (so far, at least) look for the Badgers to once again feature a very balanced air vs ground attack–but one that’s willing to take some deeper shots at the Huskers. This means it’s going to be crucial for the offensive line to hold its own pass-blocking the Huskers as wide-outs work longer routs. Protecting Wilson must be paramount. Also look for Nebraska to bring some of their talented linebackers on a variety of twists and stunts to attempt to slow down the Badgers.

But let’s not forget about that running game. And oh yeah, the Badger running backs are only as effective as their blockers up front.

So the Badger offensive linemen will have their hands full as they face their first real challenge of the year. Between run-blocking for Ball and White, slowing down Crick and Company, and picking up the Huskers’ very athletic linebacking corps, the Badgers’ Big Uglies–as the coaching staff calls them–will have quite the hand in how the Badgers fare on Saturday. Here’s to hoping they’re up for the challenge. That is all.

Go in peace, Badger fans. May the force of Carimi and Moffit be with you.

On Wisconsin.

-Mitch Larson

Four B1G Things vs Nebraska

27 Sep

My Nick Toon jersey is washed, pressed, and folded. My Nebraska vs Wisconsin ticket lays precisely on the counter where I left it a month ago. My preferred pre-game beverages? Chilling in the refrigerator.  All that’s left to do is watch the remaining minutes tick by as Moses’s War creeps closer and closer.

But as the hype and anticipation continue to grow, so does the anxiety that die-hard fans sometimes feel in the waning days before their team squares off with a heavy-weight contender. So, in a (probably futile) effort to help stem the nerves, we’re going to cover one key area per day that the Badgers need to focus on in order to send Nebraska home with a losing B1G record.

Let’s get ‘her crackin’.

One of Four B1G Things: Contain, Contain, Contain

T-Magic, Tres Martinez, T-Mart, Taylor Martinez, whatever you call him,containing the Husker quarterback will be paramount to the success of the Badgers. Sam Oleson said it perfectly when he stated, “The Husker offense goes as Taylor Martinez goes.” He is the life and focal point of the Nebraska attack–both through the air and on the ground. Running the option alongside running back Rex Burkhead, Martinez is a beast in the open field. In space, Martinez is one of the top runners in the country. Don’t believe me? Check the highlights from Martinez vs Kansas State last year during Martinez’s freshman campaign.

That being said, it’s not like Wisconsin has never faced a running, dual-threat quarterback before. Seems to me they did just fine about a year ago in another home-game of epic proportions…

So to stop Martinez, I predict the Badgers to follow a similar game-plan as last year vs Pryor and the Buckeyes. For as dangerous as Martinez is running the rock, he still has a ways to go before mastering the art of the aerial attack. Look for the Badgers to keep a spy (Borland, anyone?) on Martinez and to focus on shutting down the run by stacking the box–forcing Martinez to beat them through the air.

If the Badgers can limit T-Magic’s production on the ground, prevent the big play, and force Martinez to go to the air, Wisconsin will be one step closer to defeating the Huskers.

So sleep tight, Badger fans, and may dreams of Jump Around dance in your heads.

More to come tomorrow.

Mitch Larson

Grading the Defense: Week 4

26 Sep

Just another day in the life for the nation’s third-best scoring defense.

The Badgers played well enough up front and essentially made the Coyotes one-dimensional. The secondary was stellar, the linebackers made plays, the front four brought pressure, and the collective defensive unit finally began recording take-aways. Here are the individual grades:

Defensive Line: A-

I’m a bit torn about the line’s performance. While they did bring constant pressure and recorded three sacks, they seemed unable to stop the run game, at times. Granted the Coyotes were very one-dimensional in their play-calling and ran the ball 37 times, it still hurts to see 124 rushing yards under the Coyotes’ stat line. Call me a perfectionist, but while it only averages out to 3.4 yards per rush, I think the Badgers front four can improve. And they’ll need to next weekend against the dynamic rushing attack of Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead.

Linebackers: A-

This would be a straight A, but I pass part of the blame for South Dakota’s 124 rushing yards to the linebacking corps. But besides that, the linebackers were effective. Borland continues to demonstrate his knack for making big plays while recording his first interception of the year. The unit also featured the Badgers’ top three tacklers of the day in Mike Taylor, Borland, and Kevin Claxton.

Secondary: A+

Any team who can hold their opposition, no matter how bad, to less than 50 yards through the air deserves mad props. When Nick Toon can out-gain the Coyotes in one play, you know the secondary was on top of their game. Cromartie seems to be fitting in well with the unit and they collectively appear confident to move on to their next challenge.

It’s awfully hard to complain about a defense that has given up 8.5 ppg through the first four match-ups, but the Badgers must continue to improve before their anticipated match-up with the Huskers. Can’t wait.

On Wisconsin.

-Mitch Larson

How the Players Feel: Travis Frederick’s Take on the Offense

22 Sep

Listen in as Paul Bunya–er–Travis Frederick–gives his take on why Wisconsin’s offense has been so effective. But seriously, Frederick’s beard deserves some credit. And its own zip code. Grow on, Frederick. Grow on.

And as always, nice job Mike Lucas and UWBadgers.com

Coyote to Watch: Jesse Weisbrod

21 Sep

I’m going to do something a little out-of-the-ordinary, here, and take the time to do a brief profile on one of the Badgers’ upcoming foes: South Dakota defensive end Jesse Weisbrod.

I’m doing this because, in someways this Saturday, Weisbrod will be coming home. You see, playing in Camp Randall will by no means be a new experience for Weisbrod.

Coyote Defensive End, Jesse Weisbrod

Weisbrod, a Waupaca, Wis. native, was the captain of his high school’s 2007 state championship team that captured its title playing on, well, you guessed it, the Badgers’ home playing field. Now, four years later, the 6-5, 275 lb red-shirt senior makes his way back to Madison to face his home-state team Wisconsin Badgers.

O yeah, and did I mention he was a high school classmate and football teammate of your RedZone contributing writers, Sam Oleson and Mitch Larson? Told you it was an interesting story…

We caught up with Weisbrod and asked him a few questions about what it’ll be like to return to Camp Randall.

***

What will it feel like stepping onto the field at Camp Randall for the first time since you won the state championship?

WEISBROD: Obviously I have some great memories associated with Camp Randall but I won’t really know how I’ll feel until I step onto the playing-field. I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to play in such a historic stadium in front of a crowd usually am cheering along with. This Saturday, obviously, I’ll be pulling for the Badgers’ opponent.

Do you think it gives you an advantage knowing that you’ve already played in Camp Randall?

WEISBROD: I don’t think it gives me any advantage just because it’s been so long since I’ve played there.

If you had to sum up the style your Coyote defense plays, in one sentence, what would it be?

WEISBROD: I’d say our defense is unrelenting in its pursuit of the ball. Simply put, we just try to get out there and get after it.

What do you expect from the Badgers, come Saturday?

WEISBROD: As far as expectations of the Badgers, I know they’re going to come right at us, like any other team. I know they have Nebraska the following week, but I don’t believe they’ll be taking us lightly.

Are you feeling anything different preparing to play the team you grew up cheering for opposed to a team in your conference?

WEISBROD: It’s obviously very different getting ready to face a team I’ve been watching since I was a kid. Watching them on film is almost surreal. At the end of the day, though, they’re just another team like every other one we prepare for; I have to treat it as such.

What does it mean to you to get to come back and play in front of your family and friends who maybe haven’t seen you play in four years?

WEISBROD: Playing in front of family and friends that haven’t seen me play in four years adds a bit of extra pressure. But not only do I personally want to play well in front of them, I want to show them that our entire team can play well, too. I have a group of 60 people from my hometown coming down to watch and cheer for me, so I’m hoping to make them proud.

***

Weisbrod, number 96, deflects a pass against Minnesota

I know as sports fans we sometimes get caught up cheering for our home team. Sometimes–and probably more often than not–we can even get down-right nasty to our opponents and opposing fan-bases. I’m here to say that we need to keep some perspective and realize that, even though they may be facing off against the team we bleed for, they’re still collegiate athletes fighting for their teammates and fan-bases. But more importantly, they’re good people. Such is the case with players like Jesse Weisbrod. And while I’ll surely be rooting for my Badgers on Saturday, I wish all the best to stand-up players like Weisbrod and his teammates.

On Wisconsin.

-Mitch Larson

Week 3 Highlights

20 Sep

I pity the fool. The fool that has to line up against this squad, that is.

Once again, great work by UW Athletics on an awesome highlight video. Keep it coming, boys.

Grading the Defense: Week 3

20 Sep

Yes, yes, I know, I’m a little late with this post. However, I have good reason: I’ve been extremely busy indulging myself in some great food dishes. What kind of food, you ask? Well, a hefty plate of steamy, delicious, Crow Pie. And I’ve had the pleasure of sharing it all to myself.

This young 2011 season has seen me, maybe even a little unfairly, critical of the Badger’s defense. I was unimpressed with their play vs UNLV, unconvinced after dominating a dreadful Oregon State team, and down-right skeptical that they’d be effective against the so called “high-powered” Huskies. Well, so far they’ve proven me wrong. Very wrong. That being said, the Badgers were down-right nasty on Saturday as the Badgers stymied the Northern Illinois Huskies. Not much to say about the Badgers’ dominating performance. Here’s how they graded out:

Defensive Line: A-

The Badgers brought pressure all day getting steady production out of the defensive end position with Louis Nzegu recording three tackles and one a pass blocked. And while the line failed to record a sack, they constantly kept NIU quarterback Chandler Harnsih uncomfortable and on the move. Harnish never, save for a lone drive, seemed “in his groove.” Much of this credit goes to the Badger’s front four.

Line Backers: A+

If there were any questions about Chris Borland”s transition to middle linebacker, Saturday should have answered them. Borland was his old self, flowing to the ball and blowing up plays. Number 44 led the Badgers with 11 tackles with two of them going for loses. Also chipping in was Mike Taylor who looked extremely smooth in recording five tackles of his own. A lot of credit goes to the Badger defensive line, but any time you can limit a team to 64 rushing yards, a heap of praise goes to the line backing unit.

Secondary: A

This was a point of contention coming into the mach-up. Wisconsin’s “unproven” secondary against NIU’s fast-break passing attack was a scary match-up. The Badgers quelled some serious doubters (me being one of them) by straight up shutting down Harnish’ s passing game. Had I been a betting man, I would have never thought the Badgers would limit the Huskies to 173 yards through the air. Simply put, the Badger secondary came to play and shut the haters up. Here’s to hoping that domination continues.

Game Ball Goes To:

Marcus Cromartie. He was the biggest liability entering the game and ended up proving himself with flying colors. Doerin constantly tested the new corner back and Cromartie excelled under the pressure, finishing the game with eight tackles.

-On Wisconsin

Mitch Larson

Around the B1G: Big Ten Week 3 Predictions

16 Sep

Predicting each Big Ten match-up one sentence at a time.

Eastern Michigan vs Michigan

Shoelace, fresh off his new Twitter account,  shines as he wows new followers. Premature Heisman hash-tag mania ensues.

Final score: Michigan 31, Eastern Michigan 9

Penn State vs Temple

Post-Alabama hangover and Temple’s running game give Lions fits as Joe Pa’s farewell tour picks up momentum.

Final Score: Temple 28, Penn State 20

Pitt vs Iowa

Vengeance is on the mind as Pitt faces the Hawkeyes at the wrong time. Damn you, Iowa State…

Final Score: Iowa 37, Pitt 17

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