Andy Graham’s IU @ Wisconsin football reports and analysis

PREGAME: Have just consumed my breakfast brat bathed in kraut. Am most definitely in the land of Bucky.

Even though its still approaching 11 a.m. local time here in Madison, the walk from the parking garage to Camp Randall Stadium revealed that the locals already had the barrel well and truly rolled out.

The superb, brash, brassy, high-stepping, kick-posterior Wisconsin marching band has just taken to the sun-bathed Camp Randall turf.

Speaking of posterior-kicking . . . IU infamously surrendered 83 points on its previous visit here, last fall. And this season’s No. 4-ranked unbeaten Badgers are more potent than last year’s team, benefiting immensely from the arrival of N.C. State transfer quarterback (and legitimate Heisman candidate) Russell Wilson.

Still, while IU has struggled offensively in recent weeks, the Hoosier defense has shown some gradual improvement. It’s not totallly implausible that the Hoosiers beat today’s spread (39.5 points when last checked). But Badger coach Bret Bielema isn’t known to calling off his dogs, even when margins bulge, and, to be fair, he does have national title aspirations and BCS rankings to consider.

As always, I’ll provide some scoring updates and analysis here, augmenting the always-entertaining Scoop live chat hosted by estimable colleague Dustin Dopirak. My blod continues below the fold. Thanks, as always, for checking in.

FIRST QUARTER:

Wisconsin started the game with three straight runs up the gut by Montee Ball. Not real subtle. But the Badgers managed just one first down on their opening possession, and the Hoosiers managed two, before exchanging punts. IU, as compared to last season, is already ahead of the curve.

Wisconsin 7, Indiana 0, 5:07. IU’s defense was hanging reasonably tough until a badly blown coverage left Montee Ball wide open on a little crossing route over the middle and 46 yards later, it was 1st-and-goal at the 5. Ball broke a Mark Murphy tackle and strolled in for the game’s first score on the next snap.

Wisconsin 14, Indiana 0, 2:18. Hoosiers revert to last-year’s-game form, unfortunately for IU fans, and give the Badgers an easy score. IU punter Adam Pines tried a rugby-style punt — which was exceedingly strange, given that he had a brisk wind at his back for a conventional punt — and hit a line drive into the mass of linemen, with the Badgers recovering the ball at the IU 26. James White faked Lawrence Barnett right out of his shoes two snaps later to score easily from the 15. I have no earthly clue why Pines was instructed, or opted, to do what he did. It was, officially, a one-yard punt.

Kofi Hughes takes a snap at QB.

The Hoosiers have used the diamond formation to good effect with the ground game today. IU is moving the ball, at least sporadically. It really should still be a 7-0 game. I’m still trying to fathom any rational explanation for having Pines attempt a running rugby punt when he had such a strong wind at his back. Wisconsin has 137 yards of total offense at the end of the first quarter to 82 for IU, but I think it’s fair to say that the game has been more competitive, o far, than many might have suspected. IU will open the second quarter with a 3rd-and-4 at the Wisconsin 34.

SECOND QUARTER:

Indiana goes for it on a 4th-and-2 at the Badger 32 but rolled the left-handed Wright-Baker to his right. He briefly had an apparent avenue for the first down, but he hesitated and was lost — a four-yard loss, to be exact. Wisconsin took over then roared to its third TD.

Wisconsin 21, Indiana 0, 11:32: A great bit of Bucky trickeration supplied the home team’s third TD. After a nifty Russell Wilson scramble got the Badgers into Hoosier territory, he handed off to Montee Ball on an apparent sweep to the right, then snuck wide-open into the left flat to receive a 25-yard scoring pass from Ball.

Wright-Baker has thrown a couple of nice balls but, generally, looks like a guy who hasn’t played for a couple of weeks. He’s been hesitant and seems to be missing open receivers downfield. He just threw an interception on 4th-and-17 from the UW 32, trying to hit a deep fade to Belcher and, had the pass been about six inches higher, it might have been a TD instead of a pick. No Tre Roberson so far. Kofi Hughes has been taking the wildcat snaps.

Wisconsin 28, Indiana 0, 4:53. IU redshirt-freshman safety Drew Hardin badly missed two plays on the Badgers’ fourth scoring drive. He whiffed on a 35-yard James White run around left end, then took a terrible angle as Montee Ball scooted untouched up the middle for a 35-yard TD. The Badger scores are coming more quickly now. That drive was 80 yards in just 5 plays in 2:27.

Wisconsin 28, Indiana 7, 4:07: Indiana’s ground game, pretty decent all day, just got better. Stephen Houston just zoomed 67 yards off right tackle untouched for the Hoosiers’ first score. Showed some real speed. He now has 10 carries for 105 yards in the game.

Wisconsin 31, Indiana 7, 1:24: Badgers strike back quickly, keyed by a 39-yard completion to Jared Abbrederis, and capped by a 38-yard field goal by Philip Welch.

Wisconsin 38, Indiana 7, 0:04. Wright-Baker’s second interception, a throw telegraphed by a pump-fake and delivered waaaaay too late, sets up a last-second Badger score, keyed also by a fine 25-yard scramble by Russell Wilson, who hit a wide-open Pedersen for the score. Drew Hardin, ostensibly on the coverage, has not had a good day, shall we say.

HALFTIME: The score notwithstanding, this game isn’t quite the outright embarrassment last year’s was. That debacle was keyed, in part, by Ben Chappell getting hurt, and IU is getting hurt by its quarterback play today. Wright-Baker has been hesitant and ineffective. What is different today, though, is that the IU ground game is actually showing signs of health. The offensive line play has been pretty good, which is a major step in the right direction. Defensively, the secondary has performed several abortions. Really awful play back there. Confused and weak. Middle linebacker Jeff Thomas is seemingly the only Hoosier who can tackle these big, bad Badgers. The defensive line hasn’t been totally dominated, but hasn’t really held its own all that much, either.

Wisconsin already has 379 yards of offense on just 37 snaps. IU, buoyed by a ground game that has produced 163 yards on 21 carries, the Hoosiers have 217 yards of offense. IU is averaging 7.8 per carry, though that is obviously inflated by Houston’s 67-yarder. The score, all things being equal, shouldn’t be this lopsided. But IU has made enough miscues — botched punt, bad interception, blown coverage, missed tackle, etc. — to help a Badger team that doesn’t need any help. Wisconsin looked every bit the nation’s No. 4 team, if not as dominant on the line of scrimmage as last year’s offensive line was.

THIRD QUARTER:

After an exchange of punts to start the half, we have a Tre Roberson appearance. But one first down later, another punt.

Wisconsin 45, Indiana 7. After the Hoosier defense forced a pair of punts on UW’s first two possessions after halftime and the Badger defense followed suit on 3 IU possessions, Jared Abbrederis supplied a 60-yard punt return TD. There were no Hoosiers covering the west sideline, for whatever reason, and the Hoosier defenders looked like Keystone Kops toward the end of the run.

Wisconsin 52, Indiana 7, 2:38. One-play scoring drive by Wisconsin. Montee Ball took a handoff around left end and IU’s defenders, particularly safety Alexander Webb took inexplicably horrible angles, leaving Ball free to proceed unmolested up the east sideline for a 54-yard TD run.

IU’s offense, also, is doing basically nothing here in the second half. Wright-Baker has had a bad day. The offensive line is giving him decent time to throw, but he can’t find receivers and is holding the ball too long.

FOURTH QUARTER:

Joe Brennan came in for Russell Wilson as Wisconsin’s quarterback for the final play of the third quarter. Smart move by Bielema. No need to risk any injury to his Heisman candidate, and also appropriate given the score. Now it’s up to IU’s defense to hold up. Can’t accuse the Wisconsin coach of running up the score when he puts in his reserve QB by the end of the third period.

Wisconsin’s reserve offense is in. IU’s offense is going backwards. Whole lot of nothing going on as this one limps toward its conclusion.

Check that:

Wisconsin 59, Indiana 7. After a fine Badger punt put the ball on the IU 1, two snaps later a Hoosier fumble is recovered in the end zone by UW’s Derek Landisch for a TD with 9:17 to play.

FINAL: WISCONSIN 59, INDIANA 7.

11 comments

  1. Dear Coach Wilson;

    EWB is not the quarterback of the future for IU. He’s not even the QB of the immediate future for your team. I’m sorry, I’ve kept an open mind and given him the benefit of the doubt through the first half of the season, but today’s performance against Wisconsin has convinced me that he’s not the guy. I see no down side in playing TR as much as possible for the remainder of the season.

    When playing the fifth ranked team in the nation, and one coached by a classless jerk who loves running up the score, I suggest that when your team is inside the 30, you kick field goals on 4th down. Score as many points as possible, allowing your young players to take some satisfaction in the drive they just produced. Getting inside the 30 and coming up empty is deflating, especially to a young team.

    I’m sure you know this, but just in case, you need size, size, size. Your team looked like a High School team playing against Wisconsin. 45 pounds weight differential between WI’s O-line and IU’s d-line is ridiculous. I know it’s not your fault, but please don’t repeat the mistakes of your predecessor by recruiting under-sized linemen. You can’t coach size.

  2. I don’t mean to pile on here, but EWB was terrible today. Simply terrible.

    IU was not going to beat Wisconsin no matter how good EWB played, but EWB’s performance contributed to at least three Wisconsin touchdowns. The two interceptions were just terrible passes, and the fumble in the end-zone was ridiculous. EWB just looked tentative and scared all day. His passing was terrible. Too slow to throw, off target, and in many cases he was just throwing up prayers.

    I remained open minded about EWB and gave him the benefit of the doubt until today. But based on today’s performance, I believe EWB deserves deserves to be benched in favor of TR and that TR should play as long as he stay’s healthy. I just don’t see EWB having the attributes necessary to be an effective Big Ten QB.

  3. Face it. With the remaining schedule ahead…two wins are improbable. One against Purdue would be ??? OK? I don’t think so but some would be happy. Recruiting!! What a crucial turn this will be for IU. Without a middle of the Big 10 class Kevin has his hands full for the next few years. I AM AN OPTIMIST! but…

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