Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 9/5/12
MADISON, Wis. You'd think a guy who led Wisconsin's football team with 13 total tackles and left Camp Randall Stadium a winnerlast Saturday would be in high spirits. But linebacker Mike Taylor has been walking around campus a grumpy man this week.Taylor is a perfectionist, and even if the stats suggest success, they don't contain a listing for missed tackles and big-play blunders. So when Taylor watched tape on Sunday of his season-opening performance against Northern Iowa, he didn't like what he saw."You know the mistakes you've made," Taylor said. "To say you didn't want to watch it, you know what you did, you know what you put on film. You might as well watch it and see how you can get better."Taylor, who described his mood this week as "kind of angry," isn't the only defensive player hoping to atone for his mistakes when Wisconsin plays at Oregon State on Saturday. As a unit, Wisconsin allowed UNI redshirt freshman quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen to throw for 265 yards and three touchdowns last week. Last season, the Badgers allowed more than 265 yards passing in just three of 14 games twice to Michigan State and once to Oregon in the Rose Bowl.Kollmorgen nearly brought back the Panthers for a monumental upset, registering two touchdown passes on identical wheel routes thanks to the Badgers' defensive breakdowns.For a Wisconsin defense that preached during fall camp about limiting big plays, the lack of execution was bewildering."A lot of the big plays was just blown assignments," Taylor said. "Looking back to last year, that's what we want to get rid of. That's why it's kind of frustrating. Because we pride ourselves on getting better and learning from last year. For that to happen a few times this game is frustrating. So we've just got to take it to heart and want to get better."For 2 12 quarters on Saturday, the Badgers' defense was airtight. Northern Iowa didn't even cross midfield until 4:27 remained in the third quarter.Then, the game almost unraveled completely.UNI tallied 245 yards of offense on its final four series, scoring on touchdown drives of 75, 74 and 62 yards. Before then, the Panthers had just 61 yards of offense for the entire game."I think it really wasn't them making plays," Badgers cornerback Devin Smith said. "It was kind of us giving them plays. Just lack of execution. Just one breakdown here or there in the defense that led to two big plays."The first big play came when Taylor and cornerback Marcus Cromartie blitzed Kollmorgen and left Panthers running back David Johnson wide open down the right sideline on a wheel route. When free safety Dezmen Southward missed a tackle at the 20-yard-line, Johnson scored a 55-yard touchdown to trim the deficit to 26-14.Later in the game, Taylor lost track of Johnson on an identical wheel route play, leaving him open for a 31-yard touchdown that cut Wisconsin's lead to 26-21 and made Badgers fans everywhere sweat. Taylor called the play a mental lapse on his part."Whenever you get a wheel route, you've got a close split of a receiver like that, you always want to check and see if he's trying to pick you or whatever," Taylor said. "I stayed on him too long and the receiver got out in front."Wisconsin finally held UNI on a fourth-and-one from the Badgers' 41 with less than three minutes remaining. But the overall performance has left doubts about Wisconsin's pass defense ability. Badgers defensive coordinator Chris Ash was not pleased with the team's overall defensive effort, even though the run defense surrendered just 41 yards on 20 carries."It's not expected," Ash said. "It's unacceptable. In the first game there's going to be a lot of learning opportunities from mistakes that you've got to clean up. But you can't let those mistakes be big plays like they were on Saturday."The thing that bothered me most is we just didn't execute the calls that we made. It wasn't the first time we've ever seen that play. We see it in practice from our offense, and we just didn't execute the things we see every day."Players certainly hope Saturday was an anomaly rather than a disturbing holdover trend from last season. Some might recall that Wisconsin surrendered last-minute Hail Mary touchdown passes to Michigan State and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks that resulted in devastating losses. The Badgers also allowed nine plays of 20 yards or more against Oregon in the Rose Bowl. Badgers coach Bret Bielema said his team spent a 10-minute segment of Sunday's practice harping on its mistakes from the day before in an effort to fix them.Taylor hopes the extra practice time this week will lead to him being in a better mood come Saturday night."I know we were working on pass defense," Taylor said. "For me, I've definitely been getting better on my drops, pass coverage and seeing keys, reading plays. So far, I've been getting better this week."Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
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