Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/1/11

The Wisconsin Badgers knew the toughest part of their schedule would be consecutive road games against two of the most consistently dominant teams in the Big Ten, but they probably didn’t expect those two games to turn out the way they did. Now, after two late, soul-crushing losses, the Badgers are on the outside of the Big Ten title race, needing help from other teams to have a shot at a top-notch January bowl game.

So let’s take a look at what went wrong in those two games, and see what the Badgers need to fix if they are going to win their remaining games and have a chance to recapture a once-promising season. It’s difficult to do because they really weren’t bad in either game, and just let a few freak plays or bad mistakes get the best of them, but that’s the way football works sometimes and Wisconsin came out on the short-end this time around.

Secondary issues are Primary: Perhaps the easiest sore spot to point to in the last two games is the secondary. It gave up 379 yards and four touchdowns, which isn’t terrible, but were a big letdown when it mattered most. The Michigan State ‘Hail Mary’ is excusable because it’s such a lucky play, but the secondary was scorched the whole game up to that point and consistently gave up big 3rd and 4th-down conversions. Against Ohio State, they allowed just 89 passing yards to freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, but had a huge communication mistake on the last drive and allowed a 40-yard touchdown to a wide open receiver. The defense as a whole was solid throughout most of both games, but it was the big plays that stood out the most and that hurt the most. They need to clear up the communication errors, improve the tackling (yes, they still haven’t fixed that), and continue to get pressure on the quarterback. One bright spot has been the quarterback pressure, as the Badgers have 21 sacks already after totaling just 23 all last season when they had one of the best lineman in the country in JJ Watt. They had seven sacks in the two losses, which still wasn’t enough apparently, but if the line can continue to get to the quarterback, the secondary wouldn’t be put in such tough spots, and maybe the big plays would go away.

No. 66 Peter Konz and the offensive line have carried the Badgers for years, and a commitment to the running game could help Wisconsin in close games.

Ball needs the Ball: Though not apparent from his Twitter posts, Montee Ball needs to be fed. The 18 carries he got against MSU are a bit deceiving because he was out for almost the entire second quarter with a head injury, but he also only caught two passes in the game, this after they made an effort to involve him more in the passing game earlier in the season. Ball is an every down back who can do just about everything you could ask for out of a running back. He runs with power up the middle, he has speed to get around the edge, he picks up the pass rush (relatively) well, and he can catch the ball on short routes or deeper down the field. He only got 17 carries in the OSU game, and the Badgers only ran the ball 29 times as a team. They were forced to pass the ball in the second half because they were down by two scores, but an earlier commitment to the run could have kept them from being in that position at all. Russell Wilson is a great quarterback and he deserves to pass the ball, but the Badgers have gotten away from what they’ve always done, and maybe a bigger effort to run the ball and control the clock could make the offense more consistent and keep the defense off the field.

The not-so-Special Teams: The secondary was bad at times, but the special teams really are a major reason the Badgers lost the two games. Two seemingly identical blocked punts led to scores for the other team and completely took swung the momentum in their favor. It’s hard to recover from defensive or special teams touchdowns, yet somehow the Badgers did each week behind the clutch play of Russell Wilson and the offense. Just imagine how the games would have gone if not for the blocked punts and a blocked field goal in the MSU game. It’s clear that something needs to change in their preparation or execution, and it’s a shame that a talented team like Wisconsin was held back by something that should be so routine.

The Badgers have a chance to get the season back on track this weekend when they return home to face Purdue (4-4, 2-2).

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Bright future for Minnesota Timberwolves

Eli and Archie Manning say Peyton won’t likely leave Denver if he plays in 2016

NCAA mulls changes to graduate transfer and targeting rules

Cavs active in NBA trade market, covet Jared Dudley

Roger Goodell expectedly dodges Patriots-related questions at Super Bowl

Baltimore Orioles acquire starting pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

USC athletic director Pat Haden to retire in June

Report: Browns owner ‘frustrated, emotional’ about Johnny Manziel

Raiders and Texans to play MNF game in Mexico City in 2016

Goodell wants to keep Raiders, Chargers in home markets

Deadly shooting breaks out at Dublin boxing weigh-in

Mike Shula vs. Wade Phillips: The best story of Super Bowl 50

Klay Thompson's first five years in historical context

WATCH: Cubs' Kris Bryant went swimming with sharks

Sports Authority taking steps to file for bankruptcy

Major League Baseball threatens to disassociate from DraftKings

NFL considering moving Pro Bowl to Australia

Joe Montana warns NFL players about potential long-term damage after retirement

Report: Two people fired for leaking Jason Pierre-Paul information

USMNT are big favorites against Canada

‘Crying Jordan’ photographer had no idea it existed until this week

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in the NHL playoff hunt

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

‘Actor’ Todd Gurley wants to make ‘billions’

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Johnny Manziel dropped by agent

Michael Irvin: Cowboys should save Manziel

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

The merits of trading Blake Griffin to the Hornets

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

Could the Marlins contend in 2016?

Report: Browns to cut Manziel in March

Browns rip Manziel in statement

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker