Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 9/1/12
MADISON, Wis. Only Bret Bielema can know whether his words reflected well-crafted spin or genuine delight.But Bielema, Wisconsin's seventh-year football coach, sure sounded like a politician attempting to sell something on Saturday evening. Yes, 12th-ranked Wisconsin won its season opener against Football Championship Subdivision opponent Northern Iowa. It also narrowly escaped an historic upset, squeezing by with a too-close-for-comfort 26-21 victory at Camp Randall Stadium.What should folks make of it all?"From my point of view as a head coach, in my twisted mind, it couldn't have worked out any better," Bielema said. " To me, we get a lot better out of this than a 42-0 blowout. I don't see what that gets. I know our fans, we kept them in their seats."That's certainly one way to look at it. Another way is this: Wisconsin has a long way to go if it hopes to live up to expectations of securing a third consecutive Big Ten championship.Since the NCAA split its divisions in 1978, only two FCS programs had beaten a ranked FBS team. Northern Iowa nearly became the third, despite not reaching past the 50-yard-line until 4:27 remained in the third quarter.That's about the time when UNI shifted to a spread passing attack, and Wisconsin's defense melted quicker than a stick of butter in the microwave. In the span of three minutes, 47 seconds during the fourth quarter, the Panthers scored two touchdowns on identical wheel routes down the right sideline thanks, in part, to blown coverages by the Badgers. Wisconsin's 26-7 lead had shrunk to 26-21, and Northern Iowa wasn't done yet."When you play a team like Wisconsin, you can draw all the X's and O's that you want," Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley said. "But until you can line up and beat them at the line of scrimmage, you have no chance. And we started winning the line of scrimmage."Last season, Wisconsin ranked fourth in the country in passing defense, allowing just 163.6 yards per game. But UNI freshman quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen splintered the defense, throwing for 265 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday.Kollmorgen and UNI also had an opportunity to take the lead in the final minutes when he dropped back to pass on fourth-and-one from the Wisconsin 41. The throw was tipped at the line of scrimmage by defensive tackle Ethan Hemer and fell incomplete, allowing Wisconsin to take over with 2:46 remaining and salt the game away.Despite the victory, Wisconsin's players said they absorbed a valuable lesson."They brought us down to earth," Badgers safety Shelton Johnson said. "UNI is a great team. We're a lot better. We're a lot better than we played today, and we're going to be a lot better next week. As far as what happened today, it shouldn't have been that close, but it was. It does really open your eyes and allows you to learn from it."Without question, Saturday's result could have been worse for Wisconsin. Just ask Pittsburgh, which lost, 31-17, against FCS opponent Youngstown State. Still, the Badgers will have to play much better if they hope to beat Nebraska, Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State, among others, during the Big Ten season."You can tell that we're not extremely happy with the way things turned out," Badgers center Travis Frederick said. "But a win is a win for us. We were close on a lot of things. But as you can see, close doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to be able to win with that."There were enough positives to make Badgers players and coaches feel good against UNI, ranked No. 7 in the FCS coaches poll.Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien starred in his Wisconsin debut at quarterback. He completed 19 of 23 passes for 219 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Heisman Trophy candidate Montee Ball carried 32 times for 120 yards and a touchdown. And No. 1 receiver Jarred Abbrederis caught six passes for 84 yards with two scores. National perception of this year's team may have taken a hit on Saturday Wisconsin didn't score fewer than 28 points in any game last season but the Badgers can take solace in knowing they won despite not playing their best.That is one point that doesn't require spin from Bielema."Wisconsin football may not be the prettiest thing to watch," Bielema said, "but we get Ws."Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: Jim Harbaugh in cleats throws out first pitch at Cubs game

Why Rickie Fowler will win the PGA Championship

Warren Sapp bitten on arm by shark

Fitzpatrick, Jets agree to one-year deal

Baker considering removing Papelbon from closer role?

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Greg Hardy struggling to find work, reportedly even in CFL

Jets players told not to discuss Ryan Fitzpatrick situation

Brock Lesnar won't be punished by WWE for UFC drug test

Report: Cowboys to be fined up to $250K for suspended players

Data shows NFL-backed youth program that claimed reduced concussions is bogus

Report: Odom’s family working hard to get him to go to rehab

Justin Timberlake advocates for Memphis to join Big 12

Poll: Las Vegas residents don’t support public funds for NFL stadium

Conor McGregor talks trash to Nate Diaz on ‘Conan’

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Real Madrid can’t train at Norwegian school because of the kids

Newspaper uses Michael Jordan ‘crying face’ as image

Equipment manager Blake Griffin punched no longer works for Clippers

Report: Nicks signing one-year deal with Saints

Reds 'picking up the pace' on Jay Bruce trade talks

Robbie Keane rescued on highway after running out of gas

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Tigers play high stakes game of Rock, Paper, Scissors

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

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

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