September 5, 2010
Looking back at the season opener
The Wisconsin football season is underway and much like Vegas has to offer, Badger fans saw a little bit of everything en route to the Badgers 41-21 win over UNLV.
Now, after watching and re-watching the game, BadgerBlitz.com looks back at several themes from the season opener.
Groy playing fullback:
It's usually a good sign when the coaching staff tries to find ways to utilize its finest talents. Instead of having Ryan Groy, one of the bevy of rising offensive linemen on the Badger roster, sit on the sideline, Bielema and the rest of the coaching staff found a place for him at fullback.
After his first appearance in the position, it is obvious Groy will be learning on the spot. He made some great blocks at times and missed some at others. The overriding theme and slant that his performance at fullback should take, though, is that the coaching staff is making an effort to get all the best players on the field.
Lance Kendricks: The blocker:
Late in the third quarter Lance Kendricks absolutely steamrolled a UNLV defensive back during one of UW's counter runs. Kendricks, who was pulling on the play, met the back in the box, exploded at the point of contact and knocked him flat on his back allowing Clay to get to the outside and rumble for a sizeable gain.
Everyone knows Kendricks is an exceptional talent for this Badgers squad. Perhaps what some don't know is how effective a blocker he has become. That, in turn, increases his versatility and makes him one of the more important players on the Badger offense. He's such a vital piece of the offensive puzzle in both the pass and rush games.
During the first drive of the season, the Wisconsin offense was able to pick up two third and fives to extend the possession. By the end, the Badgers had 14 plays for 80 yards that ate up the first half of the first quarter.
That drive really set the tone considering there's no secret the Badgers want to and will continue to run the ball. The Runnin Rebels knew that was what the Badgers were going to do and they still couldn't stop it.
As the season progresses and the schedule gets a little tougher, time of possession is of the utmost importance. Controlling the clock is something the Badgers pride themselves on and they definitely reasserted that Saturday night.
Before he left the game midway through the third quarter, Chris Borland was having one of the best games of his career. He was involved seemingly on most plays, was terrorizing the UNLV backfield and had a hand in forcing big plays on a defensive squad that played at an extremely high level for the majority of that game.
Should his nicked up shoulder stay serviceable this season, the other linebackers on the squad will have opportunities to make plays because so much of the attention will be placed on Borland.
And we started to see that Saturday night when the likes of Kevin Rouse and Culmer St. Jean were able to make sacks or tackles-for-loss seemingly on a regular basis. He, like Kendricks is for the offense, is tantamount to the defensive success for the Badgers this season.
Scott Tolzien's force:
At that juncture in the game, Tolzien has got to realize there is no point in forcing a throw that doesn't have the slightest chance of turning into major positive yardage. Even if that pass had gotten to the hands of Nick Toon, it would have been a three-yard completion at most.
There had to have been better options for the senior quarterback on that play. If anything good is to come out of it, though, at least it happened in a game that would up going in UW's favor and will grant Tolzien a viable learning tool moving forward.
Red zone ball security:
Almost as bad as Tolzien's interception was Toon's fumble at the UNLV two yard line that swung the momentum in the Rebels favor and allowed them to close within three points at the half.
When in the red zone there is nothing more precious than ball security. When you've worked that hard collectively as a unit you can't go throwing it all away with something as simple as a fumble that could have easily been prevented.
Like Tolzien's interceptions, Toon's fumble will be something that can be corrected. And you can bet Toon will take it upon himself to make sure that doesn't happen again this season.
Points left off the board:
Early in the second quarter the Badgers stared a touchdown directly in its eyes after James White rushed for 18 yards off left tackle during his first carry as a collegiate tailback. Instead of seizing the opportunity though, the Badgers had three straight minimal gains and had to settle for the field goal.
White rushed up the middle for a yard, Tolzien was dropped on an apparent bootleg and Clay was upended on third and goal. In the spirit of Vegas, those four points would have looked good for the people that took the Badgers to cover the spread.
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