Wisconsin football: Badgers survive Iowa for a 17-9 victory

The Badgers were able to pull out a 17-9 win on the road in Iowa City on Saturday, taking home the Heartland Trophy.

The first half was characterized by mistakes and missed opportunities for Wisconsin’s offense. On three redzone trips, Wisconsin was only able to put seven points on the board.

Those points came courtesy of Bart Houston when he found tight end Troy Fumagalli for a 17-yard touchdown pass. Houston came in on the third drive of the day for Wisconsin, but it was not to replace starter Alex Hornibrook, rather it was a designed package to get the senior back up quarterback some playing time.

On the first drive of the day, Wisconsin failed to put points on the board after Andrew Endicott missed a 32 yard field goal – this coming off of a game that saw Endicott go 3/3 on field goals against Ohio State.

Another missed opportunity came on a fumble on the goal line by Corey Clement. Wisconsin drove all the way down field, thanks in large part to a 54 yard pass from Hornibrook to back up tight end Kyle Penniston, and found themselves on the one yard line. Reaching out to get the score, Clement lost the ball and Iowa recovered.

Unlike the offense, the Wisconsin defense played exactly as they had all season: bend, but don’t break. With the offense stalling and giving Iowa good field position to start a few drives, Wisconsin’s defense held Iowa to just two field goals in the first half.

Starting linebacker Jack Cichy was once again an absolute beast for Wisconsin. Although Cichy would leave the game with what appeared to be a shoulder injury, he would end up leading Wisconsin with 10 tackles.

Garret Dooley was also a big time contributor to Wisconsin’s defense. The junior would come up with seven total tackles and had some huge tackles for loss adding up to 2.5. Dooley would also end up with half a sack that he and TJ Watt combined for.

Gaining some momentum back, Hornibrook found true freshman Quintez Cephus for a huge 57 yard gain that gave Wisconsin another golden, goal line opportunity. This time, Clement would make it count on a one yard rushing touchdown to put the Badgers up 14 to 6.

Hornibrook would end the game going 11 for 19 for 197 yards and Clement would end the game with 134 yards and a touchdown averaging 3.8 yards a carry.

Wisconsin would find itself with another golden opportunity after a great defensive stand by the defense, but the Badgers would regress to their first half ways.

Facing a fourth and three, Wisconsin elected to go for the 52 yard field goal, which Endicott missed wide right. But the Wisconsin defense would do as it always does and keep the Badgers in the game and keep getting the offensive opportunities. In the second half, Wisconsin’s defense forced Iowa to punt on 4 of 6 drives and also forced a total of five three and outs over the course of the game.

Wanting a change of pace, Chryst again switched quarterbacks going with Houston. The senior quarterback wouldn’t provide points but would help Wisconsin flip the field and would not give up good field position to Iowa’s offense.

The defense for Wisconsin would come up big once again. Iowa would drive 60 yards only to be stopped short by the Badger defense and would have to settle for a field goal attempt. This time though, Iowa kicker Keith Duncan would miss from 38 yards.

With five minutes left in the game, Hornibrook and Wisconsin’s offense would come on to ice the game. Helped by a 34 yard run by Clement, that is exactly what the Badgers would do. After running the ball to drain Iowa of their timeouts, Endicott would come on and drill the 36 yard field goal, putting the score at 17-6.

But with over one minute left, Iowa’s Desmond King would return the kick 70 yards setting up the Iowa’s offense for a field goal that made it a one score game.

On the ensuing onside kick though, the ball went sailing out of bounds and with it, any chance that Iowa had at winning the game.

Wisconsin will look to build on the win next week playing a top-10 Nebraska team under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium.


Wisconsin vs. Iowa preview: Badgers must contain Beathard, run game

MADISON — Coming off of two straight losses, the Wisconsin Badgers will be looking to right the ship against the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Defensively, Wisconsin has proven to be among the best all season. But last week exposed a potential weakness in the stout Badger defense: a mobile quarterback.

While Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard is not J.T. Barrett, Wisconsin’s defense is ready for the chance that Beathard starts to run.

“He’s very smart, especially checking at the line. Run and pass, things like that. He can run the ball as well and we can’t overlook that. A couple naked bootlegs and he can escape the pocket on you,” TJ Watt said.

The key will be getting constant pressure, while containing Beathard. Against Purdue, who failed to get any pressure on the quarterback, Beathard was able to go 10 for 17 while adding two touchdowns. Minnesota, on the other hand, was able to get pressure and Beathard ended up throwing two interceptions.

One of the players who will be asked to contain and pressure Beathard for Wisconsin will be linebacker Jack Cichy. In a monster game against Ohio State, Cichy ended up with 3.5 tackles for loss, 11 solo tackles and one QB hurry.

“Jack’s been doing a great job. Especially in the last game I remember there were a few times where I’m like ‘jeez Jack is really flying around’,” Watt said.

Iowa will also be looking to establish their traditional power offense through their run game through their two running backs Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels Jr.

Both Wadley and Daniels have close to 600 yards on the season and have scored eight and six touchdowns respectively.

“You gotta be focused on both [the run and the pass] obviously,” starting safety Leo Musso said. “The Iowa tradition is big powerful offensive lineman with running backs who can run and they got a great quarterback, great receivers on the outside so it’s gonna be a great challenge for us.”

Also looking to put a stop to Iowa’s run game will be Vince Biegel, who will be returning from injury that kept him out of games against Michigan and Ohio State.

Biegel, the defensive captain for Wisconsin, was a true force at linebacker before his injury and left his teammates, who ended tying to do too much at times in his absence.

“There were a couple times in the Michigan game that I know I was trying to do too much and you loss contain and you try to two gap something when you don’t even got your gap alone. So you just have to trust the guys in the back end,” Watt said.

At receiver, Iowa will spread the ball around. Three receivers are over 200 yards receiving and six different receivers have seen the end zone.

One of the players on Wisconsin’s defense looking to shut down the receivers will be cornerback Derrick Tindal.

Tweeting after a tough overtime loss to Ohio State, Tindal seemed to shoulder much of the blame. Although his teammates have reassured him that one or two plays do not define who a player is, Tindal will be looking to turn a new page.

“It motivates me, I wanna win so and I don’t wanna let my teammates down. Like always that’s the biggest for me. I hate letting my brothers down,” Tindal said.

Coming into an Iowa matchup, Wisconsin has a lot to prove and an empty trophy case is still sitting in the locker room to motivate the Badgers.

Wisconsin and Iowa kick off at 11:00am CT in Iowa City on Saturday.


Wisconsin football: CB Tindal receives support from teammates after lack of sleep, late-night tweet

MADISON–At 2:01 a.m. Sunday morning, cornerback Derrick Tindal tweeted out his disappointment after the Badgers tough overtime loss against Ohio State at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday night.

“Two games in a row I let my team down the pain I’m feeling is unbearable😦,” the junior from Fort Lauderdale said on Twitter.

In the Badgers’ back-to-back losses against Michigan and Ohio State, Tindal was covering both of the receivers who scored the winning touchdowns, Ohio State’s Noah Brown and Michigan’s Amara Darboh.

“I was a little frustrated that we lost, upset,” Tindal said of his postgame tweet. “I felt that I let my team down… I was just frustrated. I knew we had a chance to win, and I just wanted that victory bad, so it was kind of wearing me down.”

He thanked his teammates, however, for their immense support after the game with many tweeting at him or even some, like his best friend safety D’Cota Dixon coming to his house on Sunday.

“I’ve got great teammates. They picked me up and let me know it’s not just one play that made the game.”

Tindal admitted that one of his flaws is thinking too much about how others perceive him. One thing that Dixon told him on Sunday that he is focusing on is “don’t worry about them. Play for yourself and God.”

After little sleep Saturday night—Tindal said he didn’t go to bed until 5 in the morning—the cornerback entered the week ready to prove himself and focus on the win against Iowa. As he said, you need to have “a short memory as the DB.”

But his personal reflection of his performances against Michigan and Ohio State motivates him. It motivates him to make those key tackles, and it motivates him to win.“I hate letting my brothers down,” he said.

Against Iowa this weekend, the Badgers defense will face a great quarterback in Iowa’s C.J. Beathard. The quarterback has a 138.3 passing rating, completing 101 of 168 throws for 1,227 yards for 11 touchdowns and only four interceptions. The Iowa offense has two strong running backs in Akrum Wadley, who has 80 carries for 592 yards and eight touchdowns, and LeShun Daniels Jr., who has 109 carries for 589 yards and six touchdowns.

“They’re going to be in the right spots, and they’re going to be ready to play,” Tindal said of the 5-2 Iowa team.

Despite the pressure of two back-to-back losses, the Badgers are still ranked high in the polls at #10. Rankings, however, make no difference to Tindal and many of his teammates. Neither do projections.

“It’s no more pressure than we had before,” he said. “They thought we were going to lose almost every game. It’s no more pressure. We’ve just got to go out there and stay within our game and just play.”

This week, Tindal goes out with an even greater competitiveness to prove to himself and his teammates that he can represent the Wisconsin defense the way he feels he should—as a smart, tough, dependable player. That’s what he believes represents physicality, and that’s what he believes he can display on the field this Saturday in Iowa.

Bucks: Evaluating Tony Snell’s unique game

The Tony Snell for Michael Carter-Williams swap was about one thing – chemistry. At a surface level, Carter-Williams’ time in Milwaukee was productive, averaging over 12 points and 5 assists; however,he struggled to establish himself in the offense or develop any rapport with Giannis Antetokounmpo or Jabari Parker.

Nearly 60% of Carter-Williams’ shots were within nine feet of the rim. That was troublesome for two reasons. The first is that it was out of necessity; MCW is a terrible three-point shooter, averaging 25% for his career from beyond the arc. This allowed defenses to play off him and dare him to shoot from the perimeter, and he was unable to punish them.

The second is that the Bucks’ two cornerstones, Giannis and Jabari, operated in the same spaces as Carter-Williams, but more efficiently, so Carter-Williams’ skill set was redundant. This meant that if the Bucks ever tried playing all three together, their offense became clunky and predictable.

Since MCW could not take advantage of the opportunities that Giannis and Jabari created by defenses collapsing on them, it was clear that he was going to be relegated to the bench this season, most likely as a sixth man.

Khris Middleton’s injury spelled an abrupt end to Carter-Williams’ time in Milwaukee. The Bucks desperately needed an athletic wing player, and the most dispensable player on the roster was Carter-Williams.

Tony Snell is an interesting addition. The Bucks saved almost $1 million with the deal, and addressed a hole following the Middleton injury. However, Snell is unproven, and while there are many comparisons to the team’s trade for Middleton a few years ago, the move is still a gamble.

In three seasons, Snell has only surpassed 20 minutes per game once, and started less than a third of the games he has played. Snell is coming off a disappointing year with his field goal percentage plummeting from 43% to 37%. What’s interesting is that Snell shot well from beyond the arc at 36%, a huge need for the Bucks. The major drop-off for Snell was from inside the arc, where his field goal percentage nosedived from 49% to 38%.

Luckily for the Bucks, Giannis and Jabari will be doing most of the heavy lifting for the team scoring wise and in Antetokounmpo’s case playmaking as well, with the only real offensive burden for Snell being to knock down open threes, something he should excel at.

An interesting note is Snell’s affinity to shoot the three from the wings, but not from the corners.


Note the green hexagons at the wings. On such shots, Snell shoots 5% better than league average, which could bode very well for the Bucks. A wrinkle that the Bucks could use is having Snell screen for the primary ball handler and pop out to the wing for an open three.

What’s worrisome is that Snell is awful from the corners. When Giannis and Jabari drive to the rim, one of the easiest kick-outs is to the corner. Snell will have to demonstrate an ability to hit those shots at least at an average level.

If the Bucks decide to go small and utilize Snell at the 4, those corner threes become even more important. Those are the shots that Warriors generated for Harrison Barnes the past two seasons in their death lineup. Barnes’ inability to hit those shots was a central reason, as to why the Warriors squandered a 3-1 lead in the Finals to the Cavaliers. If Snell can convert those kinds of opportunities, he will be setting himself up for a massive payday this offseason.

Snell’s only competition for the starting shooting guard position is Rashad Vaughn, who is coming off a disastrous rookie year. If Snell is able to hit the three, and play plus defense, he is going to get paid.

As it stands, the Bucks have Snell under contract for this season and can extend a qualifying offer to him this coming offseason and match any offers he receives.

With teams around the league investing in versatile wings, who can shoot the three and play defense, Snell could be a great pickup for the Bucks, if he pans out. However, if he underperforms the Bucks could be off the hook with him as soon as after the season, making the trade a low risk move.

Ultimately, this trade probably would not have happened if not for the Middleton injury, but the team was able to address a need, and acquire a player with just enough upside to be a legitimate role player moving forward, given his fit with the rest of the roster, something Carter-Williams, just could not have done.


Wisconsin football: Badgers offense can take control of the field against Iowa

MADISON — Wisconsin travels on the road this weekend, playing Big Ten rival Iowa Hawkeyes, in a matchup the Badgers hope to win in order to redeem themselves after two close losses and return the Heartland Trophy back to Camp Randall.

The Wisconsin offense, which has shown great improvement with the transition of Alex Hornibrook to starting quarterback, will have to continue to improve this weekend after two close losses on the road against Michigan and at home against Ohio State.

Against Ohio State, the Wisconsin run game made a huge leap with the success of senior running back Corey Clement in the Saturday night game. Clement had 25 carries, contributing to 166 of Wisconsin’s 236 total running yards.

“Looking back at it, I’d rather substitute the win for the type of production I had,” Clement said after practice Tuesday.

Wisconsin’s passing game was solid at times and static at others. Hornibrook struggled to make plays in the third quarter, giving Ohio State the time to come back. A vital asset to the Wisconsin offense is the number of targets Hornibrook can use. Last Saturday, he took advantage of wide receiver Jazz Peavy, particularly with his many sweep routes to give Wisconsin the first down.

The losses, if anything, fuel the offense for this Saturday’s game. Clement said of the season thus far, “We can be a special team and I really don’t think these two losses really define who we are. I think we are still trying to make a big impact here on the national stage.”

Playing at Kinnick Stadium may be a factor in the game that Wisconsin will have to overcome. Crowd noise and the proximity of fans could lead to misreads and false start penalties if the team is not careful.

“Their fans are right on top of you, so you’ve got to really stay locked in,” Clement said. “I remember when I was there with Melvin and James and those guys were just getting hammered with comments. They just stayed focus and locked in and really just took focus of what they were there for.”

With crowd noise being a factor, Wisconsin’s offensive line, which has seen several adjustments this season, will have to play well to give Hornibrook the time to make throws and find Clement and his fellow running backs the holes to make big plays. The unit has been playing well halfway through the season, and Clement said the group can only improve.

“I think they’ve been getting better every week. I really give them a lot of credit for why plays are happening up front,” he said.

Iowa’s physical defense will be a challenge on Saturday. Hornibrook said of Saturday’s matchup that “when we’re playing them, it’s always going to be a physical game. It’s going to be a hard-fought game.”

Tight end Troy Fumagalli said, “They’re physical. They’re tough. They’re always going to do their assignment. They’re very detailed. Typical Iowa defense. They’re going to play to the whistle.”

Despite praise from Wisconsin players, Iowa’s defense does rank 46 in total defense. In comparison, Wisconsin ranks 12th. Iowa has improved in their past two games against Minnesota and Purdue, however, only allowing on average 74 rushing yards in comparison to the average of 182.8 for the first five games.

Compared to top defenses in Michigan and Ohio State, the advantage is for Wisconsin this week. That means the team has to deliver on offense, especially after the Wisconsin defense has excelled in their own performance and held games to few points despite some offensive struggles.

As Clement said, “It’s crunch time. Time is ticking once again. No more bye weeks so we really got to stay in our playbooks and take advantage of the type of stretch we have in this western division.”


Wisconsin men’s hockey: Grading the team early on

With only four games in the books, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team has managed to post a .500 record, going 2-2-0 in that span. The Badgers split a series with Northern Michigan in Green Bay before coming home and knocking off the 6th-ranked Boston College Eagles 3-1 and ultimately splitting that series too. Before the Badgers take on the United States Under-18 Team, let’s assign grades at every position so far this season.


The Badgers return 13 out of 14 forwards from last season, three of which eclipsed the 10-goal mark. All but one forward scored at least one goal last season. Luke Kunin, named captain for the 2016/17 season, lead the team with 19 goals last season and returns this year alongside last year’s scoring leader Grant Besse (11G, 22A). With another year of experience under their belts, these two look to be a dangerous duo heading into this season.

So far this season scoring has come from familiar faces. All of the Badger’s top five scorers from last year have already scored at least one goal in this year’s campaign. Seamus Malone, Grant Besse and Ryan Wagner each have two goals apiece, Malone adding four assists to tie for the team lead in points. Luke Kunin and Cameron Hughes each have one goal, including a highlight reel between the legs goal by Hughes. The Badgers have also added scoring talent in freshman Trent Frederic, who has scored two goals to go along with his four assists to lead the team in the first four games. He was named Big Ten’s second star of the week after scoring four points in two games against Boston College.

The forwards in total have scored 12 goals thus far, averaging 3 per game. That is 0.74 more than the 2.26 per 60 minutes last year.

Grade: A


The Badgers graduated two of their top four defensemen from last year, but return their top two scoring defensemen in Jake Linhart (8G, 10A) and Tim Davison (5G, 9A). Through four games this season Linhart has already dished three assists, and Davison leads the team with five assists. Both are on track to shatter their point totals from a year ago. In addition to those two, coach Tony Granato has converted former forward Corbin McGuire to defense. After only registering four points last year, McGuire has risen to the occasion in his new role, scoring three goals in his first two games. He was named Big Ten’s third star of the week after the first weekend of play. Granato described McGuire as, “A passionate energetic guy that you could tell him to go play goalie and he’d do it.” The Badgers have also added talent with 6’5″ freshmen JD Greenway, who has already scored a goal and registered his first multi-point game with two assists against Northern Michigan.

After averaging only 0.4 goals and 1.2 assists per game last year, the defense has scored four goals in four games this year, and added 11 assists thus far (2.75 assists per game). The only spot the defense has looked weak overall is in their plus/minus. Davison, Tischke and Linhart are -4, -4 and -3 respectively. JD Greenway is the only defenseman with a positive plus/minus and ties for the team lead with a +2. Last year the team was -34 overall in goal differential, losing each game by an average of one goal. So far this year they have only given up one more goal to opponents than they have scored themselves. The Badgers are on track to give up under 9 more goals than they will score, but definitely have the talent to outscore their opponents.

Grade: B+ 


Wisconsin goalies have made a habit of letting in lots of goals. Matt Jurusik has started every game this year, and has let in an average of 4.23 goals per game. Granato described Jurusik as “an elite goaltender,” but aside from a dazzling performance in the first game against Boston College, Jurusik has looked shaky. His save percentage is at .856, a big step down from his .892 a year ago. He has posted a record of 2-2-0 thus far, only allowing three goals per game in his two wins. Granato has faith that Jurusik will be the guy for the Badgers, and he has shown flashes of brilliance in the early going. We will have to wait and see if Jurusik can work his way up to consistency and become an “elite goaltender” as the season progresses.

Grade: C-

Special teams

If one thing has been consistent for the Badgers this season, it has been power play opportunities. The Badgers get an average of 7.5 power plays per game, and have scored an impressive eight goals in 30 attempts. Six different players have scored for the Badgers on the power play, including two goals apiece from Trent Frederic and Will Johnson. This power play unit looks to be a dangerous one this year.

The penalty kill has been equally as impressive, if not more so. The Badgers have committed 23 penalties this year, and have shut the door on their opponent 21 times. Led by Cameron Hughes, who notably had two huge blocks in the first BC game, the penalty kill stresses getting in shooting lanes and giving up the body to block shots. The Badger penalty kill has been able to stop their opponent more than 90% of the time due to their unselfish play.

Grade: A

Coaching Staff

The University of Wisconsin brought in a new coaching staff this year, including Wisconsin alum and former NHL coach Tony Granato. Granato brought with him an experienced coaching staff, who hope to bring the Badgers back into the top of the ranks in the NCAA. So far this season, Granato has made the adjustments needed to win games. After dropping the season opener to Northern Michigan, the Badgers fought back and won a 6-5 thriller in their second meeting. Granato talked a lot about composure as one of the things to work on before facing a talented Boston College Eagles team. In the first game against the Eagles, the Badgers looked completely calm and composed, while handily winning the game 3-1. The Badgers went on to lose 8-5 to the Eagles two days later, but if Granato can get the team to bounce back with two wins for every loss, it is going to be a successful season for Wisconsin Hockey.

Grade: A

Overall Team Grade: A-

Image courtesy of the Wisconsin State Journal.

Wisconsin Badgers XXXX during an NCAA Big Ten Conference college football game against the Northwestern Wildcats Saturday, November 21, 2015, in Madison, Wis. (Photo by David Stluka)

Wisconsin football: Fumagalli and the Badgers want the Heartland Trophy back

MADISON — Whether it was Bart Houston to Troy Fumagalli or Alex Hornibrook to Fumagalli, the redshirt junior and former walk-on from Aurora, Ill. is establishing himself as a top receiver in the Wisconsin offensive unit.

In Wisconsin’s tough overtime loss last Saturday against Ohio State, Fumagalli led the Badgers in receptions with seven catches for 84 yards and three third down conversions.

Fumagalli spoke little of his personal performance on Saturday, instead shifting the focus to the whole offensive unit.

“Pretty good,” Fumagalli said of his performance. “I think there’s things that I can improve on, a couple of details here and there to make the difference. For the most part as a unit I think we played pretty solid.”

The whole team’s perspective going into this Saturday’s game on the road against Iowa is to take the frustration and disappointment from the back-to-back losses against Michigan and Ohio State and translate those emotions into a Wisconsin win.

Looking back on Fumagalli’s six games, he has been a continuous asset particularly at the 3rd down conversions and big yardage plays. For the season, he has 23 catches for 265 yards, averaging 11.5 yards a play.

“Personally I try to do something new each week to help myself out and hopefully by the end of the week it adds up. I think it’s big that you focus on one thing every week and then keep going. I think I came a long way.”

In the six games of the season, the Wisconsin offense saw some major adjustments in the quarterback with Hornibrook replacing Houston as the starter at the end of September against Michigan State. Hornibrook has taken full advantage of his receiving unit in his three starts at quarterback, and, as Fumagalli says, his work ethic and poise in the huddle make it easy to build chemistry with the redshirt freshman.

“When we get out there on the practice field, we get that kind of chemistry going and we feel very comfortable with each other.”

Despite the two losses, the Wisconsin offense has shown their strength against top-ranked teams in Michigan and Ohio State. Head coach Paul Chryst has spoken every week that there is always room for improvement and the team is taking those words and executing. While there was some apparently missed throws and catches on offense against Ohio State and the whole unit stagnated in the third quarter and allowed for the Buckeyes to come, the team pushed back in the fourth and brought the game into overtime.

“Resilient,” Fumagalli said is the best word to describe Wisconsin’s offense. “I think that would be the strongest word. We faced some strong adversity so far. There’s some performances we’d like to have back, but we keep pushing, keep fighting, and I think we do a good job of that.”

Wisconsin travels to Iowa this Saturday in their seventh game of the season. While the team’s mentality for a road game is no different than a Saturday at Camp Randall, there is an added level of excitement to being on the road.

“I think it’s kind of cool when you go into a road game and it’s however many guys, 60 or 65 of us. It’s a really good feeling knowing it’s just you against the world in there. You can lean on your brother and that’s really all you’ve got.”

Against Iowa, the Badgers will face an added level of difficulty in the fan atmosphere at Kinnick Stadium. Many of Fumagalli’s teammates have already addressed the struggle teams face traveling to the stadium in that the fans are right on top of you, saying sometimes funny things and sometimes unpleasant things. Fumagalli traveled to Kinnick two years ago when the Badgers won 26-24 on the road.

Of the atmosphere Fumagalli said, “Kinnick is a really cool place to play. They have great fans. They take it very seriously. They’re loud. They’re going to be right on top of you. They’re going to be saying things you don’t want to hear.”

The team will have an added incentive to win on Saturday with the competition for the Heartland Trophy. The Badgers lost the trophy last year when Iowa came to Camp Randall and beat the Badgers 10-6.

“We have an empty trophy case in our locker room because we lost last year, so I think it’s kind of got an extra chip on our shoulder moving forward, and we’re going to try to get it back.”

The whole team’s aggressive approach and close games in their past few games have allowed them to remain high in the collegiate football polls. This week Wisconsin was ranked #10 in the AP Poll despite suffering back-to-back losses. Fumagalli said no one on the team focuses on the polls because ultimately, it is the team’s performance every Saturday that matters.

“All our goals are still right in front of us. We’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”

Photo courtesy of UW Athletics.


College Football: Evaluating the Top 10 Teams

To be in the AP top 10 at this point in the college football season means that you have conquered some adversity, have made some big plays and maybe even had a bit of luck. As these teams move forward into the second half of the season they need to be sure to expand on their strengths and try to fix their weaknesses. Not sure what your team does well? Struggling to find a weakness? Let us help.

10. Wisconsin

Strength: Linebackers

The heart of Wisconsin’s defense is their linebackers. Despite losing Chris Orr to an ACL tear on the first play of the season and Vince Biegel and T.J. Edwards for weeks at a time, the group hasn’t missed a beat. Led by T.J. Watt (5.5 sacks) and Jack Cichy (50 tackles, 7 TFL) the linebackers have been the heart and soul of the Badger’s ninth-ranked scoring defense. For the Badgers to stay competitive this group needs to keep leading the defense.

Weakness: Passing Offense

While it has had its bright spots, the Wisconsin passing offense has not been able to carry the team, especially in the last two games. Against Michigan, Alex Hornibrook only threw for 88 yards while completing 36 percent of his passes. While Michigan does have a great defense he missed some easy throws and also made some bad decisions. Hornibrook was better against Ohio State, but still struggled to get the ball out quickly on the deep dropbacks. For Wisconsin to get back into the Big Ten picture the passing game needs to be able to convert long third downs and make contested throws in the red-zone.

9. Baylor

Strength: Spread Running Game

After ranking second in rush yards per game last year, Baylor ranks fifth this year. What’s impressive about Baylor’s rushing game is that it does not all come from a single player and that it comes in the Big-12. While the Big 12 is not known for its defense, most of the offense in the league comes from throwing the ball. Teams spread out and race to 50 points. Baylor tries to balance their attack more by running the ball an average of 50 times a game. They have five players with at least 30 carries and four players with at least 300 yards rushing. This balanced attack is unique for the conference and makes them tough to stop.

Weakness: Strength of Schedule

Baylor’s strength of schedule ranks third to last in the entire country. Their out of conference wins includes Rice, Northwestern State, and SMU. They only have two ranked teams on their schedule and will not have to play in a conference championship game. Baylor could go undefeated and still not make the playoff simply because they have not played any tough games.

8. Nebraska

Strength: Experienced Quarterback

Behind J.T. Barrett, Nebraska Quarterback Tommy Armstrong is the best quarterback in the Big 10. He has started 30 games over four years and this has been his best yet. He leads a balanced Nebraska offense with his running and passing ability. Armstrong has been known to make big mistakes in the past but has thrown only four interceptions this year and two of those came last week. If Armstrong keeps showing his maturity and command of the offense, then Nebraska can get to the Big Ten championship game.

Weakness: Strength of Schedule

Similar to Baylor, nobody knows how good Nebraska is. Their out of conference win against Oregon was impressive at the time, but now does not look as great. Nebraska’s first real test will come in two weeks against Wisconsin and then a week after that at Ohio State. These games will show how good the Cornhuskers really are.

7. Louisville 

Strength: Creativity

With Lamar Jackson as your quarterback, anything is possible. He is fifth in the country in rushing and first in scoring and has been dominant in every game this year except for last week. The playbook is wide open with Jackson at quarterback, and his improvisational skills when the play breaks down are second to none. Like with Ohio State, Louisville’s offense runs through their quarterback and their success depends on how well he plays.

Weakness: Offensive line

Because Jackson has been so good, some other deficiencies have been covered up, namely the offensive line. While Louisville is leading the country in yards per rush, is that because of the offensive line, or in spite of them? They only need to hold their protection for a little in order for Jackson to make a play, but they may not be able to do that in tough upcoming games.

6. Texas A&M

Strength: Defensive line

Led by Miles Garrett, the A&M defensive line is their best chance to rattle Jalen Hurts and Alabama this week. While Garrett is not playing as well statistically this year, he is still projected at the top of the 2017 NFL draft and is a force on the A&M line. Quarterback Trevor Knight will also be important, but the defensive line needs to make Alabama uncomfortable or it will be a blowout in Tuscaloosa.

Weakness: Can the defense hold up?

After giving up 684 total yards to Tennessee two weeks ago, Texas A&M has had plenty of time to prepare for Alabama. Stopping Alabama has proved to be near impossible for most teams this year and A&M could just be the next team on the chopping block. A&M will need to rely on experienced defensive backs Armani Watts and Justin Evans to tackle well and keep Alabama from throwing deep.

5. Washington

Strength: Quarterback Play

Sophomore quarterback and Heisman candidate Jake Browning has proved himself as an efficient passer in Washington’s offense. His efficiency rating is the highest in the country, and he only throws an interception once every 50 pass attempts. Browning may not get the attention that others do since his games start at 9:30, but he has led his Washington team to the top of the Pac-12 and in prime position for the playoff. If he continues to play well and take care of the ball, then Washington should find themselves in the playoff.

Weakness: Is the Pac-12 good?

Even if Washington wins the Pac-12 their best non-conference win will be against Rutgers and their best conference win will likely be against Utah in a few weeks. Will they be able to compete against the powers of the ACC, Big 10, and SEC? It’s hard to say since Washington’s last out of conference ranked game was last year when they lost to Boise State. Tune in on January 1 to see Washington get blown out by Alabama.

4. Clemson

Strength: Experience

Clemson knows what it takes to get to the College Football Playoff, as they did that last year. While they graduated some talent from their defense, their best player – DeShaun Watson – is still around for another championship run. By beating Louisville a few weeks ago Clemson set themselves up on a good road to the ACC championship game. After a bye week, they travel to play Florida State in their last real test of the season. Clemson’s experience and senior leadership should lead them to success for the rest of the season.

Weakness: Looking too far ahead

Clemson’s experience of getting to the championship game last year will help them going forward, but it almost cost them a couple times this season. By looking forward too far Clemson has forgotten the task at hand. They almost lost to Troy earlier in the season and they were a missed field goal away from losing to NC State. While they are favored to win the rest of their games, they need to be careful about looking too far ahead and need to take care of their week to week business.

3. Michigan

Strength: Diverse Offensive Playbook

Michigan has four players who have rushed for at least 250 yards on the season as they employ different formations and personnel groups to move the ball. While Jim Harbaugh likes to line up under center with only one receiver and two fullbacks, he also can spread the field and go into the shotgun. Additionally, Harbaugh can use the Wildcat with Jabrill Peppers as the quarterback, and he loves to use his fullbacks near the goal line. By bringing different sets and players into every game, Harbaugh is able to keep teams off balance.

Weakness: Kicker

This weakness was clear in the 14-7 win over Wisconsin as Michigan missed three field goals. On the season Michigan kickers are 4-9 and have forced Harbaugh to decide to go on fourth down instead of kicking it. If Michigan finds itself in close games towards the end of the season, lack of confidence in the kicking game could hurt them. Remember what the kicking game did against Michigan State last year?

2. Ohio State

Strength: Quarterback

Ohio State Quarterback and Heisman Candidate J.T. Barrett single-handedly won the overtime game against Wisconsin. He was able to escape the pass rush and keep his eyes downfield and repeatedly pick up long third downs against the Badger defense. While Barrett may not be the fastest or most elusive quarterback, he is very difficult to bring down and he is very comfortable in the offense. Surround him with some talented recruits and you see what happens.

Weakness: Play Design

Since their quarterback is so talented, the entire offense runs through him. This also makes the offense predictable, especially in the running game. QB power, read option, veer option, speed option and QB draw make up most of the Ohio State running game, and if a team can stop or limit Barrett, then they make Ohio State one dimensional.

1. Alabama 

Strength: Non-Traditional Touchdowns

Alabama leads the country with 11 non-offensive touchdowns. That is more than the total touchdowns scored by South Carolina. When Alabama is not beating you with their offense they are letting you beat yourself by turning it over or by not executing on special teams. If you want to beat Alabama, you have to keep their scoring limited to the offense.

Weakness: Defending Big Receivers

In their only close game of the season against Ole Miss, Alabama struggled to defend the pass, especially to bigger receivers. Tight end Evan Engram caught nine passes for 138 yards and Alabama struggled to cover him all game. If Alabama finds itself matched up with Michigan or Clemson in the future, their big tight ends could cause some problems.


Wisconsin women’s hockey: Badgers sweep Clarkson and remain #1 in WCHA

While the men split a series with Boston College this past weekend in Madison, the Wisconsin women’s hockey (5-0-1) team swept the Clarkson Golden Knights.

It was a tough win for the Badgers Friday afternoon. The team came out strong with Sarah Nurse picking up the first goal of the game. Sam Cogan tied the game in the third period, marking her 4th goal this season, all of which came in the 3rd.

“I’m happy I can contribute to the team, but I think I’ve got to get those goals in a little bit earlier,” Cogan explained.

Junior Emily Clark scored in overtime to bring home the win. This was Clark’s second game-winning goal this season and 13th of her career.

“I think at the start of last year we had a lot of success and kind of pulled away from teams early. This year we’ve faced a little more adversity. Getting in the habit of getting used to the challenge and keeping our energy up is key,” Clark said.

The third period in Saturday afternoon’s game got intense with Sydney McKibbon, Presley Norby, and Nurse each picking up a goal putting the Badgers up 4-1.

“It was really exciting,” Norby said about her first collegiate goal. “I got a really good pass and it was really fun celebrating with my linemates. I’m always really antsy to score and get pucks on net, so breaking that seal is really exciting and just makes me look forward to the rest of the season.”

McKibbon, Norby, and Nurse are something of a dream team. The same line was responsible for all four of Saturday’s goals.

“It’s amazing playing with them. They work super well together, and they’ve really helped me come into the line. They work really well with me, they’re really good at communicating, they’re positive on the bench, and they are just really good teammates and even better linemates,” explained Norby.

Saturday’s win marked coach Mark Johnson’s 400th career win. He joins the ranks of the best NCAA coaches. He is in the top five winningest coaches in the NCAA for Division I women’s hockey, and is the winningest coach in the WCHA.

UW continues on the road with a trip to Grand Forks, North Dakota, to take on the UND Fighting Hawks. Faceoff on Oct. 22 and 23 is set for 2 p.m. CT. You can get live updates or listen to the game live at uwbadgers.com.

Photo courtesy of uwbadgers.com.


Wisconsin men’s basketball: Krabbenhoft brings tradition and energy

MADISON — Former Wisconsin standout Joe Krabbenhoft is back with the Badgers. This time, he brings his grit and never-say-die attitude to the coaching staff to help lead a team oozing with talent.

When Krabbenhoft was offered the assistant coach position at UW, he didn’t have to think very long about it.

“Watching the transition, to get to be a part of the transition (from Coach Ryan to Coach Gard),” Krabbenhoft described. “It was the easiest decision of my life…next to marrying my wife probably.”

The former Badger played at UW from 2005-2009 under Ryan and Gard, who was an assistant under Ryan at the time. Krabbenhoft was a part of four NCAA Tournament teams, and was especially known for his aggressiveness, defense and hustle, epitomizing a tough, physical Big Ten basketball player. In addition, Krabbenhoft made the All-Big Ten Freshman Team in 2006, the All-Big Ten Defensive Team in 2008, and honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2009. After his senior year, Krabbenhoft was given the Big Ten Medal of Honor Award for his toughness on and off the court, and graduated as the only Badger of all-time to finish with at least 750 rebounds and 250 assists.

After graduating, Krabbenhoft played in the NBA D-League and overseas, before rejoining Wisconsin as the team’s video coordinator in the 2012-13 season. He would move onto South Dakota State as an assistant coach for three seasons from 2013 to 2016.

“It was my first opportunity to get on the road and recruit, and first opportunity to get on the floor coaching, instructing, developing scouting reports for players. I worked for an incredible coach, a great boss…I definitely enjoyed my time there [South Dakota State].”

“I was watching closely ever since I left, both as a former player and as a fan, obviously enjoying those magical Final Four runs,” Krabbenhoft said about watching the Badgers from afar. “And as a player, we were all in those group messages and group chats every single game, hoping that the Badgers would win.”

Moving forward, Krabbenhoft and his teammates were really pulling for Coach Gard to be more than just an interim coach after Coach Ryan retired.

“From Coach Ryan to Coach Gard, we wanted it to be one of our own to take over for us, because we knew what it meant for Coach Gard’s future. We just don’t want this to end, we want to hold on to it forever.”

Krabbenhoft of course has a very close relationship with Gard from his playing days and his year as the team’s video coordinator. Gard, Krabbenhoft, associate head coach Lamont Paris, and assistant coach Howard Moore are very familiar with one another, and that has become obvious in their morale  thus far.

“Communication with these guys has been constant. When I came, it wasn’t just to play and get my papers. Coach Gard and I have stayed in touch for the past seven years…it’s more than just a job opportunity.”

Krabbenhoft knows how successful UW has been recently, but hopes he can take some of what he learned with South Dakota State and bring it home to Wisconsin.

“Everywhere you go, you want to try to learn something. Whether it’s in recruiting, coaching, developing relationships with media, fans, players, parents, everything.”

Krabbenhoft has experience playing and coaching and knows the Wisconsin Badgers as well as anyone. The former Badger is already a great addition to an already loaded coaching staff and roster.

Photo courtesy of UW Athletics.