Arlington, TX –  It wasn’t a game most Wisconsin fans were expecting to win, but Badger Nation was hoping for a better showing out of their 2015 team in the opener against Alabama at AT&T Stadium in the Advocare Classic as Alabama defeated Wisconsin 35-17.

Unfortunately, the game was probably over during the first series when Alabama didn’t even score.

Caputo Injury Costly

In the Badgers’ first defensive possession, safety Michael Caputo, arguably the Badgers’ best player, was injured with a head injury (concussion symptoms). The team knew that Caputo could not continue right away, and ruled him out shortly after the injury. He actually tried joining the Alabama huddle before a play instead of the Badgers’ huddle.

After Caputo’s injury, Alabama literally ran right over Wisconsin as the Badgers could not keep up with the bigger and better Crimson Tide, missing tackles almost every play. Along with three touchdowns, Henry ran for 147 yards on 13 carries, coming out to 11.3 yards per carry. Alabama pulled starting quarterback Jacob Coker before the end of the third quarter, in which he had a stellar game, throwing for 213 yards on 15-21 and a touchdown. The entire middle of the field seemed to be open the whole game for the Crimson Tide without Caputo, as they ran the ball up the middle and found plentiful receivers cruising down the lane.

Stave Leads Offense; Running Game Struggles

After a very strong start in the first half from quarterback Joel Stave, the senior quarterback struggled in the second half against Alabama’s first team defense, going 12 for 23 for 79 yards, a touchdown and a meaningless interception after going 14-16 for 149 yards and a touchdown in the first halfDespite their poor second half, the Badgers should be happy that they did not turn the ball over until the last minute of the game.

Running back Corey Clement could not get anything going (eight carries for 16 yards and two catches for 19 yards), and he actually split time with Dare Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal throughout the day. In fact, Clement only ran the ball once in the second quarter, and was ruled questionable to return after suffering a left groin injury that was finally announced in the 4th quarter. Part of the reason Clement saw less time was due to the Badgers’ passing it more when they were trailing by more than a touchdown. Ogunbowale and fullback Derek Watt were in the game a lot down the stretch catching shakedowns and flat routes from Stave, in which both of them thrived.

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Both Stave’s second half struggles and the running game’s problems throughout could be blamed on the Badgers’ offensive line unable to block the Tide’s stellar front seven. They continually gave Stave fits in the second half, and Clement, Ogunbowale, and Deal had nowhere to go. Notably, the right side of the line struggled the most, as right guard Walker Williams and right tackle Hayden Biegel got beat over and over again by the Crimson Tide.

In the first half, the team had 171 total yards and actually had more possession time than Alabama. In the second half, however, the momentum completely switched as Wisconsin had 97 yards in the second half and was outscored 21 to 10. Alabama ended the game with 502 total yards and no turnovers, but 110 yards in penalties. In the end, the loss of Caputo, ineffective running, Badgers missed tackles and poor offensive line play led to their downfall tonight.

Some Positives

Despite what I wrote about Stave in the second half, he really looked much better than he has in previous years. His improved play could lead the Badgers to another trip to the B1G Championship Game, especially after how bad Nebraska looked against BYU today in their loss.

Sojourn Shelton made two great plays on deep balls thrown by Alabama quarterback Jacob Coker in the first half. He looks to be as good as everyone has said over the summer, and he was a bright spot on defense.

Linebacker Joe Schobert had a helluva first half with two sacks, three tackles for loss, and six total tackles. Along with Schobert, inside linebacker T.J. Edwards played better in the middle of the field than it appeared.

Quotes from Chryst After the Game

On Corey Clement’s injury: “You know, he — he was — kind of been bothering him a little bit. Give him a lot of credit. This game was important for him. And you know, it was all driven because of how he was feeling. Happened kind of during the week.”

On Michael Caputo’s injury: “You don’t want any of your players getting injured. And talking to Mike even during — he said it’s hard on him. He loves this team and loves playing. And yet it was pretty clear, you know. So, hopefully, he’ll rebound. And he means a lot to this team. But those decisions are pretty easy.”

On Tanner McEvoy: “We tried a couple times, and one of those was the — was the sack — you know, on our right. And to — tried a couple. But it was a — I was a little bit concerned about how long we could hold up in the protection. And you know, Tanner was — you know, I think he ended up playing the game and going — he was a little bit banged up coming into it. But I think that we’ve got to get more — we need to get him more involved, clearly. And I think some of the things that they did that were tough. Had a couple other ones and tried to dial up some things for him. And just — it didn’t work real well.”

On Joel Stave’s performance: “I thought Joel — I love the way he competed, and I thought he did some good things. I think he was seeing the field well. A couple throws, they did a nice job. And the windows closed pretty quick with this group. I thought he was decisive. And I thought he did some good things, you know. I’m sure we’ll look back and there will be some areas, like everyone, where we can get better. But I thought that — I loved his demeanor throughout the game, you know. And I think that, you know, he’s the first one to say, we didn’t win. I don’t think he was pleased with himself. But I thought there was some — I like being around him.”

What’s Next?

The Badgers take on Miami (OH) next Saturday at 11 AM CT at Camp Randall in what should be quite an easier matchup.