It just didn’t feel real. Gaglianone was supposed to make that kick and the Badgers were supposed to win in overtime.
Not this time.
Coming into Saturday’s game, Wisconsin had won 41 straight non-conference games at home, and the 42nd was not supposed to be worrisome. But as the stunned crowd cleared out, I sat in the stands thinking, how could this happen?
This was going to be the best Badger football team ever, a combo of good offense and defense that was ready to reach the playoff and contend for a national championship. And I wish I could point to one thing that turned the tide of the game, but the truth is, BYU was the better team. I knew when they started Jumping Around at the end of the third quarter, the Badgers were in trouble. BYU was loose and taking it to the sixth-ranked team in the country.
Now, it sounds like I’ve completely given up on the rest of the season, which, of course, I haven’t. I do think the playoff talk will subside greatly, though, and the Badgers must win out to have a shot. And more importantly, if Wisconsin reaches the Big Ten Championship, their opponent must be Ohio State to boost their resume. Before we can look that far into the future, there’s a lot that has to change as the Badgers head into Big Ten play.
The biggest issue that must be fixed is the slow starts. Western Kentucky was a dominant performance, a 10-7 halftime lead against New Mexico was concerning, and the dominos finally fell against BYU. I think it starts with the defense — in the latter of the two games, the opposing team has marched right down and punched it in on the first or second drive. Yes, replacing seven starters on defense is never easy, but it’s critical to set the tone early, no matter who’s out there.
As usual with Wisconsin, they go as far as their offensive line takes them, and those big boys need to start playing angry. Talent-wise, no one is better in the country—it’s time to see them clear some holes. Taylor was contained very well in Saturday’s loss, and Wisconsin is going to face much tougher defenses than BYU in the Big Ten. Chryst does a good job mixing in all three backs, especially Groshek in the passing game, but it may take 30 carries a game for Jonathan Taylor if the Badgers are going to run the table.
Your weekly wild card is none other than Alex Hornibrook. You just never know what you’re going to get from him—he’ll either throw a bone-headed interception or make a play that would make the other No. 12 in the state of Wisconsin smile. I know he has it in him to make those elite throws consistently, but we just haven’t seen it over the course of a season yet.
Suddenly, a night-time matchup in Kinnick Stadium seems like a daunting task—it’s always tough to travel to Iowa, but the fact that the game is in primetime elevates the importance ten-fold. It’s the start of the Big Ten season on Saturday, but for the Badgers, they have come in with the mentality that this is the start of a new season entirely—yes, it was a tough loss, but in order to reach Indianapolis in December, all that matters is that the record is 0-0.