A question on a lot of people’s minds today: How does Northern Iowa score two long TDs, one of 55 yards and one of 31 yards, in back-to-back series using the same exact play? The play, a wheel route to running back David Johnson, burned Wisconsin twice in the fourth quarter, allowing Northern Iowa to not only prevent the rout but crawl close enough to make Badger fans sweat. The first time, Mike Taylor and Marcus Cromartie both appeared to blitz, leaving the flat wide open for Johnson who caught the ball and proceeded to break a Dezmen Southward tackle on the way to the end zone. Question here is, were Taylor and Cromartie both supposed to blitz or did someone miss an assignment? On the second TD, Taylor seemed to flat out blow the coverage, allowing Johnson to waltz in.
Two bad plays for sure, but let’s not focus on them only. Let’s also consider what set up those plays. For UNI to even be in position for those quick strikes, Wisconsin had to play some pretty bad defense against a team they theoretically should’ve dominated. I realize UNI has some nice skill position guys in David Johnson and receiver Terrell Sinkfield, but the QB throwing them the ball was a redshirt freshman making his first start. You can credit Sawyer Kollmorgen for showing some moxie sure, but also be honest about it. Kollmorgen had way too much time to stand in the pocket. Those defensive breakdowns were bad, but the really concerning thing for the Badgers was the complete lack of pass rush from the front four.
The only time Wisconsin was able to pressure Kollmorgen was when they brought heat from Chris Borland, who lined up several times at end in a special 3-3-5 nickel alignment. Then consider that at least one of the big plays to Johnson was a direct exploitation of a Wisconsin blitz. What’s the message here? The front-four can’t get any pressure, but when the Badgers blitz, it leaves them exposed to the big play. Catch-22. UNI figured this out pretty quick and took advantage big time. The Badgers were finally forced to stop all blitzing and revert to a safe two-deep zone with a four man rush. Kollmorgen looked good all day but luckily for the Badgers he threw a couple balls inaccurately in the last series against the vanilla zone. Then on fourth-and-1, Ethan Hemer finally rose up and made a play, securing the win for Wisconsin.
It wasn’t just the breakdowns, it was the overall lack of playmaking from the front four. Beau Allen appeared to get double teamed a lot and nobody else stepped up except Hemer for that one play. Brendan Kelly and David Gilbert were non-factors. Again, without Borland coming on the rush, there was no rush. The Badgers were able to escape this time but I shudder to think what will happen against better competition. Their defensive ends especially are just flat-out terrible.