Bret Bielema ..."/> Bret Bielema ..."/>

Bret Bielema Thinks Devin Smith’s Injury Ruined the Badgers’ National Title Run


Did one key early season injury destroy the Badgers’ chances of winning the national championship last year? Bret Bielema thinks so. In a radio interview, Bielema cited cornerback Devin Smith’s season-ending injury in Week 2 as possibly the fatal blow to the Badgers’ hopes of a title run. Bielema told ESPN radio Madison:

"Devin was playing as good of football as we’d ever seen. For us here at Wisconsin, for us to have one of those special, special, maybe national championship-type seasons, you have to stay healthy."

"I honestly think if Devin Smith had played the entire year at the way he was playing at the time he got hurt, we probably never would have lost … those plays that hit, they were going after his backup, Marcus Cromartie. ‘Cro’ did a nice job, did a lot of good things, but you potentially have the difference between maybe a Big Ten championship vs. a national championship opportunity based on one guy’s injury."

The Badgers’ secondary certainly struggled at times with Cromartie in the line-up instead of Devin Smith, but does putting all the onus on that one injury really hold water? Would Smith, for as well as Bielema says he was playing early in the season, have really held up all that much better against teams like Michigan State and Oregon than Cromartie? And the loss of Smith certainly had nothing to do with the special teams meltdowns or with Bielema’s own questionable clock management decisions. And Smith’s presence alone wouldn’t have stopped the Badgers from being run all over by the Ducks in the Rose Bowl.

Obviously any time a team loses big games, there are multiple reasons for those losses. One could point to lack of consistent pass rush, overall lack of defensive speed and a few big mistakes on offense (I seem to recall Russell Wilson making some ill-advised throws in the Michigan State game, or maybe I imagined that) as also playing a big part in the key losses that sank the Badgers’ title hopes.

The fact is, when you have as many bad breakdowns in pass coverage and special teams as the Badgers had last year, the natural thing is to point the finger at the coaching. I hope Bielema isn’t trying to deflect criticism away from himself and coaches by putting so much emphasis on one key injury, cause that would be sort of lame. And Marcus Cromartie probably doesn’t deserve to be spanked like that either.

One more piece of ammo for the Bielema-haters out there.