The difference between bad and ugly is a fine line. To me, the ugly are two big things that I didn’t expect to be issues whatsoever, plus something else that needs to be resolved quickly or else it could derail the season.
The first is the offensive line. Coming into the season this was supposed to be the best unit in the country, period. Western Kentucky blitzed the mess out of the Badgers in week one and the line looked like it just hadn’t found its legs. Then week two came and went without a really dominating performance. Week three against BYU was a nightmare. No big plays, no major holes, and the starters got benched for a series. Against Iowa, we finally saw some assertive play and good running lanes for the Badgers, but it wasn’t enough for the coaching staff to stick with it, apparently.
The offensive line needs to be elite and it simply isn’t right now. A bye week to restart and a weak opponent at home could be what the big men up front need. But going to Michigan in mid-October is going to be a challenge.
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The coaching staff is the other big hang up. I was fully ready to blame the loss on them against Iowa if the Badgers didn’t clutch up and win. On a drive where Jonathan Taylor had two runs go for 12 and 17 yards, the Badgers decided to throw the ball deep on third and short, then punt on the following play in Iowa territory instead of running the ball twice to keep the drive alive and go up by two scores.
That kind of coaching mishap is something I can deal with every once in a while, but there were so many other instances where the playcalling seemed destined to doom this team. It was tough to give a positive grade to the coaching staff for its performance in Iowa City. The running game was working and it the strength of the offense. I’d hate to see any more obvious running scenarios wasted when Taylor is gaining momentum.
The last ugly thing is the inconsistency from the defense. This isn’t ugly because it was unexpected though. There were too many question marks on the defense for me to think it would be perfect. What disappoints me is when parts of the defense start to show that they’re turning the corner, they follow it up with a poor play or game right after.
I started to trust the secondary, then it suddenly forgot pass interference was a thing and couldn’t track the ball whatsoever against Iowa. The defensive line looked like it would be the crutch of the defense until Isaiahh Loudermilk got back. He played great against the Hawkeyes as did the rest of his unit.
I fear the defensive line’s consistency is more closely to that of the secondaries. A poor performance is probably inevitable. Inexperience can just be too much to overcome at times.