Last season, the Wisconsin Badgers shut out the Oregon State Beavers 35-0 at Camp Randall Stadium.
On Saturday, the Beavers returned the favor. (via sports.yahoo.com)
As the afternoon leaked into early evening, it was becoming clear that the Wisconsin Badgers were not the same team from a year ago.
By roughly 6:23 PM CT, it was crystal. The Beavers pulled off the upset and defeated the Badgers 10-7 in Corvallis in front of a raucous crowd at Reser Stadium.
In 2011, now NFL starting quarterback Russell Wilson led the Badgers on a magical run to the Rose Bowl. The offensive line had three current pros, and a future one in left tackle Rick Wagner.
Wisconsin didn't lose much on defense, its most notable departure being that of safety Aaron Henry.
But still. This team was expected to come out and handle its non-conference schedule with ease—to hand the ball off to Montee Ball and to dominate the line of scrimmage. So far this season, the Badgers haven't only failed to meet those expectations, they haven't even come close.
The Badgers' only proven threat in the passing game, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, was transported to a local Corvallis hospital for further evaluation after suffering a chest injury as a result of a devastating hit over the middle in the first half.
With that, quarterback Danny O'Brien lost his security blanket, but even before then, it was apparent that O'Brien wasn't comfortable behind center due to pressure from the Beavers' defensive line and tight coverage all over the field.
The impressive performance of O'Brien against Northern Iowa proved to be the product of playing against an FCS opponent more than anything. The best team in college football at converting on third down in 2011, Wisconsin was 2-for-14 on Saturday.
Oh, how Russell Wilson is missed.
The defense managed to keep Wisconsin in the game with a bend-but-don't-break mentality, and the Badgers only trailed by three at halftime. However, the time the defense was required to log took its toll as the game wore on, as the Badger offense failed to convert time and time again.
Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion continually exploited the soft coverage, and why the Badgers cornerbacks played so far off Beaver receivers was a mystery. A miscommunication in the secondary led to a 20-yard touchdown reception by Brandin Cooks, and Oregon State jumped to a 10-0 lead early in the second half.
It was all the Beavers would need.
O'Brien then followed up his 4-of-11 first-half performance with an interception. Even after Beavers' punter Keith Kostol dropped the snap and was tackled at his own 36, the Badgers failed to take advantage, driving inside the Oregon State 10-yard line before O'Brien fumbled the ball away.
It took the Wisconsin offense 58 minutes and 29 seconds to finally break through, as O'Brien connected with tight end Jacob Pedersen for six. But it was too little, too late as an illegal touch on the ensuing onside kick gave Oregon State the ball, and the Badgers had no timeouts.
The ball was originally awarded to Wisconsin, but video evidence (supposedly) showed kicker Kyle French touching the ball before it reached the required ten yards.
It simply wasn't to be for the Badgers.
Kudos to the Badger defense—they scrapped and clawed to keep its team in the game. But missed opportunities, zero running game, the incompetence of Danny O'Brien, failure to convert on third down and the play-calling of new offensive coordinator Matt Canada all snowballed into one huge, collective disaster.
Credit also has to go to Oregon State. It came into Saturday without the benefit of a Week 1 tune-up because of Hurricane Isaac, and yet its defense was the story of the game.
Montee Ball and James White were total non-factors, and against one of the best cornerbacks in the nation, Oregon State's Jordan Poyer, the Badgers couldn't find a way to move the ball through the air until it was too late.
Mike Riley had his team ready to play—Bret Bielema didn't.
It was an upset many saw coming from a mile away, and now the Badgers must find a way to bounce back. If Week 1 was a wake-up call, Week 2 was a straight up kick to the groin.
Next week, Wisconsin will host Utah State, a team coming off an emotional victory on Friday night.
Things might not be getting any easier for Wisconsin, and if something doesn't change quickly, Badger fans are in for a long season.
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