When Mike Markuson came to Wisconsin, a small grin formed on lips across Wisconsin. A stream of resignations would finally be plugged by one of the best offensive line coaches in the country. He had six All-Americans to his name.
He was the the man who coached Michael Oher, the character at the center of the movie The Blind Side at Ole Miss.
Scene. Fade to black. Mike Markuson's final credits are now scrolling on the screen.
To date, Wisconsin has only 203 yards on the ground after 70 attempts. That's 2.9 yards per carry for a stable of running backs that are used to churning out nearly 200 yards a game by themselves. The unit only has one rushing touchdown so far this year. One.
Where the stats highlight the weakness on the line, the eyeball test only confirms it. Every pass play seemed contested while every run seemed doomed from the handoff. Montee Ball and James White looked visibly frustrated after being cut down time and time again. Danny O'Brien looked pedestrian as the pass protection broke down the moment the ball was snapped. His throws were rushed, and his decisions were poor.
Is it all on the line's shoulders? Absolutely not. Wisconsin is in desperate need of a receiver who can catch the ball in the slant and make a play after the reception. O'Brien hit players in the hands too many times to see the ball drop to the turf. Meanwhile, O'Brien himself needs to become a more decisive playmaker. The entire offense needs to finds its rhythm. That beat, though, does start with the offensive line.
Was Bret Bielema right to fire Markuson?
Markuson's firing will be scrutinized by the Badger faithful as many fans will also be calling for the head of offensive coordinator Matt Canada and the head coach himself. Bielema won't be going anywhere, nor should he. Canada's fate seems more tenuous given the speed of which Markuson received his pink slip. Others will chastise the program for making Markuson a sacrifice at the altar of public opinion.
At the end of it all, Wisconsin is 1-1 after losing on the road to a team who declared last Saturday the "biggest non-conference game" in their stadium's history. It's an emotional letdown for a team accustomed to winning. Markuson, scapegoat or not, is a casualty of those expectations, but Wisconsin should find its way back.
Put the pin back in the grenade and slip the cover over the panic button for the time being. The season is young.