Things are not pretty for the Wisconsin football team right now. Coming off two straight Rose Bowl seasons and with 2011 Heisman finalist Montee Ball back in action, the Badgers looked like mortal locks to re-take the Leaders Division and head back to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game.
Now, they just look mortal.
Hampered by an offensive line that suddenly and unexpectedly struggled mightily against teams it would have mashed into oblivion a year ago, Wisconsin struggled to put away Northern Iowa, 26-21, before falling at Oregon State 10-7 in a game that the Beavers controlled physically.
Montee Ball? He's nowhere near Heisman status and at this rate will be fighting for All-Big Ten honorable mention; the Badger tailback has all of 181 yards and one score through two games, and his 3.9 yards per carry is unfathomably low after the last two seasons. That, of course, is on the offensive line, and everyone in Madison knows it.
To that end, first-year offensive line coach Mike Markuson has been fired. Here's more from Adam Rittenberg at ESPN.com:
The Wisconsin Badgers have ousted offensive line coach Mike Markuson after two games, according to multiple reports.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal, citing sources, reported late Sunday that Markuson was out. ...
The Badgers, who finished 11th nationally in rushing offense in 2011 and set offensive records the past two seasons, are 103rd nationally in rushing after two games. They have allowed four sacks and nearly were shut out at Oregon State.
Markuson, a veteran line coach who spent the past 14 seasons with Southeastern Conference teams, was one of six assistant coaches to join Bret Bielema's staff for 2012. He replaced longtime Wisconsin line coach Bob Bostad.
Bielema later confirmed the firing at his weekly press conference on Monday and confirmed reports that graduate assistant Bart Miller would take Markuson's place.
The move is understandable; Wisconsin has standards of line play, and getting shoved around by Oregon State falls hilariously short of those standards.
But there's a difference between "understandable" and "smart." Yelling at your television while you watch sports is understandable. It's not going to do anything.
Further, the problems the offensive line had were problems of adjusting to a new system after the Bostad era, as noted by starting center Travis Frederick to the Wisconsin State Journal:
Last week (against Northern Iowa) was the first time we ever had a game rep under coach Markuson and coach (Matt) Canada. There were a few different things. I thought we kind of worked through those.
I didn’t notice a lot of big things that were problems, but it just comes down to communication. What we used to do, everyone had their job and you did this and this, and this is how everybody knew it. It’s just a little different.
So let's chalk the poor play up to the offensive line struggling to adjust to a new system, which is something that often happens with new coaches and systems—and the fact that there's a new offensive coordinator in Matt Canada doesn't ease the transition any.
So why in the entire blue blazes would Bielema hit the reset button on that process at this point? It's not after two weeks—it's after two weeks and an entire offseason of practice and preparation.
So unless replacement coach Bart Miller—who had been in his second year at UW as an offensive line quality control coach before the sudden promotion—knows Bob Bostad's approach and system down cold, Wisconsin is either continuing on the same Markuson system as before for continuity's sake or starting over with whatever Miller's system is. That's not a recipe for success; it's a recipe for chaos.