The Wisconsin Badgers barely pulled out the win Saturday against Utah State. The Aggies came into Madison and nearly pulled off the upset, missing the game-winning field goal as time expired. For the second time this season, the Badgers had difficulty beating an inferior opponent.
Here's a look at the winners and losers from the Badgers' win against Utah State.
Montee Ball had a solid game against the Aggies, rushing for 139 yards and a score, and finally getting into the end zone. More importantly, Ball scored the go-ahead touchdown for the Badgers, giving them the necessary points to pull off the win.
Ball didn't have a monster game, but he played significantly better than he did against Oregon State. The offensive line did Ball zero favors, and his ability to put up solid numbers is impressive. Hopefully, Ball's improved performance will jumpstart his season and get the offense clicking again.
Montee Ball was a definite winner against Utah State.
Outside of Montee Ball, the offense struggled versus the Aggies.
Danny O'Brien played terribly, completing only five passes for 63 yards. The Maryland transfer also fumbled and had an interception nullified by a penalty; he was replaced at halftime by backup quarterback Joel Stave.
The offensive line also continued its poor play, struggling to open holes for the rushing attack and preventing pressure on their quarterbacks. Penalties were another problem. Additionally, there were multiple third and shorts were the line was unable to give Ball the necessary room to convert. All in all, the offensive line was below average.
Simply put, the Badgers have to do better than 234 yards of total offense.
Danny O'Brien's struggles are Joel Stave's gain. Many anticipated that O'Brien would lock down the starting quarterback position, relegating Stave to the bench. However, that hasn't been the case as Stave figures to be the starter moving forward.
Stave has prototypical size, and a rocket arm, allowing the Badgers to challenge defenses down the field. Stretching the defense vertically will open up the running game, and allow Montee Ball to return to his previous form. Stave has the potential to transform the Badgers offense.
Stave didn't light the Badgers' passing attack on fire, completing only two passes, but he didn't turn the ball over. Considering his potential, and his turnover free play, Stave came out of the Utah State game a winner.
The Wisconsin Badgers played poorly against Utah State, and again, the blame falls on the coaching staff. The Badgers are much too talented, especially on the offensive side of the ball, to have this much trouble against inferior opponents.
The offensive line is not doing their jobs, and the offense in general simply hasn't performed. The play calling is off, the execution isn't there, and the Badgers are struggling to move the ball at all. Additionally, the team has been plagued by mental mistakes resulting in blown assignments, penalties, and turnovers. For a team that is usually one of the most fundamentally sound teams in the country, watching this year’s team have this much trouble is frustrating.
Matt Canada is obviously having difficulty finding ways to get the offense to move the ball, and new offensive line coach Bart Miller barely improved the offensive line. Bret Bielema and the rest of the staff must improve the offense.
The offensive coaching staff struggled against Utah State, and came out of the game as losers.
Thankfully for the Badger faithful, the Wisconsin defense continues to play well, shutting out the Aggies in the second half and saving the Badgers from defeat.
The defense gave up only 308 total yards, and most importantly allowed only two scoring drives. The Badgers defense, particularly the back seven, routinely stifled the Aggies offense and allowed the offense opportunities to get Wisconsin back in the game.
Coming into the season, the defense was expected to be Wisconsin's weakest link following the loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl, but has instead turned into their greatest strength.
The defense continues to bend but not break, and is the main reason the Badgers beat Utah State.
The Badgers' win over Utah State wasn't impressive, but Wisconsin pulled out the W.
However, moving forward, the offensive line and the passing game must step up if the Badgers are going to be competitive in the Big Ten. Additionally, the coaching staff has to figure out how to get the offense clicking again.
If not, it'll be a tough year in Madison.