Some Early Lessons Show The Badgers Have Promise

Duff BeachContributor ISeptember 14, 2009

MADISON - NOVEMBER 10:  Zach Brown #30 of the Wisconsin Badgers carries the ball during the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Camp Randall Stadium on November 10, 2007 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

We really don't know how good the Badgers are just yet (though the same can be said for virtually every team).  After two weeks, Bucky is 2-0, but has endured two scares.

The first doesn't concern me much.  Northern Illinois had to have every bounce (and even a bad call or two) go their way to even get within striking distance.  They did, and showed that striking distance wasn't enough.  They still needed to drive the field, score a touchdown, and convert a two-point try, to even tie the game.  That was a bridge too far.  That game wasn't as close as the ending/box score made it seem.

The second?  Who knows how much the flu impacted the Badgers in their tilt with Fresno State?  For that matter, who knows how good Fresno State really is? (Prepare to watch Fresno State go 5-3 in the WAC; it's what they do) Regardless, the Badgers needed overtime (two overtimes, actually) to complete the win.

Still, they won.  Wins are what counts.

We can't really say how good the Badgers are.  Nonetheless, I think we've learned some helpful (and promising) things about the 2009 Badgers.

First and foremost, Scott Tolzien can play.  The Chryst offense relies on quality quarterbacking and that he has in Tolzien.

With all the talk about Curt Phillips, I found this interesting nugget this Saturday (from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Mark Stewart): "[Isaac Anderson] thought Sherer would start, then began watching Tolzien make play after play."  Remember, Chryst's offense relies on a more traditional quarterback.  We'll see more of Phillips, but I'm more than a little encouraged by Tolzien.

Second, the running game needs to improve...but it's not on the tailbacks.  While I think Clay earned the starting job he'll have this week, I don't think Brown played badly on Saturday (or the week prior when he was clearly better than Clay).  The problem is the offensive line.

Having Moffitt back at center should help as soon as it happens, though it's good the new guys got the practice they did during camp.  The Badgers don't have a lot of depth on the line, and the injuries surely contribute to the lackluster play so far.

Bottom line is they aren't opening up the holes the backs need.  They need to get better.

On defense things look better than I expected.  The line looks solid.  While not making headlines, the tackles have stopped up the middle and prevented teams from running inside (an impressive feat against Fresno State).

Although injuries have prevented the rotation the Badgers want at the ends, Schofield looks awesome, and Watt, sans flu, looks the play-maker part as well.

The linebackers, while not spectacular, looked better than I expected this week, especially against the run.  The secondary?  Not so much.  But maybe it was the flu.

On special teams, Welch's 57-yard kick to end the first half got Badger fans thinking about his solid performance last year, rather than the three misses he started with this season.  Let's hope he keeps us thinking that way.

Finally, the 2009 Badgers play with heart.  They didn't fold last week when NIU put the pressure on.  They didn't fold this week, down fourteen in the first half.  Although it was disappointing the Badgers didn't put the game away in after Clay's go-ahead rumble, they clawed through two overtimes to preserve the win.  That showed determination.

In short, this is an improved Badger squad.  Certainly not without question marks and weaknesses, but these guys can play.

Now it's time for Wofford.  1-0, Bucky, 1-0.