One by one, members of the University of Wisconsin football team's No. 1 offense walked into the McClain Center weight room Saturday afternoon with stern looks on their faces.
The mood after a 107-minute glorified practice in April could have been confused with the aftermath of a blowout loss to Ohio State in the middle of October.
"Usually at the end of the spring game," fifth-year senior offensive guard Bill Nagy said, "everybody is pretty upbeat."
Not this year.
Nagy and Co. left Camp Randall Stadium feeling equal parts disappointment and remorse after a sluggish performance during the Cardinal's 25-3 victory over the White before an announced crowd of 23,567.
The scoreboard technically read 33-11 in favor of the Cardinal, but that included scoring from "rapid fire" field goal competitions at the end of the first and third quarters and double points awarded for any score by the White team. And even that score was inaccurate because the Cardinal, which consisted of starters and key reserves, was awarded a point for a successful conversion when Philip Welch actually missed a 32-yard field-goal attempt during the competition.
The final score never matters anyway in the spring game, which is really just another practice and a chance for fans to get a look at the Badgers during the offseason.
The look - at least in terms of the offense - wasn't a pretty one Saturday.
"It's just not a good feeling," senior left tackle Gabe Carimi said.
Some startling numbers emerged from a game in which the No. 1 offense usually moves the ball at will against the No. 2 defense.
Senior quarterback Scott Tolzien completed just 55 percent of his passes with a long of 22 yards.
And while sophomore Montee Ball scored the only two touchdowns of the game, he averaged just 3.1 yards per carry with a long of 9 yards.
For comparison's sake, consider that the Cardinal produced 563 yards of total offense and averaged 7.1 yards per play in the 2009 spring game. This time around, it had 246 total yards and averaged just 3.8 yards per play.
"It's a bad way to end," Nagy said.
To be fair, the offense wasn't at full strength this spring due to injuries. Junior tailback John Clay, the reigning Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Year, and sophomore center Peter Konz sat out the entire spring. Junior wide receiver Nick Toon missed Saturday's game with a concussion. Meanwhile, Carimi and senior left guard/center John Moffitt weren't ready at the start of spring because each had surgery in the offseason - though both returned to practice and played Saturday.
But nobody was using injuries as an excuse for Saturday's shoddy effort.
"It shouldn't matter," Carimi said. "It really shouldn't matter."
The offense was particularly disgusted with its performance in the red zone. The Badgers scored 42 touchdowns in 56 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line last season, a 75 percent rate that led the Big Ten and ranked among the national leaders in that category.
But the Cardinal had to settle for three short field goals from Welch against the White after drives stalled in the red zone. The Cardinal moved the ball inside the White 10-yard line in each of its first two drives only to end up with field goals.
"You'd like to see them finish things off," UW coach Bret Bielema said.
Added senior tight end Lance Kendricks, who led the Badgers with six receptions for 63 yards: "We were real strong in the red zone last year, and I think that's one thing that we need to keep consistent going into next year. That was a disappointment, not being able to finish drives."
Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst isn't made available for interviews after games - not even the spring game - so it's not known how unhappy he was with his unit's final showing of the spring. However, his charges made it clear Chryst let his displeasure be known.
"It's discouraging because you want to maximize every opportunity," Tolzien said. "You only have 15 practices in the spring. But at the same time, it's good motivation because we're not where we need to be."
Perhaps Chryst can use Saturday to his advantage. The offense is expected to be potent in 2010 because the Badgers return 10 starters from an offense that led the Big Ten in scoring with 31.8 points per game last season.
Any chance the Badgers will spend the remaining portion of the offseason with big heads pretty much got eliminated in a matter of less than 2 hours Saturday.
"We need to be better than that come fall," Tolzien said. "It's good for us to have a setback like that as long as we use it to our advantage and just realize there's a sense of urgency here. We've got to have a great offseason."
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