tom oates

Tom Oates: Adversity tests the Badgers and they failed in more areas than the scoreboard

2013-09-15T06:30:00Z 2013-11-13T12:33:28Z Tom Oates: Adversity tests the Badgers and they failed in more areas than the scoreboardTOM OATES | Wisconsin State Journal | toates@madison.com | 608-252-6172 madison.com

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's not often a team already has a 2-0 record when it starts the season, but the University of Wisconsin managed that rare feat this year.

  After overpowering two college football non-entities at home, UW was forced to hit the reset button on its season. The victories counted, of course, but the real season for the 20th-ranked Badgers began Saturday night at Arizona State.

  With a rare electric atmosphere at dressed-in-black Sun Devil Stadium and a legitimate Pac-12 Conference contender on the opposite sideline, the game figured to be the first real test for UW in Gary Andersen's first season as coach.

  In truth, however, it was much more than that. Because matchups carry more weight when unfamiliar opponents meet in intersectional games, Arizona State was in many ways the ultimate test for this UW team.

  That's because the Sun Devils were a bad matchup for the Badgers. Their strengths hit UW where it was weak or, more accurately, where it was still unproven despite the statistical domination of its first two opponents.

  First of all, Arizona State's no-huddle spread passing attack, featuring junior quarterback Taylor Kelly, figured to test UW's revamped secondary in ways UMass and Tennessee Tech never could.

  Second, the Sun Devils' aggressive, physical defensive line, led by all-America candidate Will Sutton, was expected for provide a stiff challenge for a UW offensive line that lost two starters to the NFL draft in April.

  Finally, since Arizona State plays a high-pressure defense that was second in the nation in sacks last season, people were anxious to see if Joel Stave, UW's sophomore quarterback, could operate efficiently when under fire from the defense.

  So how did UW do when facing its ultimate early season test?

  In a word, it failed. UW's 32-30 loss to Arizona State, though it didn't end until a controversial play that will be debated in Wisconsin forever, showed that the concerns about certain areas were warranted. The Badgers took a 21-13 lead when Melvin Gordon dashed 80-yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second half, but the Badgers couldn't hang on for the victory, in large part because they couldn't sustain drives or stop the pass.

  Let's take a look at the areas of concern one by one and see how the Badgers performed.

  UW's pass coverage didn't let Kelly and his multitude of pass receivers dominate the game until crunch time. Kelly's mobility and Arizona State's quick passing made getting to the quarterback almost impossible, so it was up to the backs and linebackers to maintain coverage.

  Despite giving up nothing over the top, the defense allowed too many free-running receivers on critical plays. UW's youth showed late in the first half when cornerbacks Darius Hillary and Sojourn Shelton were called for pass interference on back-to-back plays despite being in reasonably good position. More penalties in coverage and an inability to cover a series of back-shoulder fades contributed to three long scoring drives that allowed the Sun Devils to come from behind and take a 32-24 lead in the fourth quarter.

  Meanwhile, Arizona State's aggressive blitzing caused problems for both the run and the pass early, but UW's line gradually asserted itself and began to open holes for Gordon and James White. The coaches also called some plays -- screen passes and fly sweeps -- to make the Sun Devils pay for their aggressiveness.

  But even though the Badgers produced decent numbers on the ground, they didn't gain a ton of yardage between the tackles. The Badgers weren't going to hit their inflated 390-yard rushing average from the first two games, but they did have more than 200 yards on the ground.

  Stave, who was inconsistent in UW's first two games, was under intense pressure as Arizona State threw a variety of blitzes at him. After a slow start, he settled down a bit but never truly found a rhythm.

  Stave's relatively slow release showed at he had two passes batted down and was hit repeatedly as he threw, often affecting the pass. Stave got smoked when the line missed a delayed blitz by Anthony Jones and was slow getting up, but he was back in on the next series. Still, he appeared to be rushing when he missed some critical throws that stalled drives in the second half.

  Give Stave credit, though. He hung tough and directed two late drives, one that cut the lead to two, another that gave UW a chance to win at the end. However, the game ended when Stave downed the ball but placed it on the ground after taking a knee instead of handing it to the official. UW wanted to spike the ball on the next play and kick a field goal, but confusion reigned, the officials never took charge and UW never got off another play.

  In the end, it was one tough way for for a game UW team to fail such a big test.

  Contact Tom Oates at toates@madison.com or 608-252-6172.

Copyright 2014 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(16) Comments

  1. john q public
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    john q public - September 16, 2013 4:58 pm
    UW needs to start scheduling real teams at home before they go on the road to face a real team. It is obvious that scheduling weak teams year after year does not help the Badgers once they leave camp Randall.
  2. ThirtySeven
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    ThirtySeven - September 15, 2013 5:23 pm
    Coach Anderson is a class act. The refs butchered a call, plain and simple. We need to quit blaming Stave and Anderson. It's a game, and it will go down as a loss (Like Packers and Seattle). I'm watching the tape again and just saw the missed field goal count too...... Kids deserve better and that is why they have replay. Somebody should get fired. I'll be at the Purdue game and the Badgers will be better because of this "test".
  3. Jeff Dubay
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    Jeff Dubay - September 15, 2013 12:43 pm
    Adversity means: a state, condition, or instance of serious or continued difficulty or adverse fortune. In your mind they would have needed to win 40-0 again to prove they could succeed in the face of diversity? They faced all the challenges you mentioned and yet, in the end still had a chance to overcome and win the game. Isn't that what overcoming adversity is????? Dumb article and insulting to guys like Stave, Duckworth, O-line, Gordon, Borland and everyone else who rose above it to win the game only to ultimately have it stripped away by an adversary you can not battle - the referees.
  4. RichardSRussell
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    RichardSRussell - September 15, 2013 11:19 am
    Last week it was Clay Matthews for the Packers.
    This week it was Dezmen Southward for the Badgers.
    Hitting a guy on his way out of bounds is stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid!
    Not to mention mean and dangerous, which is why it's illegal in the 1st place.
    2 games that might well have turned out differently but for lack of brain at point of contact.
  5. jrweiss1982
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    jrweiss1982 - September 15, 2013 9:38 am
    Yes Stave struggled through most of the night last night. But give the kid credit....he got absolutely drilled on a corner blitz when he took the crown of a helmet to the ribs. He made two excellent plays under heavy pressure. He hit Duckworth for 51 yards on a 3rd and 4 on the last drive. If the refs do not butcher that call at the end of the game, the discussion would be about how Stave overcame his struggles and led the Badgers to a huge win. Let's not let the absolute incompetence of the officials taint the entirety of Stave's night.
  6. toobad
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    toobad - September 15, 2013 8:32 am
    Did you sleep last night? You can't stop posting, can you?
  7. retired
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    retired - September 15, 2013 7:45 am
    The Badgers can not have a one dimension quarterback. Stave proved that last nite. With this being said, what will happen, next week against a power hse. like Ohio State ?? Wisconsin/Stave had many many opportunities to not let the game come down to a field goal, and Stave blew them.
  8. Obturator
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    Obturator - September 15, 2013 7:02 am
    ASU may be in the Pac-12 champion??? There are 5 other teams in the Pac 12 ranked ahead of ASU. ASU is a mid level team at best. Admit it Wisconsin, you got beat by an average team!
  9. GaryRobbins
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    GaryRobbins - September 15, 2013 4:43 am
    Oh, and college DBs are expected cover back shoulder fades where the ball is thrown perfectly?
    Pro DBs can't even do that. What were you thinking when you wrote this?!
  10. GaryRobbins
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    GaryRobbins - September 15, 2013 4:41 am
    Are you trying to play devil's advocate, Tom?
    Cuz you're not usually quite this far off base.
    You're waaay off base on this article if you're serious, Tom.
    Back to back PI calls were crap calls, and it's hard to get to the QB if they never call a hold despite 51 pass attempts. 51 attempts and no holding? That's either a miracle or a record.
    UW showed great resiliency in playing a team that presented nightmare matchups v their weaknesses, but still came back to get what should've been an easy game winning FG attempt.
    You need to use better insight than that an up your game, Tom, cuz this column is nothing but weak sauce.
  11. GaryRobbins
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    GaryRobbins - September 15, 2013 4:37 am
    Are you trying to play devil's advocate, Tom?
    Cuz you're not usually quite this far off base.
    You're waaay off base on this article if you're serious, Tom.
  12. GaryRobbins
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    GaryRobbins - September 15, 2013 4:36 am
    Are you trying to play devil's advocate, Tom?
    Cuz you're not usually quite this far off base.
    You're waaay off base on this article if you're serious, Tom.
  13. GaryRobbins
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    GaryRobbins - September 15, 2013 4:35 am
    Are you trying to play devil's advocate, Tom?
    Cuz you're not usually this stupid.
  14. jrweiss1982
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    jrweiss1982 - September 15, 2013 4:22 am
    Tom-
    That is one of the worst articles I have ever read from you. Failed adversity? This team
    in this game was remarkably resilient in the face of adversity. ASU has an excellent football team and very well may end up the Pac-12 champion. We made play after play to come back, despite playing on the road against a high-powered offense and physical, fast defense i.e. the fake punt, Duckworth catch and run etc. Clearly, the officials failed to make the correct call. If they do, French lines up and more than likely hits a 30-yard game winning FG. If that had happened, the headlines would be all about the Badgers' resilience in the face of adversity. Surely you cannot hold such a bizarre call and ending against the Badgers. It looks to me like you had a storyline in mind and had to meet a deadline because your article does not match up to the facts of the game.
  15. 3cats
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    3cats - September 15, 2013 2:56 am
    He did take a knee but he should have handed the ball to the ref instead of trying to spot the ball himself.
  16. crichar3
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    crichar3 - September 15, 2013 2:36 am
    "...instead of taking a knee simply placed the ball on the ground so he could spike it on the next play."

    Replays showed he did, in fact, take a knee. Might want to edit this one, Tom.
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