Unseasonably warm, unusually unprepared: Wisconsin's shocking loss to Penn State
Never a good sign when your head coach is running down the sideline on an unusually warm November afternoon like a mad man, screaming at one official while another zebra has his arms upright and an opposing receiver is clutching the football in the end zone.
Gary Anderson's second quarter rant at the north end of Camp Randall couldn't be heard where I sat on the south end the fabled stadium, but the confusion that was in the air? That could be felt all the way to Mickey's Dairy Bar.
Confusion, ineptitude and a healthy dollop of out-coaching paved the way to Saturday's 31-24 Wisconsin loss to Penn State. There was a lot that the Badgers were playing for--Senior pride and a possible BCS bowl bid, to name two--but Bucky came up woefully short on both sides of the ball.
The Nittany Lions did some trickeration by unloosing plays and formations they hadn't put on video before--hence. They made Wisconsin's Joel Stave throw the ball, and he did. When the Badgers hoist more than 50 heaves, that's not a good thing, especially when Stave was having the kind of day he did. The Whitnall grad missed way too many wide open looks, passes that could've kept Wisconsin competitive and Penn State on its heels.
It's not all on Stave, though. The Wisconsin o-line didn't give him much of a chance as Stave faced relentless pressure and ended up on his can way too often. As Anderson said afterward, "Football becomes really hard to play when you can't rush the passer consistently and you can't protect the passer consistently. It's a bad spot to be in. And on top of that, when they stack nine, 10, 11 guys in the box, depending on the personnel that you're in, and they take away your run game, again, football becomes very, very difficult."
That's where coaching comes in. Anderson and his crew didn't have a good day, either. Football is a game of adjustments and Wisconsin didn't. And, this late in the season, there's no reason for players to be confused on either side of the ball, at least not on a team with a BCS dream. And what's with players afterward using the term "flat" to describe their performance, the way senior tight end Jacob Pederson did in the Journal/Sentinel? "I mean, I really have no words for it," he said. "I didn't expect it. I don't think we underestimated them. We knew what they were capable of doing. We came out flat and they made the plays....Everything about it, it just wasn't there for us today. I don't know why."
How does THAT happen?
The answer isn't clear, but the result is obvious: B-C-S can be spelled without "Wisconsin" in this, its final incarnation. The Rose and Orange Bowls are no longer Bucky options, with Tampa and Orlando bartenders now on notice to store up on as much brandy as they can between now and New Year's Day when hoards of Wisconsin fans test the available stock, perhaps in quest to kill the bitter taste of a season that might've been.