September 11, 2010

UW sloppy in home opening victory

MADISON - Just call the Wisconsin football team consistent.

Unfortunately, that's probably not meant in the best of ways.

After coughing the ball up in the red zone and throwing critical interceptions a week ago at UNLV, the Badgers were up to their old tricks yet again, this time against San Jose State in the home opener.

Yes, it was a 27-14 win for the Badgers, but more importantly, the sloppy play and generally unmotivated play left much to be desired for a team ranked No. 11 in the nation.

In Saturday's meeting with a Spartans squad fresh off a 48-3 drubbing at Alabama, Wisconsin had a chance to make strides from week one to week two. Instead, thwarted drives and inconsistencies on both sides of the ball hampered any sort of progress from being made.

"If there was one guy that kept repeating it and if it was the same situations I would be (concerned)," Bielema said. "There are very specific things that you can point at and say that's what caused it.

"Because it's going to be such a terrific teaching tape that point will go forward even better."

Much like they did a week ago at UNLV, Wisconsin didn't waste much time opening the scoring. To cap a 10-play, 77-yard drive, John Clay found the end zone for the first of two times with a one-yard punch for a quick Badger seven-point lead.

But on UW's second, and promising, drive, the sloppiness found its start.

Trying to get to the edge for his first career collegiate touchdown James White extended the ball towards the front pylon only to have it slapped out of his hands and through the back of the end zone.

What could have been another emphatic touchdown drive capped with another bruising run fell by the wayside and San Jose State took over following the touchback.

"I saw the end zone and I tried to stick the ball out," White, who finished the game with 25 rushing yards on six carries, said. "As soon as I tried it popped right up. It's a great learning experience. I just need to hold on to it, lower my shoulder and I'll get my way to the end zone."

Thought that's where the carelessness started, it isn't by any means where it ended.

On three separate occasions, senior quarterback Scott Tolzien, who finished 15-of-22 for 191 yards, a touchdown and an interception, was on the wrong end of a fumbled ball. Once, he had the ball stripped as he was looking downfield in the pocket. Another fumble came on a botched handoff and the third fell to the ground during a bad center-quarterback exchange.

Needless to say, Tolzien, a player that demands more of himself, was anything but pleased with his performance following the game.

"I've got to be accountable for myself," Tolzien said. "First and foremost I've got to play better myself. That's on me. I've got to make sure it doesn't happen plain and simple."

Though the Badgers were anything but crisp, they still held a 20-0 lead late in the third quarter.

However, San Jose State was on the verge of breaking through. Lined up at the UW 37 yard line, Spartans quarterback Jorda La Secla connected with Chandler Jones on a quick wide receiver bubble screen. Though the play looked innocent enough from the start, it suddenly turned sour as the Badger defensive backs promptly missed four tackles that let Jones squeak his way into the end zone.

"That's not acceptable at all," UW senior cornerback Niles Brinkley said. "The coaches don't accept that at all. We work tackling all the time. We've just got to wrap up and hold on. We can't let four people miss a tackle on one play. If you do that we won't win ball games.

"That's the goal, to win."

Following an ecstatic edition of 'Jump Around,' it seemed the Badgers finally had some life pumped into their bodies to start the fourth quarter. And most of that had to do with the determination of junior tailback John Clay.

After San Jose State cut the lead to 13, Clay touched the ball five times out of the nine-play series, including a one-yard rush for his second and final score of the day. By the end of the contest, Clay had rushed for a game-high 137 yards on 23 carries.

He was part of a bruising backfield that amassed 212 yards on the ground.

"They've got a bruising football team running the football," San Jose State head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "They can run the ball as good as anyone in the country. And when you can do that you're in any game because you can control the clock, you can keep it close and make plays.

"I think they'll have a hard time losing this year in conference, I really do."

But it wasn't just running the ball that helped UW put the points it was able to muster on the board. The passing game, even without Nick Toon (turf toe) and David Gilreath (concussion), was pretty efficient.

A lot of that had to do with the play of Jared Abbrederis who finished with 58 yards receiving on five catches.

"During practice the coaches put us in those positions just in case something happens," Abbrederis said. "I was really excited when I got the opportunity to get out there. Last week I got some playing time and today when Gilreath went down I just really had to step up."

Though it was far from pretty, and though there will be plenty of teaching points had throughout the week, the bottom line is that UW came out on the right side of the score. A win, after all, is a win.

"Being 2-0 in the college football world is a great thing," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "That's as perfect as you can get. We'll be 2-0 and next week we'll be shooting for 3-0."

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