The Wisconsin Badgers season opener against the Northern Iowa Panthers didn’t go quite as planned, but they did pull out the 26-21 win. All things considered, the Panthers (0-1) had a legitimate shot to take the lead late in the fourth quarter until the Badgers (1-0) defense buckled down and saved the game.
Last season, former quarterback Russell Wilson and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst had the Badgers scoring in less than sixty seconds, but it appears new OC Matt Canada and the Badgers will return to a more traditional and conservative approach in 2012.
What It Means: I wouldn’t say the Badgers had a bad game nor did they have a good game. While the Northern Iowa Panthers are not your typical FCS team, Wisconsin failed to impress on many fronts. The offensive line was far from dominant, leaving limited room for Montee Ball and James White to work throughout the game and the defense had a handful of blown assignments which led to three Panthers touchdowns in the second half. It’s also worth noting that the Badgers had a very conservative gameplan of short passes, rarely letting the ball go down the field. Wisconsin will have to chalk this up as being the first game of the season and look for a lot of improvement going forward.
Mont-AY Heisman Watch: The offensive plan in the first half was to feed Ball as much as possible because that’s what you do with a Heisman candidate. While the plan had great intentions, Ball wasn’t able to yield great results with 20 carries, 82 yards and zero touchdowns in the first half. Ball’s characteristic touchdown did come in the second half, salvaging what could have been a disastrous day without a TD. Overall, Ball had a static performance in regards to the Heisman; 32 carries, 120 yards and one touchdown.
Player of the Game: QB Danny O’Brien (a.k.a DOB)
If you had to describe O’Brien’s performance in one word, it would be efficient. In his first game at Camp Randall, he completed 19 of 23 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. Head coach Bret Bielema stressed during the post-game conference that he’s a different quarterback than Russell Wilson, even though people will make the comparisons anyways. Give credit to O’Brien for performing under pressure, he had around thirty family members in attendance.
Highlight of the Game: DOB’s 53 yard bomb to Abbrederis has to be the highlight of the day. Not only was it the Badgers’ longest play of the day, it was the only time O’Brien had the opportunity to show what kind of downfield accuracy he really has.
Stat of the Game (21): Ball has scored a touchdown in 21 straight games, six games shy of the all-time NCAA record.
What’s Next: The Badgers will travel to Oregon State to play in their season-opener. Bielema mentioned in the presser that the Beavers will have the advantage for film since they now have something to work on. Wisconsin will look to make a big jump with their second week performance.
What were you most surprised by in the Badgers opener? Is there reason for concern or was UNI that good? Let me know by commenting below.
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice and pretend to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.
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