Observations on the loss to Wisconsin, 20-23!

1-We had 3 red zones opportunities created by our offense for 10 points in the first half, and none in the second half. Our offense lost this game, not our defense. Wisconsin had five red zone opportunities, one in the first half and four in the second half for 20 points. Each team capitalized on the other's turnover for 7 points each. The difference was red zone opportunities and execution. Our offense created no red zone opportunities in the second half while their offense created three, and our offense gave them a red zone opportunity on the turnover by Max Martin for their fourth second half red zone.

2-Special teams totally self-destructed in the second half. Steve Breaston should be benched. He is a senior, and he looks like a freshman back in coverage. His mistake on the kickoff return cost us valuable field position, and gave our offense the ball at the 8 yard line. Charles Stewart cost us field position on the Breaston punt return to the 50 so our offense also began a drive at the 8. Ross Ryan punted the ball from the 50 to the Wisconsin 27 for a net of 23 yards, and again a great field position opportunity. Wisconsin, on the other hand, killed a punt at our 2, made two second half field goals and had a wonderful kickoff return by Brandon Williams when they needed it. Kudos to the Wisconsin special teams for contributing to a great Badger win, and shame on the Michigan special teams for poor decision-making and execution.

Our team uncharacteristically was guilty of 9 penalties for 68 yards, and many were quite ridiculous. Henne's intentional grounding, Massaquoi holding on Henne's 1st quarter scramble for a 1st down, Charles Stewart holding on Breaston's 42 yard punt return, holding on another punt return, Henige's personal foul after Martin's fumble, Massey offside, 7 men not on line of scrimmage, etc. Wisconsin had a lot of penalties that were costly also.

3-Our offense is not nearly as good as we'd all hoped they'd be this year. Henne looks like a Sophomore, and not like the leader we were counting on. It is obvious that Braylon Edwards made his freshman season special. Henne ended up 16 of 34 with one pick that led to a Wisconsin touchdown. He led our offense to 17 first downs, but only 5 in the second half. Our offense didn't execute one successful 3rd down conversion in the second half, and finished 6 for 15 in the game (0 for 5 in the second half). We ended up with 401 yards of total offense on 71 plays. We only had 148 yards of total offense in the second half on 25 offensive plays, and if we take away the "dipsey doodle" trick play of 49 yards it would be 99 yards on 24 plays.

The time of possession advantage of 2 minutes at the half was lost because of poor offensive execution, and Wisconsin dominated the possession by 8 minutes; therefore, in the second half, they had the ball 20 minutes compared to our 10 minutes. Even when we scored on the Grady to Henne to Manningham bomb of 49 yards, we turned the ball back to Wisconsin too quickly to give our defense time to rest. Kudos to Terry Malone for a wonderful play call to keep us in the game. He is a great coach, and did a great job; however, it was player execution from Henne, Breaston and others that cost us.

Jason Avant had a nice game with 7 catches for 108 yards and one TD. Manningham should be starting after his 4 catches for 106 yards and a TD.

4-Max Martin ran for 91 yards on 16 carries, but his fumble in the red zone changed the complexion of the game. Kevin Grady ran for 53 yards in 15 carries. Grady has added 2 receptions for 27 yards while Martin has one catch for 5 yards. Our team net rushing yardage was only 143 yards, and that isn't good enough for a Big Ten contender; this is another reason why we didn't win. The Badgers only netted 140 yards, but Calhoun netted 155 yards himself on 35 carries; he also killed us with those 7 catches for 59 yards.

Am I stupid or would it have been a good defensive move to have one player like perhaps Prescott Burgess following Calhoun on every play? Isn't that called "keying" on a player? It seems like a back like Calhoun and an offense like Wisconsin's deserves this type of attention.

5-Our defense played a "whale of a game" in holding down a good Wisconsin team to 23 points in 5 red zone opportunities and that dominated time of possession so dramatically in the second half. David Harris led the defense with 9 tackles including 2 for loss. Lamarr Woodley had 8 tackles including 3 for loss, one of those was a sack. Our defense held the Badgers to 287 net yards in 75 plays. The Badgers had 3 fumbles, but recovered all three so we only forced one turnover on the pick by Mason. Hall had two nice pass break ups. Wisconsin was 8 of 17 on 3rd down conversions, but 6 of 10 in the second half. We forced them into 6 punts.

I was hoping Prescott Burgess was going to be some type of All-Big 10 or All-American player, but it is obvious to me that these were wishful expectations. He did contribute 6 tackles, but was unimpressive in letting Calhoun consistently past his side on the corner sweeps. Also, his pass coverage appears to be only mediocre, and I expected more from someone who was a former high school all-American safety.

Our linebackers are a consistent weakness in our defense. Harris is playing well, but Graham and Burgess don't have their names called enough and are consistently blocked on sweeps. We're not getting much help from backups like Crable, McClintock and others either.

6-Our worst fears are realized. We are not as good of a team as we had hoped. Virtually all the other Big Ten teams are every bit as good as we are. We could finish as high as perhaps 3rd and get to an Outback Bowl if we improve, but we could finish as low as 5th, 6th or 7th and only make the Sun, Music City or Motor City Bowls. Michigan State will roll over us with their outstanding quarterback, Drew Stanton, and a tough, determined defense ready to gain revenge from last year's overtime loss in a game they had won only to let it slip away due to complacency. Minnesota, Penn State or even Northwestern could beat us. Ohio State will certainly beat us with their outstanding defense, and improving running game. It is a critical time for Michigan football. We lost two games, Notre Dame and Wisconsin, that we both could have won if our offense would have executed. My suggestion is that we bench Steve Breaston at receiver and on special teams, and start Manningham at receiver. We could use Avant, Hall, Manningham, Trent or others on special teams returns.

Observations on the first half with the Badgers, 13-3!

1-We've had 3 red zones opportunities created by our offense for 10 points while Wisconsin has one red zone created by their offense for 3.

2-Defense has been outstanding in shutting down the Badger offense with 7 first downs, and holding Calhoun to 53 yards in 12 carries and 2 receptions for 11 yards. Wisconsin offense is 2 of 7 in 3rd down conversions and has been forced into 4 punts while we hold a 2 minute time of possession advantage which has resulted in 15 extra offensive plays.

3-Our offense really started shaky, but has composed itself to earn some points. Henne is 11 of 20 for 159 yards with no picks, no sacks, three nice scrambles for 14 yards although one was called back for a penalty, and one TD. Avant has 4 receptions for 57 yards and one TD. Manningham has 3 catches for 57 yards (Breaston has no catches). We have 12 first downs and have converted 6 of 10 in 3rd and 4th down conversions for 253 total yards in offense. We have only had to punt once.

4-Max Martin leads our rushing attack with 71 yards in 11 carries while Kevin Grady has 25 yards in 8 carries. Grady has added 2 receptions for 27 yards while Martin has one catch for 5 yards.

5-Special teams have included two field goals and one extra point by Rivas, and some nice kickoffs and a good punt by Ryan. Penalties have played a big part in this game for both teams as we have 5 penalties for 35 yards and they have 3 for 25, and one of those three led to our first field goal after they stopped us with a Rivas miss at 49 yards.

6-It will still be a nailbiter! Defense must hold, and offense must possess the ball. Field position and time of possession will be keys to a win.
Wisconsin Preview: Wisconsin's rushing defense is amongst the best in the nation currently ranked #4 allowing only 39.7 net rushing yards per game. They have 9 sacks in three games, and will put their best rush and blitz packages for us. They will be a challenge for our offensive line to block. Henne must have a great game in reading their defensive schemes, adjusting and eluding their pass rush.

Colorado transfer Brian Calhoun is the Big Ten's leading rusher averaging nearly 180 yards per game and has scored 8 TDs leading the nation in scoring so they'll be running straight at us. John Stocco is currently the #2 Big Ten quarterback behind Stanton in rating at 193.32. Brandon Williams is a dangerous receiver and punt returner, and Detroiter Jonathan Orr is his other favorite target along with Owen Daniel. Their special teams are solid. We'll have our hands full with a night game in Madison. It will be a close game, and we'll be lucky to come away with a win. We must stop their run, win the time of possession, prevent turnovers while creating Badger turnovers into points.

Our biggest threat, Jason Avant, will be dealt with similarly to how Notre Dame did it. You can bet that they'll be watching that film very carefully, and put the pressure on Breaston to have a big game. Hopefully, Breaston and Manningham can do enough to prevent double coverage on Avant.