Fruehauf Going Off

Story by Steve Fruehauf, Staff Writer

It seems Wisconsin’s offensive woes are here to stay. That’s what Saturday’s embarrassing 16-14 win against an unimpressive Utah State showed fans. With the Camp Randall winning streak in the balance, the Badgers were let off the hook after the Aggies missed a makeable 37 yard field goal in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

As a Badgers fan, it’s become increasingly frustrating to watch a once-potent offensive machine unravel after just one year. Their biggest issue is the lack of red zone production. They get close but for some reason can’t punch it in, which is surprising. Just a season ago, scoring was the last issue the Big Ten team had under Russell Wilson.

But Danny O’Brien has proved over the past three weeks that he is no Wilson. His throwing has been extremely unreliable thus far. For that reason, he was pulled after the first half last Saturday. His two quarter passing game was merited his benching, only passing for 63 yards with an interception that was overturned after a roughing penalty. His replacement, freshman Joel Stave, was no better either, adding just 15 yards the second half. They also had a new receiving leader for the third week in a row, Brian Wozniak. He hauled in two receptions for a whopping 24 yards.

The only thing that wasn’t mistaken for middle school football was Montee Ball’s run game. He rushed for a well-deserved 139 yards, earning a touchdown in the process. But other than that, Wisconsin’s offense was a joke. It seems their personnel read my article last week and decided to dish the rock to Ball more this week (22 more carries) but it came at the total expense of the passing game. Not to assume that Wisconsin would have had many completions with those extra passes, but these guys are Division I players so they should be able to execute.

Fans caught glimpses of a successful Badgers team week one against Northern Iowa so we know it’s possible. But they haven’t looked the same since. If it wasn’t for Kenzel Doe running an 82 yard punt back for a touchdown, it would be the Aggies with a win. They cannot continue to put their first big points of the game on the board late in the third or fourth quarter.

So what should happen now? Give the ball to Montee. That’s the only thing working for the offense right now. He can get first downs, something O’Brien and his receiving core can’t seem to reign in. But like I said, fans saw in week one a taste of what the Badger’s passing could be. I’m not sure if its wide receiver Abbrederis not playing Saturday or if O’Brien isn’t confident in his other receivers but something obviously needs to change. They need to start getting the ball moving through the air. Because eventually, opposing defenses are going to focus solely on Ball and then nothing will work for Wisconsin.

I’m not sure if I’m more afraid of Head Coach Bret Bielema’s growing lack of faith in O’Brien or O’Brien’s lack of production, one that he was famous for his first year at Maryland. I’m certainly not confident in Stave taking over the starting spot, but I feel like it may help if they had an open competition again. It would add more pressure onto the quarterbacks to produce. But as for now, rely heavily on Ball and his Heisman abilities. He’s Wisconsin’s rock. My once-faithful outlook on the season is beginning to disappear for the Badgers, along with my hopes of them sitting atop the Big Ten Conference.