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Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012

A Rough Week By Any Count

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Fans of the Badgers probably wish they could burrow away from the memories of last week's agonizing losses in football and basketball. Fortunately for the rooting half of the Observers, there was a little time to deal with the pain.

Frank: It's good that our deadline last week kept us from quickly discussing the Rose Bowl. Right after the game you probably were incoherent.

Artie
: It got worse the next night when the clock ran out on the UW hoopsters against Michigan State—left hanging on the final play in two sports! It's enough to make me buy into the Mayan calendar's alleged prediction that 2012 will see the End of Days.

Frank
: Sunday in Ann Arbor the final seconds didn't matter as the Badgers got drilled by 18 points.

Artie:
For the third straight game their shooting was horrible. I think we can now call their offense no-dimensional.

Frank
: Let's see... Against Michigan they made 7 for 20 three-point shots. That was after 5 for 22 against Michigan State and 3 for 28 against Iowa. Overall that's 15 for 70, or about 21%.

Artie
: And their shorter-range shooting ain't much better—9 for 31 on Sunday. In their early games, like the close loss at North Carolina, I thought, "These guys could be even better than last year," because of how they moved the ball. But something's gone awry; a certain intensity seemed to be missing Sunday. I'm more dumbfounded than outraged.

Frank
: I sure hope you look better than Bo Ryan did after the tying three-pointer against the Spartans was ruled too late. Wow, Bo doesn't do himself any favors when he scrunches up his face in fury.

Artie
: With the swept-back hair, all he needs is a cape and fangs and he's Count Bo-cula.

Frank
: My old roommate from Marquette has been calling him "Dracula" for years. I know he's really a nice guy, but that mad-face is something!

Artie
: I do think his ire had been building for that whole game, thanks to some ridiculous calls. But, jeez, if they'd made just a couple more treys, they'd have won. Same with the Iowa game.

Frank
: To shoot that poorly is positively Mayan. Meanwhile Marquette is having its own problems, all involving the magic word "consistency." If they could combine their first half against Georgetown and their second half against Syracuse, they'd be fine. But that's a discussion for another day. Let's get back to the Rose Bowl, assuming you've calmed down from it.

Artie
: It would have been so fitting if the Badgers had tied it on the final play, since their losses to Michigan State and Ohio State came on two goofball long passes.

Frank
: On that last play from the Oregon 25, I think Russell Wilson may have not realized when the clock starts after a first down. It isn't when the ball is snapped, it's when the referee gives the windmill motion after the ball is placed.

Artie
: And that's not good for the quarterback because the ref's behind him. Wilson could see the other official backing away from the ball, but how's he supposed to see behind him, ain'a?

Frank
: Besides that, Wilson had to cock his arm a little to spike the ball, and that takes time. Which is why I think the Badgers' mistake was in trying for the spike instead of having a play ready. There was time to snap the ball. Bret Bielema sure could have used the timeout he got charged in questioning the touchback where the Oregon guy almost left the end zone.

Artie
: Yeah, and there was a goofy moment at the end of the first half where Nick Toon got out of bounds but the clock kept running.

Frank
: It had something to do with getting knocked backward, but it wasn't explained very well.

Artie
: I think those refs messed up! They were from the ACC, so what do they know about big-time football? The most important game they'd probably worked was Duke vs. Wake Forest.

Frank
: Bielema probably would have used that missing timeout earlier in the final drive, but then they would have had time to make the spike and take a shot at the end zone. On the other hand, maybe with more time left Oregon would have used a more aggressive defense.

Artie
: End of Days, I'm tellin' you. How else could Tim Tebow win a playoff game? Now I'm just hoping the clock doesn't run out on the drive to dump Scott Walker. Then I'd really know the end is near.

Frank
: If so, it won't matter who the governor is.

No Small Task for the Pack

Artie
: As I watched the Giants manhandle Atlanta in the NFL wild-card round, I fell into a reverie, recalling a day just over 50 years ago.

Frank
: Ugh. I know that day...

Artie
: December of 1961, when Vince Lombardi's boys demolished your Giants, 37-0, for the NFL title.

Frank
: And a year later at Yankee Stadium it was 16-7. But I have a reverie about a more recent time.

Artie
: My turn. Ugh!

Frank
: January of 2008, Eli Manning outplays Brett Favre and the Giants win in overtime, 23-20, for the NFC title.

Artie
: How the hell could Favre melt down in that cold? But see, that's where my reverie comes in. When they beat the Giants this Sunday, it'll be revenge for that disaster.

Frank
: Except the Giants still have some revenge due for '62. Well, I guess we can agree that this game could be extremely close.

Artie
: The Giants gave the Pack all it could handle last month in Jersey. And now they're on a roll, just like they were in '08.

Frank
: Four weeks ago they were left for dead after an ugly loss to Washington. But since then they've hammered the Jets, Cowboys and the Falcons.

Artie
: When they beat Dallas to make the playoffs I said, "That's a good-looking 9-7 team."

Frank
: And they're capable of executing that "blueprint" for beating the Packers. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 155 yards Sunday...

Artie
: After their rushing game was missing most of the season.

Frank
: And I'll quote from last week's Sports Illustrated: "The Packers have been the best team, but they're not invincible. Coordinator Dom Capers' defense seems powerless to stop even the most mediocre backs."

Artie
: Sad but true.

Frank
: Plus, Manning and his receivers are really clicking, and the Giants have revived the kind of pass rush that propelled them to the Super Bowl title in '08.

Artie
: They turned the Atlanta QB, "Matty Ice" Ryan, into "Matty Stinks on Ice."

Frank
: There has to be a strong rush for the Big Blue-print to work against Aaron Rodgers.

Artie
: I sure hope the Pack's O-line has healed up over the bye. But remember, the Giants couldn't contain Rodgers last month, especially on the lightning-fast drive to the winning field goal.

Frank
: So it could be another shootout Sunday.

Artie
: The Pack's defense certainly hasn't been good, except for getting turnovers. I think they really feel the loss of Nick Collins at the very beginning of the season, which goofed up the whole secondary. And there's been no pass rush to supplement Clay Matthews, who's always getting double-teamed.

Frank
: Does that mean the departure of Cullen Jenkins to Philadelphia was more important than they expected?

Artie
: I guess that's part of it. They were counting on Mike Neal, but he's injured too much. And they're not getting a rush from Erik Walden or Brad Jones at the other outside linebacking spot.

Frank
: Only one thing is certain: By Sunday evening one of the Observers will be crowing, "Vengeance is mine!"