Would These Roses Smell As Sweet?
So despite a regular season that was highly disappointing, the Badgers could take a third straight trip to Pasadena. The 24-21 overtime loss at Penn State made no difference, but that didn't make it any less puzzling.
Artie: Boy, I can't believe they didn't run Montee Ball up the middle more—that's sarcasm! It seemed like that was all they did run after scoring twice quickly on plays that went wide.
Frank: You really think so? I thought they had Curt Phillips throwing too much in the second half and should have run more.
Artie: James White had seven carries and Melvin Gordon only one, but Ball had 27. But they all seemed to be between the tackles, and Penn State was ready.
Frank: But isn't “pound-'em-down” running the Badgers' specialty? I agreed with the TV analyst, Brock Huard, when he said in the fourth quarter, “Now can I please see three straight runs from Wisconsin...”
Artie: I thought he was being sarcastic!
Frank: Nope, he continued, “Instead of all the cute play-action stuff.” I guess I agree the inside stuff wasn't working, but I don't think Phillips' performance merited the 25 throws he got.
Artie: I know Mark Chmura said on the radio that there was too much running up the middle.
Frank: One time they did try to go outside was during the weird sequence with 5 minutes to play. Down 21-14 and third-and-9 at the Penn State 20, they ran Ball wide, but to the short side of the field! After that failed, Bret Bielema disdained a field goal and Phillips got intercepted. As things turned out, if they'd made it 21-17 their last-minute touchdown would have won the game.
Artie: By the way, I got a kick out of both TV guys blathering about how they'd talked so much with the UW people, but then botching the name of the Badgers' injured QB. Hey fellas, it's Joel “STAH-vay,” not “STAYve.”
Frank: So what about this UW season? You can say, “All their losses were by seven points or fewer and three were in overtime.” Or you can say, “Every time they faced a team that was actually competitive, they lost.”
Artie: They just haven't had a very good season. Part of it might have to do with having six new assistants or coordinators; I'm not sold on Matt Canada as the offensive guru. And Bielema even made a second change at offensive-line coach after the Oregon State loss.
Frank: But the line stayed inconsistent. Stomping Indiana with 564 rushing yards was fun, but what about a mere 19 in 37 attempts against Michigan State?
Artie: The ever-changing quarterback situation sure didn't help, ain’a?
Frank: Danny O'Brien, the transfer from Maryland, played his way down the depth chart quickly.
Artie: The red-shirt freshman Stave took over and looked competent, sometimes more than that. Then he went out in October with a broken collarbone and Bielema chose Phillips over O'Brien.
Frank: For all the turmoil and frustration, if they beat Nebraska—which only beat 'em by three points in Lincoln—the season is redeemed, sort of.
Artie: They can do it! The Huskers have won six straight but they only edged crummy Iowa by six points Saturday. But if the Badgers sputter again, instead of 8-5 and the Rose Bowl it'll be 7-6 and the Hostess Twinkies Bowl, or whatever, sometime in early December at 9:30 in the morning.
Frank: Not too appealing.
Artie: What's really appealing is a Big Ten matchup against Rutgers or Maryland in a couple of years. I can't think of anything so thrilling.
Frank: This time I spot your sarcasm.
HITTING SOME ROUGH TRAIL
Frank: The Bucks were rolling at 6-2 before they stumbled in Charlotte and came up achingly short against Miami and Chicago. What do you make of 'em so far?
Artie: I still can't tell. I'm not sure we've seen the rotation Scott Skiles really wants to go with consistently.
Frank: We've mentioned our puzzlement over Drew Gooden not getting any playing time through the first 11 games.
Artie: And Saturday night, suddenly Samuel Dalembert was glued to the bench for the whole game. What, is Skiles shipping him off with Gooden to the ether...
Frank: The what?
Artie: The ether, some state of metaphysical non-existence....
Frank: Wait, let's Google this...”The upper reaches of space, the heavens.” Well, with Skiles one never knows.
Artie: There are positives for sure. Larry Sanders is playing well, and Epke Udoh.
Frank: John Henson had his first big game as a rookie with 17 points and 18 boards in Miami.
Artie: And then hardly played against Chicago. I can see the Bucks going on a five-game winning streak, but I also can see them losing four or five straight. Maybe soon Skiles will start nobody and bring people in one at a time. At least it might keep the other team off the foul line.
Frank: The disparity in free throws was large Saturday night, but did you think the Bucks were getting “jobbed”?
Artie: I didn't have that sense. The Bulls were pounding the offensive glass.
Frank: The numbers do show a pattern. Through 11 games the Bucks were averaging 18.1 free throws per game, making 13.7, while their opponents were averaging 25.7 and 20.3.
Artie: So the foes were making more than the Bucks were taking.
Frank: Right, but I think that's largely because the Bucks are mostly a jump-shooting team. Through 11 games they averaged about 100 points and 50 came from the main outside shooters: Monta Ellis (19.9), Brandon Jennings (17.5) and Mike Dunleavy (12.3). It's how they play.
Artie: I guess so, although Ellis tries to get to the hoop a lot and Jennings seems to be doing it more.
Frank: Another big shooter from last season, Ersan Ilyasova, has slumped badly. Last season he earned a big contract by averaging 13 points and 8.8 rebounds. This year his 11-game averages were 6.3 and 4.9.
Artie: The form of his shot, at least on three-pointers, looks odd. He's doing something different with his feet, like he's jumping with a scissors kick.
Frank: Last year he shot 49.2% overall and 45.5% on threes. But the numbers entering this week were 31.9% and 22.7%.
Artie: If those don't rise he could get a dose of the ether.
THE LESS SAID...
Frank: Good thing we reserved this small spot for the Packers. Not much to say about a 38-10 smackdown by the Giants.
Artie: That was discouraging. All Aaron Rodgers escaped with was his mustache. They looked like they didn't want to be there.
Frank: Still, at 7-4 they're in decent shape to make the playoffs.
Artie: But they're still a game behind the stinkin' Bears for the division title and some home cooking in the post-season.
Frank: They better find a sense of urgency this Sunday against the Vikings.
Artie: Mike “We'll Get That Fixed” McCarthy won't run out of tasks this week.