IOWA CITY IA - OCTOBER 23: Offensive lineman Gabe Carimi #68 for the Wisconsin Badger holds the Heartland Trophy with his teammates as they celebrate their victory of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium on October 23 2010 in Iowa City Iowa. Wisconsin won 31-30 over Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images).
Whew. I think that's the first time I've exhaled since, oh, sometime around 6:00 last night. The Badgers went into Kinnick and came back with a huge win. A one point win, no less. Despite what some Iowa fans think (aside to HawkeyeRecon and Hoya: thank you for making my night so much more entertaining), I'm not going to sit here and crow about this victory. Well, not a lot at least.
Yeah, I know, that got you scratching your heads.
But, why not, you may be asking? Isn't that sort of how it works? And didn't you do exactly that last year after Northwestern partially crushed the hopes and dreams of so many Iowa fans? (For those of you watching the Iowa - Wisconsin game yesterday, I'm pretty sure the crying girl fan at the end of the game was the exact same one who cried at the end of the Northwestern game last year. Guess she just gets really emotional about her football.)
Well, I suppose I did do that last year. And if I wanted, I could do that today. But, frankly, this wasn't the Ohio State game. And it doesn't deserve an Ohio State game like article.
Though Wisconsin was the official underdog by almost a touchdown heading into this game, I knew going in that this was a game between evenly matched teams. I said as much in pre-game discussion on this very site. It was most definitely not a gimme for the Badgers. This was a game that could have gone either way. Somebody had to win, and yesterday that somebody was Wisky.
So, yeah, as much as I want to, I can't really sit here and be too over the top with this one. I mean, we only won 31-30. It's not like we completely routed the No. 1 team in the country on ESPN at night by almost two touchdowns *ahem*. Truth is, Bucky escaped by the skin of his teeth. I'm happy, but mainly relieved. There were no celebratory baffles this morning.
But... I suppose I can revel a little bit...
What I am most happy for with this game was the fact that Wisconsin, playing without number two running back James White, number one tight end Lance Kendricks, or clutch receiver Nick Toon, for most of the game somehow still managed to drive down the field and put points on the board consistently.
Each drive in this game (whether Hawkeye or Badger) was a microcosm of old-school Big Ten football. Time chewing. Surging forward. Run on first down. Run on second down. Run on first down again. And again. And then if you get in trouble and have a third and four at your own 34? No problem. Just fling a short pass over the middle to your tight end for a fifteen yard gain. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
And the Wisconsin offensive line. Oh my god. Gabe Carimi and the rest really live up to the hype, don't they? When they need to execute, they do. The Iowa D-Line (much like the Ohio State D-Line) isn't a chump unit, but when Wisconsin needed a yard or two on a run up the middle, especially in the red zone, the O-Line made it happen.
There were quite a few times watching this game where Wisconsin would be in a 4th and 1 situation, somewhere near the goal line. I'd be yelling at my TV to take the safe route and kick the field goal, and Bielema would send the offense back out onto the field. "NO!" I would yell. "Please don't leave points off the board! We need them! All of them!" but then they would push the ball right up the middle behind the offensive line and somehow it would all work out. Whatever they're making for those guys over at Babcock Hall, they really need to keep doing.
The best part is really in the coaching details. For once in my football watching life, I get to be happy knowing that the fatal coaching errors that cost one of the teams in this game a victory did not occur on my side. No, this time it was Iowa fans who have to deal with the fallout from coaching booboos. After the amount of crap I've read about Bret Bielema as a coach (and, okay, I've written some of it), I can't tell you how happy it makes me to watch somebody else's head coach screw up in monumental fashion.
And, finally, I do have to say... yeah, I am feeling good about being right. Not just about the eventual outcome of the game, but about why it happened. Those special teams mistakes we saw in Iowa's game at Arizona? They weren't just a one time event folks. Iowa's defense may be one of the best in the game right now, and their senior-led offense may be quite scary, but until they get special teams under control there's always going to be the danger that they will screw up and give the game away.
Now, to be sure, it's not as though the Badger season ended today. They still have four games left. The Pasadena hopes are alive and well, but for it to happen they need either Michigan State to lose twice, or for Sparty to go undefeated and sneak into the National Championship game, along with a Pac-10 team. With the insanity that's been happening across the rest of the college football world the last few weeks, don't be surprised if the latter happens. I think it's more likely than the former at this point, considering the rest of the Spartan schedule.
Even if Bucky doesn't smell roses this year, the victory yesterday at Iowa makes it much more likely that they will see a BCS game. But they need to finish strong. The bye week couldn't have come at a better time for them. Rest up, regain focus, and make a commitment to finish this season out the way it needs to be done. Enjoy the ride Badger fans. I know I will!
Until next time,