(credit to bucky&pack on the B5Q gamethread for the title)
The first reaction I had, after, that is, the white hot rage, in response to the horror show ending of the Wisconsin and Arizona State game was, "I've never seen anything like that before!"
And then I remembered that I had. As referenced in the title, I've experienced not one, but two, epic screwjobs by football officials against teams that I cheer for. In less than a year. I'm just not sure how that happens.
And, fundamentally, I don't get it. There is no other sport that I can think of where a game outcome can be decided by how fast an official takes to reset play after a stoppage. Even the most frustrating balls and strikes calls in baseball don't come close to the end of this game, or to the Packers/Seahawks game. It's the height of absurdity.
There will be some who say that Wisconsin shouldn't have even run a play in the situation. Perhaps. But, the reality is that Kyle French is not the most reliable kicker, and it is completely impossible to anticipate the type of action that the officials took at the end of the game. I don't fault the coaching staff for running the play in the first place.
There are others who say that the officials acts were balanced out by the questionable in-bounds call on the pass reception that put the Badgers in field goal range in the first place. To that I say: first, are you INSANE? The two are orders of magnitude different. Second, assuming you are actually still in possession of your sanity, the refs also missed a facemask call on the defender on that play that would have resulted in 15 yards anyway.
Really, even not counting the end, much of the officiating was questionable, at best, in that game.
And, really, neither team should have been in position to win that game. ASU's receivers made an absurd number of drops in the first half -- so many that it reminded me of the Northwestern - Mississippi State bowl game last year. Had those receivers hung on, it's possible the Badgers would have been down by one or two more scores.
On the flip side, Wisconsin was overly penalized on the night, mostly due to the secondary. Some of the calls were questionable (or entirely phantom), but the fact remains that the weaknesses of the Wisconsin secondary are real. While their ability to stay with receivers on man-to-man coverage was admirable, the excessive use of hands, the miscommunication at times, and the inexplicable ability to do anything to stop those back shoulder sideline catches seriously worry me.
As to those catches. When ASU ran the same play four times in a row successfully, my friend Vince said that it was like a Madden glitch. Yeah, pretty much.
Joel Stave also looked... uneven, on the night. He made a couple clutch plays, but also continued his unfortunate habit of holding on to the ball waaay too long. He had several throws that were just downright bad, one of which would have gone for a TD had he completed it. He also missed a wide open downfield receiver on one completion, which I can only attribute to him just not seeing the entirety of the field. I wonder if Curt Phillips or Bart Houston will be starting games this season...
And then there was the play calling. Why so many passing plays on 3rd and short? Further, why so many non-play-action passing plays on third and short? It was like watching the TCU-Wisconsin Rose Bowl 2-pt conversion over and over and over again.
Of course, it wasn't all bad. Melvin Gordon looked insanely good last night, and you have to believe that B1G defensive coordinators are going to be scared of his explosiveness. He's a game changer. And, I have to give credit to the front seven for much of the game. Chris Borland excelled as expected, but I was also impressed that ASU was unable to get much going on the ground, even though they supposedly have one of the best rushing attacks in the Pac-12.
And, special teams wasn't nearly as horrible as it could have been. So, there's that, I guess.
Many people on here and elsewhere made the point prior to this game that not much should have been made of the Badgers first two games against completely inferior competition. At the time, my only objection to such comments was that they underrated the running threat that Wisconsin was showing. I think that the performance by Gordon last night only reinforces that.
While I am upset about this loss, I do not think that it has much bearing on how I view the Badgers chances in the conference. Ohio State is still a tough game, and a likely loss. But, other than the Northwestern game, I still don't think that the Badgers will face anything like ASU. There are not likely to be any more games where the game time temperature is 97 degrees. And, again, save for Northwestern, there are no teams remaining on the schedule whose tempo or passing attack are as threatening as what Wisconsin dealt with in ASU.
This means, though, that the game against Northwestern is going to be an epic one. Glad I'm going to be in Madison for that, though I'm definitely going to invest in one of those conflicted fan hats.
Still, at the end of the day, I'm seeing a season that is 11-1 at best for the Badgers, likely 10-2, and 9-3 at worst. I'll take it.