The democratization of access represents, in my opinion, blogging’s greatest contribution. The Internet serves as the great equalizer. A keyboard and a modem provide one a stage. The result? Intelligent people, not constrained by the professional dictums of boredom preached in the ivory tower of a prestigious university’s school of journalism, have a platform. We have, therefore, more voices, more discussion. I can safely state I have learned more about other B1G teams on this site (from both articles and comments) than I could ever hope to from any pre-season magazine or newspaper. And the reason is, through these new forums the number of voices multiplies. And, being a good American, I have always been under the impression that quantity leads to tougher competition. And the greater the contest for space in a market, the higher the quality at the top. Because cream rises.
That’s right. It took the combined football intellect of a former professional running back and a former professional quarterback almost four full quarters to read a defense. And then immediately forget what they saw. And it then took the World Wide Leader another few minutes to perpetuate the myth on its website.
My defense of the defense aside, there were problems. Chris Borland, who missed most of last season, predictably looked rusty. A playmaker at OLB, the coaching staff moved him inside, bumping Mike Taylor outside. As rusty as Borland may have been, Taylor looked uncomfortable. On UNLV’s second drive he failed to keep containment. While much of UNLV’s success on the outside was the result of Wisconsin’s soft defense, both Borland and Taylor did a poor job of getting outside and bottling the play up. When faced with a more traditional power play with pulling linemen (making it far easier to read and react), both were strong at the point of attack and held UNLV backs in check.
It’s just UNLV, an overmatched non-AQ playing on the road. That’s all one need remember to temper nascent Russell Mania. Still, Russell Wilson looks like he might just live up to some of the loftier expectations dumped on his shoulders. With an offensive line laden with talent and experience and Montee Ball and James White riding in the backfield, forecasting a strong running game was not farfetched. Three plays, though, give reason to think the 2011 Badger offense might be better than the 2010 iteration.
1) Russell Wilson 39 yard pass to Nick Toon on the Badgers’ third offensive drive. Two things stand out. Firstly, Toon made a strong play on the ball. If 2011 Nick Toon is anything like the 2009 version, I pity opposing defensive coordinators. Secondly, the vertical passing game was a concern coming in. While UNLV’s secondary is only a fraction of what Nebraska can throw out, seeing a deep ball puts a partisan’s mind at ease.
2) Russell Wilson 63 yard pass to Montee Ball. Since Brian Calhoun in 2005, Wisconsin has lacked a true receiving threat out of the backfield. Part of it is conceptual; with a rushing attack so brutal, passes to the tight end and the play action pass have defined Bucky’s aerial game. With Wilson’s ability to move around in the pocket, keep plays alive, and force the defense to get deep, short passes to two of the better open-field running backs makes this offense near indefensible (at this point I see hyperbole and remind myself it’s just UNLV…)
3) Russell Wilson 46 yard rush for a touchdown. I knew Wilson could run the ball. But wow. It wasn’t the touchdown. It wasn’t the vision in the open field. It was the acceleration. I’ve been reading "a dimension Wisconsin has never had" for a month or so now, and all I could think about was how quickly people had forgotten Mike Samuel and Brooks Bollinger. Those guys were talented and they were winners. They could not hope to match the pure athleticism Wilson displayed on that burst. Every single third-and-eight Wisconsin will face this year just became far less daunting.