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Badgers defeated in wake of loss

first_imgKevin Hagstrom is a senior double majoringin journalism and economics. Want to talk about Saturday’s game or the rest ofthe football season? He can be reached for comment at khagstrom@badgerherald.com. The imageof OSU running back Chris Wells pulling everyone to the right side of thefield, cutting back and leaving Wisconsin’s defense in his wake keeps repeatingin safety Aubrey Pleasant’s mind following the game. He shouldhave made the play. That’s all the sophomore can think about. He shouldhave been there, even though it wasn’t his assignment.To him,Wisconsin let a win slip away en route to a heart-wrenching 38-17 loss afterholding a 17-10 advantage. Watchingthe players slowly file out of the stadium toward the visitors locker room withtheir heads hanging in sorrow, any observer could see that this loss shreddedthe Badger players’ pride and left them in utter despair. They wereslow coming out for postgame interviews, likely still in shock from being soclose to saving their season, yet finishing so far from it. You could see it inPleasant’s eyes when he finally came out for interviews; this was Wisconsin’sRose Bowl. This was its shot at redemption. And it let one slip away. Now theBig Ten title is a mathematic impossibility. Even Wisconsin’s newfound Januaryhome in Orlando (the Capital One Bowl) will be rented out to the highestbidder. In reality, the best-case scenario would be a trip to Tampa Bay for theOutback Bowl, but more likely the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. To befair, Wisconsin was up against tremendous odds. Enteringthe game, Ohio State had allowed five offensive touchdowns all season and hadthe best scoring, pass and total defense in the country led by All-Americanlinebacker James Laurinaitis and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins. Only Washingtonmanaged to put up two offensive touchdowns on what has been an untouchable OSUdefense.Itsoffense, behind Wells and quarterback Todd Boeckman, makes few mistakes and wassecond in the Big Ten, averaging a shade lower than 35 points per game. Wellswas second in the Big Ten in rushing yards (in conference play only) andBoeckman was leading in passing efficiency by more than 30 points. Since JimTressel took over as head coach in 2001, the Buckeyes have gone 71-14 (.835)overall and 44-4 (.917) at home. They were also riding a Big Ten record-tying19 consecutive conference game winning streak and a 27-game regular seasonwinning streak (which they obviously extended to 28 Saturday to equal a104-year-old record set by the Wolverines of Michigan). On top ofOhio State’s grocery list of reasons why it’s nearly impossible for anyone tobeat them, Wisconsin wasn’t exactly bringing its “A” team to Columbus, Ohio. Two ofWisconsin’s top offensive threats were out for the game. Luke Swan, UW’s toppossession receiver coming into the season, is out for the year after tearinghis hamstring against Illinois, and P.J. Hill couldn’t go due to a lower leginjury. Wisconsin’s second option at running back, Lance Smith (who isaveraging 6.4 yards per carry), wasn’t available because he is serving asuspension for all Badger road games. Not to mention the absence of startingright guard Andy Kemp and the three starters who got hurt during the game.Effectively,the Badgers were pushed into a blazing fire equipped with nothing but eye-droppers;the game was unwinnable. The notionthat Wisconsin held its own with the best team in the land for 40 minutes andexploited some weaknesses in the Ohio State defense that no one thought existedis reason enough for the players to hold their heads high, not hang them insolitude.Thedefense too. Unlike Wisconsin’s first two losses against Illinois and PennState, its defense played well enough. It didn’t force any turnovers but itkept the Buckeyes at bay until that forgettable fourth quarter when the betterteam asserted itself and won.AlthoughUW left everything on the field, I get the feeling that wasn’t good enough(Wisconsin let one slip away). And that’s not fair. Pleasant shouldn’t beathimself up over the little things, like not making a tackle someone else shouldhave been in position to make. Instead, he should understand that this teamfinally is who we thought they were going to be at season’s start. No, theexpectations aren’t the same as then — while the 1-0 philosophy works and I dobelieve the players believed in it as well, many of them must have had RoseBowl aspirations on their minds — but whatever bowl game the Badgers areplaying toward, they can’t lose sight of what we witnessed Saturday. If theycan replicate that performance by leaving their hearts and everything else theyknow out on the field this weekend against Michigan, there’s no such thing asfailure. last_img read more