Thoughts On Wisconsin’s Win Over The LSU Tigers
One of the big games during college football’s opening weekend was between the LSU Tigers and Wisconsin Badgers. The game was played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin and it did not disappoint the near 80,000 fans in attendance. The Badgers won 16-14 over #5 ranked LSU thanks to a late field goal by Rafael Gaglianone with 3:47 left in the game.
The Badgers did some things well against LSU and there was also some things they must improve on. Below are some thoughts on what those things are.
1. A repeat of 2014 was avoided – It was not difficult to see this game unfold in much the same way the 2014 contest did. Two years ago, Wisconsin held a double digit lead early in the third quarter before seeing it evaporate. Then, it was a 24-7 lead after the Badgers scored on their first drive of the second half. In 2014, the Tigers won 28-24 after scoring the last 21 points and holding the Badgers to 65 yards in the fourth quarter.
This time around, Wisconsin led 13-0 after their first drive of the second half (again scoring a touchdown to start their final half) only to give up 14 points in the span of 67 seconds. The Badgers got it together and drove down the field late in the game to give them the chance to win, which Gaglianone did with a 47 yard field goal.
2. The offense needs to be more efficient – The Badgers dominated the first half on both offense and defense, but only came away with a 6-0 lead halfway through the game. Head coach Paul Chryst opted to go for it on fourth and one early in the game on the second drive, but the offense could not get the needed yard. Quarterback Bart Houston threw a pick straight to LSU’s Rickey Jefferson in the end zone to keep the game scoreless.
The second half saw Houston throw his second interception of the game and this one put points on the board for LSU as it was returned for a touchdown by Tre’Davious White. That interception was followed up by a fumble on the next drive for Wisconsin. Receiver George Rushing caught the ball, but did not secure it as he was hit. Once again, White was there for the recovery and all the momentum (along with the lead) shifted to LSU after their ensuing touchdown drive.
For the game, the offense was 3 of 15 on third downs, another area that must improve. The Badgers were officially 2 of 3 inside the red zone, but it felt worse than that with the missed fourth down just outside the red zone and the fact they settled for field goals.
3. The defense kept Leonard Fournette in check… For the most part – Fournette finished with 138 yards on 23 carries, but the first half was not pretty. He went for only 33 yards on 10 rushes in the first 30 minutes. Or this sums up Fournette’s first half:
— Saturday Down South (@SDS) September 3, 2016
Fournette did get going in the second half. He broke a 30 yard run on LSU’s second drive of the third quarter, a drive in which he ended up with 51 yards on 4 carries. He also had a big catch for 31 yards right after the George Rushing fumble that set up LSU’s second touchdown. It is very difficult to stop Fournette, but the Badgers did contain for much of the game.
4. Bart Houston has some work to do – This game presented a double-edged sword in regards to Houston. He played decently with two interceptions, both of which were terrible throws and should have never been thrown. However, he faced one of the game’s best defensive coordinators in Dave Aranda and survived. It is not easy to face your team’s former defensive coordinator all the while starting your first game since late 2011 when your were in high school.
In addition, this game was in Lambeau Field combined with the fact he is named after former Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr. Maybe it was a summation of all those things that led to some of his nervous moments.
There were some good moments too. Often he would take what the defense gave him and he found his personal safety valve in Troy Fumagalli (7 catches for 100 yards). It will be interesting to see how those two develop together over the season. Could they be reminiscent of the connect Joel Stave and Alex Erickson seemed to have the previous two seasons?
5. How does this game shape the rest of 2016? If the Badgers can take their first half defense against LSU and combine it with their opening third quarter drive, this team will be difficult in every game. But games are not played in a vacuum, mistakes happen, and there is daunting part of 2016 schedule for the Badgers.
The Badgers will open 3-0 as they face both Akron and Georgia State the next two weeks at home. Few schedules will rival what Wisconsin faces over a five week span: at Michigan State (9/24), at Michigan (10/1), home to Ohio State (10/15), and at Iowa (10/22). Oh and all of those teams are ranked in the top 20 as of this writing. Brutal.