Wisconsin led LSU 24-7 with 12:24 to go in the third quarter, but what seemed like a Badger path to victory turned in to a house of horrors. LSU didn’t lie down, and instead the Tigers rose up to the occasion — reeling off 21 unanswered points for a 28-24 victory in the Advocare Texas Kickoff.
Once again the Badgers failed to close a game out, and once again UW failed to win a close game. It’s an all too familiar script for the Wisconsin football program.
Wisconsin has now lost games by 10 points or less in 18 of their last 19 losses. The last time you find the Badgers losing by more than 10 points in a game is on October 10, 2009 where UW lost 31-13 to Ohio State in Columbus.
Making matters worse? 17 of the last 18 losses for UW have come by a touchdown or less. Suffice it to say, the Badger players and fans have seen this script play out all too often.
Yet, this time the script was a bit of the odd variety. Wisconsin suffered a pair of major injuries to key starting defensive linemen and as soon as Warren Herring left the game for good the tide began to change.
Herring left early in the second half of the contest and it made all the difference in being able to hold the point of attack for Wisconsin. Instead of being able to trust a group of experienced defensive linemen, the Badgers turned to a redshirt sophomore on the inside, a redshirt freshman on one end and a little-used senior on the other end.
To be sure, it wasn’t the only moment that changed things, but losing a leader on the defensive line meant throwing three inexperienced players out there against one of the most talented offensive lines in the country.
LSU’s victory also extended an already record 45-game win streak in non-conference games to 46 wins in a row. So, perhaps it shouldn’t have been all that surprising to see the Tigers storm back in the second half.
But, let’s get in to the real stuff you want to know…our postgame reaction!
Badger of the Game: Melvin Gordon, RB
While both Michael Caputo and Michael Trotter had amazing defensive games, there’s no way you can deny that Gordon was the best Wisconsin Badger on that field. All he did was average 8.8 yards per carry, gain 140 yards on 16 carries and score a touchdown. No bid deal, right?
The reality of how UW’s offense played out in week one is that the Badgers need him healthy. Following his 63-yard run to open the second half and subsequent “injury” (we’ll get in to that later), the Badgers offense fell apart. That’s no coincidence.
Turning Point: Warren Herring’s injury
Wisconsin can ill-afford a lot of injuries up font on the defensive side of the ball. But, on Saturday night defensive tackle Warren Herring ended up the worse for the wear in the early second half. After he was gone the complexion of the game changed in a major way. LSU ran the ball virtually at will and had little to do in the pass game besides the occasional twist of the knife in the fourth quarter.
Herring had 2.5 tackles and a quarterback hit before he went out — numbers that may not see amazing, but he played an important role beyond the stat sheet. Losing his presence meant a lot to how this game turned out, and it wasn’t good in any way.
Stat of the Game: 2 carries
That’s the number of carries Melvin Gordon received in the second half of the football game. On the first one he gained 63 yards, on the last one he lost yards.
With the Badgers nearly exclusively going to Corey Clement in the second half, there were rumors of a possible injury. Yet, the coaching staff and players were not talking about an injury to Gordon in the second half.
Instead, the Badgers run game was put in the hands of a completely unproven (at this high of a level) back in Clement, and he amassed 45 yards on 15 carries.
The following the game UW coaches and players played that decision off as a “coaching decision” and not something more serious.
Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement both insisted nothing is wrong with Gordon. Not giving explanation on Gordon's two carries though. #Badgers
— Evan Flood (@Evan_Flood) August 31, 2014
If the coaching staff really only gave Gordon two carries on a “coaches decision” I’m questioning the coaches decision making right the hell now. How do you not give it to a back who took the opening carry 63 yards if everything is alright?
Tweet of the Game:
I didn't keep score, but I had numerous calls for Stave tonight, one or two for Houston and at least one for Gillins. #Badgers
— Dave Heller (@dave_heller) August 31, 2014
Look, Tanner McEvoy was not good (perhaps downright awful and that might be being fair at best) in the passing game. However, this tweet illustrates something that I found hilarious throughout the game — last season’s anti-Stave group clamoring for his savior-like return under center.
I counted at least 10 Badger fans who climbed all over Stave’s ass last season…and rode it all season long…calling for Stave to get in the game. That kind of logic begs two scenarios — either you were wrong last season, and Stave is a good quarterback…or you got exactly what you wished for in a more mobile quarterback.
For all those who wanted Stave replaced last season, you got your wish. How exactly did that turn out?
Highlight of the Game: