With the Badgers losing a tight one to No. 8 Stanford, the argument that Wisconsin shouldn’t have been there is pretty flimsy.
After spotting the Cardinal a pair of touchdowns, the Badgers roared back — regardless of how many losses they had or why they were in the 99th Rose Bowl.
But the Badgers just didn’t have enough offensive firepower.
A trustworthy running game was complemented with a passing game that relied on several deflected balls to be caught for first downs and many dropped passes, that could’ve been huge plays.
The biggest difference from last year’s team to this one is the guy that did the intro for Curt Phillips. Russell Wilson was by far and away the best quarterback the school has ever had and he lifted the Badgers not only to the top of the conference but within a whisper of a national title conversation.
This team gambled and lost when it thought that Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien would be able to reclaim some of the magic lost when Wilson moved on to the NFL. Then there was Joel Stave, who for some reason was given a two-snap pitch count in Pasadena, and Phillips. The former being a green freshman and the latter being an experienced injury bug that has had two ACL tears and an infection forcing three surgeries.
The defense had its back to the wall when a phantom punt catching interference penalty was called on Shelton Johnson, giving the Cardinal a short field early in the fourth quarter. But it held strong and kept Stanford to a field after advancing to the Badgers’ 5. It was the eighth time this year the defense held a team to 20 points or less and the third time the offense didn’t hold up its end of the bargain with a loss.
Which brings us to next season. Phillips, Stave and newly minted prospect Bart Houston will be dueling for the starting job starting next spring. With new coach Gary Andersen, who came from a spread attack in Utah State, likely wasn’t pleased with the mediocre quarterback play.
The Wisconsin quarterback needs to understand that the running backs will carry the ball at least 40 times a game. But in that system there’s still room for a dynamic passer to emerge that does more than just keep opposing defenses honest. That guy needs to understand that Jared Abbrederis’ 44 yards receiving were the only double-digit receiving yards in Pasadena. And that’s just not good enough.
The Badgers were spoiled when Wilson came here. He was mature beyond his years after spending two seasons as a second baseman in the minors.
Now Wisconsin has a hard time kick-starting its offense without the use of a cerebral strong-armed passer that can carve up secondaries.
Everything else is there. The Badgers have James White and Melvin Gordon in the backfield, another strong line up front and Abbrederis is back.
Andersen has seen Houston sling it in practice and has to be deviously impressed at how he can zip the out pass across the field and how accurate his deep ball is.
The whole nation saw Wisconsin come up just short in its third straight Rose Bowl. The only way to stop the comparisons to the Buffalo Bills is to put a quarterback out there who can win a game by himself if he has to.
To contact Cory Jennerjohn e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @CoryJennerjohn.