I only returned from frolicking on the beach in time to watch the second half of Saturday’s game. So I can’t comment in an informed manner about the entirety of the game. But the box score tells a bizarre story in terms of finding the statistical pieces of a Spartan victory:
- We were outrushed by 223 yards on a day our star player was battling some sort of virus.
- Brian Hoyer completed just 43.1% of his pass attempts, while getting sacked three times.
- Turnovers were even (and negative for MSU if you consider the botched fake punt to essentially be a turnover).
- MSU’s return game didn’t do anything of a game-changing nature.
What statistical indicators are left to offset all that?
- 12 penalties called on the Badgers for 121 yards vs. just 2 for 30 yards called on MSU. (Note: 3 of the Badger penalties were for pass interference for a total of 41 yards. And replays pretty clearly showed another intereference penalty was warranted on the final drive when a Badger defender impeded Deon Curry’s pass route.)
- Mr. Brett Swenson: 4-4 on field goal attempts, including two of the clutchest* field goal makes you’ll ever see: attempts of 50 and 44 yards that were right down the middle with plenty of distance to spare.
*The WordPress spellchecker doesn’t like “clutchest.” But I don’t care.
Turning to the other Bret who played a key role in this game, I’m not sure I’d be as charitable toward Bret Bielema as our friend Scott at Badgercentric is being were I a Wisconsin fan. Witness:
- Burning a replay challenge and timeout on a punt touchback everyone could see was the right call on the first replay that was shown.
- Costing his team 15 yards on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to put MSU at midfield to start the drive on which they pulled within 5 points.
- The questionable timeout call to allow MSU to set up the final field goal attempt with a full play clock.
None of those things individually led to Wisconsin’s defeat, but they collectively created a sense that the Badgers lacked composure in defending their lead. A John L. Smith award may be in the offing.
In the end, MSU pulled out a game they were fundamentally outplayed in. College football is a game where every win and loss matters, regardless of how it was achieved. So an 8-2 record in a rebuilding a year works for me, even if it’s the function of a team playing well above its head. For once, we’re the team that kept its wits about it in the waning moments of a tight game.
As a result, New Year’s Day beckons.
Finally, I hate to end this post by dredging up painful memories, but Scott at Badgercentric does draw an intersting analogy:
In a way, this was very similar to our win over Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament. State for the most part outplayed us in that game but foul trouble on their bigs, which their fans would pin on refereeing, let us creep back in, and Flowers’ steal stole the game for us late. This was the football equivalent of that, only with us on the losing end. Payback’s a bitch … but I’m glad we got that win.
And we’re glad we got this one.