Our conversation with Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal, who’s been on the Badgers’ beat since 1999
Has there been a noticeable difference in the offense since the firing of offensive line coach Mike Markuson?
It has been a slow process. The new line coach, Bart Miller, is trying to go back to the way the line did things under former offensive line coach Bob Bostad, who left after last season. But as Miller pointed out this week, he’s only had eight “work days” leading into this game, counting the two heavy practice days each week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It wasn’t going to turn around overnight. The continued issues on third and short — when was the last time Wisconsin couldn’t run for a yard when it needed it? — show the line still isn’t playing at a high level. But the players and coaches feel like it’s going in the right direction.
Has the development of Joel Stave assured people that Bret Bielema won’t be looking for a transfer quarterback next summer?
It’s interesting because there were all of these questions a year ago about bringing in a one-and-done quarterback from the outside and inserting him as the starter. Then, Russell Wilson blew everybody away with his personality and his talent, fitting in like he played his entire career at UW. So, even though nobody expected Danny O’Brien to be as good as Wilson, people just assumed it would be another good fit, with the added benefit of having O’Brien around for two years. Well, scratch that. The players seem more comfortable with Stave than they did with O’Brien. But Stave is still a redshirt freshman, which showed up last week. His poise in the first half on the road at Nebraska was impressive. But when Nebraska’s defense took away wide receiver Jared Abbrederis in the second half, Stave struggled finding other options. Stave is a work in progress, and there will continue to be growing pains. Finding transfers was always a stop-gap measure necessitated by injuries. I think the Badgers will be happy to return to developing their own guys after this season.
Is Bucky in good enough shape to keep running those Montee Ball flags up at Camp Randall?
Bucky is well rested, given the offensive issues this season. UW ranks last in the conference in rushing, passing and total offense. That kind of sums it all up. When UW was averaging a school-record 44.1 points per game last season, everybody was worried about Bucky having to do too many pushups. Nobody is worried about that this season. Ball had three TDs at Nebraska last week, to get him back on track a little bit. But it’s hard to score touchdowns when everybody in the universe knows you’re going to get the ball inside the opponent’s 10-yard line.