Archive for November, 2007

Blogging, Chatting, and Watching The Packers/Cowboys
November 30, 2007

Don’t know how many of you were aware of this, but my friends and I at Channel 3000 tried something a little different last night. During the Packers/Cowboys game, I moderated a live chat and posted live commentary about the action. It was exhausting (I got up only once to use the bathroom!) but a lot of fun.

Anyway, day after reflections aren’t much different than last night’s thoughts. Packers look to be in good hands with Rodgers after Favre retires. Favre should probably sit a couple of games (especially considering their opponents) but he is unlikely to, citing the extra days off before having to play Oakland at Lambeau on December 9. I think the Packers could have won last night had they played their game, but what they were doing early on offensively was a mystery. Certainly defensively they missed Woodson and KGB, but I think the play on offense early on was a bigger factor in the loss. But certainly credit the Packers with coming back and making a game out of it. Last night’s game did nothing to change my mind that the Packers have a great chance of playing the Patriots in February. At the end of the day, it’s one loss. It’s a disappointing loss, but it’s one loss.

(BTW, think we’ve had it rough this week with the Packers and Badgers men’s basketball team losing? How would you like to be a New York sports fan today? Both the Jets and Giants had horrible, crushing defeats last week and did you see what the Celtics did to the Knicks on Thursday? The Knicks have to be the most embarrassing franchise in professional sports. How does that happen in the biggest sports and media market in the country? Imagine the Yankees playing on the level of the Royals. The Knicks are playing on the level of junior high school boys after having just seen Porky’s for the first time. But good news for the Milwaukee Bucks, as they visit MSG Friday night. Chances are the crowd won’t exactly be on the side of Isiah Thomas’s crowd.)

Anyway, here’s my commentary from Thursday night. Think “The Betrayal” episode of Seinfeld: Comments go from end of game back to beginning of game. Have a great weekend.

10:36 p.m. Thanks for reading this commentary. I hope you enjoyed it and I hope to do it again. Thanks and have a good night.

10:32 p.m. That’s it. A game of highs and lows but ultimately a disappointment. Cowboys win it 37-27. Packers still have a lot to play for and given who they play coming up, will almost surely finish season strong. Big questions after this game — besides the extent of Brett Favre’s injury will be what was the deal with that early play selection and what was the deal with that pass interference call in the fourth quarter.

10:30 p.m. Sorry, Collinsworth, but Cowboys are not going to beat Patriots in Super Bowl. Good ratings though, for that Super Bowl should it happen. Ratings would be good if the Packers were in it as well though obviously.

10:29 p.m. Good evidence tonight that Rodgers will step in well as Packers QB when Favre retires. That fact should ease a lot of Packer fans.

10:28 p.m. Man, did Romo outplay Favre tonight. Very impressed. I thought this game would rattle him. This game will definitely get him more dates with bubblegum pop singers.

10:27 p.m. This field goal will ice it. 25 yard attempt. It’s good. That puts the Cowboys up 37-27. Ugh.

10:25 p.m. Face it, Packers got hosed on that pass interference call. But I wouldn’t call it the only difference in the game. Cowboys did a lot right and Packers did a lot wrong, especially early.
10:23 p.m. So the Packers will “fall” to 10-2. If you knew in August that the Packers would be 10-2 going into December, you wouldn’t have believed it and you’d be thrilled. Disappointing how tonight’s game went, but Packers are going to playoffs as at least a 2 seed. And given how they came back tonight, I wouldn’t count them out winning NFC Championship right back at Texas Stadium.

10:19 p.m. Packers have started to use their timeouts. This game is now a long way from the embarrassment it started out, but it appears that Favre has failed to win his first game at Texas Stadium. One of nine stadiums at which he hasn’t one in. I’m surprised at the high number. Favre just went back to the locker room. Two minute warning.

10:17 p.m. Bigby just called on a face mask. 15 yard variety. He is having an awful game. Not since the 2600 version of Pac-Man have I been so disappointed in something named “Atari.”

10:16 p.m. Witten again on a first down. Packers don’t have an answer for him.

10:15 p.m. Possible Grant had first down but McCarthy had no more challenges left. Why do you lose a challenge if you are successful with them? Why are you penalized for a successful challenge? That’s ridiculous.

10:13 p.m. Still say McCarthy should have gone for it. If Packers could have scored TD and they make stand here, much less nerve-wracking for Rodgers to have to drive for FG then drive for TD.

10:10 p.m.Collinsworth just said that Cowboys have not given up 100 yard rusher all season? That’s a surprise. Grant’s almost there. MCCARTHY KICKING ON FOURTH AND SHORT? SHOULD HAVE GONE FOR IT. THIS IS A 52-YARD ATTEMPT! Well, he got it. Packers still need that touchdown to tie.

10:09 p.m. Robinson gets good YAC for good second down game. Third and short. Probably four down territory at this point.

10:08 p.m. Two straight first downs for Packers. Obviously offense is keeping cool in tough spot. But just overthrew Jennings on a deep ball.

10:06 p.m. NFL Network reviewing pass interference. That was horrible call. Packers got a gift with the Harris end zone interception. Cowboys got a gift with that call. Cowboys took advantage, Packers did not. Of course, it’s pretty easy to take advantage when you’re given first and goal.

10:04 p.m. Two scores needed in 7:30. Certainly possible, but Cowboys have dominated fourth quarter so far and they have the running backs that are good at eating up the clock. Not giving up yet, but it’s looking like Packers just dug themselves too deep a hole in that first half to climb out of. McCarthy will be forced to answer questions about the play calling early on. What was with all of those deep balls? And the flea flicker?

10:01 p.m. Touchdown to Patrick Crayton. Harris had pretty good coverage but didn’t cut fast enough and Crayton got in front of him. 10 point lead now. Packers have uphill battle.
10:00 p.m. 42 yard penalty. That’s inexcusable. But if Packers can hold Cowboys to field goal — and it is third down already.

9:58 p.m. Good no call on pass interference — oh, boy, conference between refs. NOW THEY ARE CALLING PASS INTERFERENCE. That’s terrible call. That’s not interference. Awful.
9:57 p.m. Kampmann is getting closer to getting sack. Had good hit on Romo that last completion. Third and eight. Too easy. Jason Whitten again. Momentum slowly going back to Cowboys.

9:55 p.m Packers stuff Jones on first and 20. We need big defensive stand right here.

9:54 p.m. Witten big play on first down. 13 yards.

9:51 p.m. Rodgers sacked. No protection at all. Lousy way to cash in on interception gift. Cowboys get ball back with lead.

9:50 p.m. Rodgers back to work. Are the Vikings and Bears in the playoff picture? NFL Network says they are.

9:49 p.m. After an incredible first half, Owens could be the goat of this game if the Cowboys lose. Love to hear what he has to say about that play.

9:47 p.m. That was beautiful! OWENS DROPS BALL IN END ZONE AND AL HARRIS GETS IT. HUGE INTERCEPTION. OWENS MUFFS INCREDIBLY EASY CATCH AND IT LANDS IN HARRIS’S LAP. WHAT WAS THAT I SAID ABOUT A TURNOVER?

9:46 p.m. Fourth quarter begins. Packers stuff Barber. Good stop.

9:43 p.m. Al Harris gets cheap shot on Owens during Barber run. Harris is clearly frustrated having to cover Owens. End of third quarter. Green Bay shut out Dallas in third quarter, but unless Packers get a turnover here, Dallas will score as fourth quarter begins.

9:42 p.m. Barber gets big run. Huge hole to the left on that one. Cowboys have first and goal.

9:41 p.m. Owens gets completion. Al Harris gets tackle but Cowboys have third and short.

9:40 p.m. Owens completion is overturned. Good challenge by McCarthy. Now they don’t know where to spot the ball. The refs are challenging their challenge.

9:37 p.m. That 3rd and 19 conversion by Dallas may prove to be the turning point of the second half. They all of a sudden seem to have a swagger back after being outplayed since Favre left game.

9:36 p.m. Very nice catch by Owens. If he stayed in bounds with possession. I smell challenge. McCarthy might win this one.

9:35 p.m. Bigby is called for face mask. He is not having a good game.

9:34 p.m. Looks like Packers have taken Bush out for Williams.

9:34 p.m. Or Crayton that is. 35 yard gain. That is a momentum killer.

9:33 p.m. Cowboys have yet to convert a third down in this game. 3rd and 19 right now. Now is not the time to let Owens rip one off.

9:32 p.m. All of a sudden this defense — the Packers, that is — is flying to the football. Cowboys are definitely out of sync on offense now.

9:31 p.m. Like those Fathead commercials. Can I get one of those of Tavaris Jackson?

9:29 p.m. Pressure on Cowboys to respond. They do not want to let Aaron Rodgers beat them. But that’s exactly what is happening.

9:26 p.m. TOUCHDOWN PACKERS! RYAN GRANT HAS HIS SECOND OF THE GAME. HUGE COMEBACK GOING ON HERE. 27-24.

9:24 p.m. First down on goal line for Packers.

9:23 p.m. Driver near goal line. This is definitely Packer football.

9:22 p.m. Face mask on Rodgers sack. 1st down for Packers!

9:21 p.m. Green Bay at Cowboy 20. 2nd and 9. Crowd very loud. Donald Lee with another catch. 3rd and four. Seems bizarre that Green Bay is so much back in this game after horrible start.

9:20 p.m. Rodgers is getting great protection from offensive line. Big throw to Donald Lee. Seven completions in a row for Rodgers.

9:19 p.m. Dallas attack has definitely slowed. They appear to have fallen asleep a little bit. Rodgers gets a first down on a scramble. He does not look frazzled at all. This is the chance he’s been waiting for. Making most of it so far.

9:17 p.m. Favre looks very reflective on the sidelines. Wonder how that elbow is feeling. Rodgers had great protection and completed ball to Driver. FIRST DOWN!

9:14 p.m. Packers get ball back. Stay tuned . . . Cowboys have lost offensive spark.

9:13 p.m. NFL Network says Favre’s fingers and elbow are numb after hitting arm on Cowboys helmet on hit. Looks like Packers held Cowboys on fourth down. Momentum is shifting . . .

9:12 p.m. Career season for Favre up to tonight. Chances are he won’t care if Packers can come back in this one. Cowboys now at 3rd and 17.

9:11 p.m. Scratch that. Looks like he’s coming back to sidelines. Last couple of Romo passes have been way off.

9:11 p.m. Favre is getting x-rayed right now.

9:10 p.m. Easy holding call on Packers. One way to stop Romo.

9:09 p.m. Big return on second-half kickoff for Cowboys. Crosby had to make tackle. Not what you want. Favre did not come out of locker room for second half.

9:05 p.m. Packers and Cowboys close in first-half yardage. 236 for Cowboys, 223 for Packers. Packers way up in rushing, but obviously skewed because of Grant run. What jumps out at you?13.1 yards per pass play for Cowboys. Not going to win giving up that much yardage every pass play.

9:02 p.m. First half over. Exciting game, but not good for Packer fans. Packers keeping Cowboys rush in check, but they don’t need to run much with passing game Cowboys have. Romo has 197 yards with 147 yards going to Owens. Grant doing well statistically, certainly helped by huge touchdown run. Packers need to take TO out of game. Can’t let biggest weapon of team have this type of game. Rodgers, after rough first drive, looking OK. Favre is not coming out of locker room yet.

9:00 p.m. Favre apparently got hit on a nerve and said he can’t grasp football. Saying now that he’s out for the game.

8:55 p.m. First half over. Can Packers stop Owens? Will Favre return? Did someone say this would be a defensive game? Stay tuned for second half. This one’s not over.

8:54 p.m. Packers some momentum now. Certainly best drive of game just now.

8:53 p.m. Packers pretty lucky to be down by only ten points going into first half.

8:52 p.m. TOUCHDOWN PACKERS! JENNINGS. FIRST CAREER TD IN REGULAR SEASON GAME FOR RODGERS. GOOD DRIVE BY RODGERS.

8:51 p.m. First completion to Driver but little gain.

8:50 p.m. Dangerous pass by Rodgers. Ineligible receiver downfield on Packers. One step up, two steps back.

8:49 p.m. Good run for Grant. First down and goal for Packers.

8:49 p.m. NFL Network saying Favre has a bruised wrist. Corner Newman back in for Cowboys.
8:45 p.m. Another injury for Cowboys. Linebacker Burnett. Tide turning in favor of Packers? Two-minute warning.

8:45 p.m. Rodgers dumped. Need to get a TD here. 2nd and nine. No room for Grant on the screen. Flag down.

8:43 p.m. Good to see Jennings again. Two catches back-to-back. Best drive in a while. Odd that it’s with Rodgers and not Favre. Cowboys have cornerback Newman hurt. Could be a factor.

8:42 p.m. Rodgers and Grant completely off page. Jennings HUGE RUN AFTER CATCH! This is what they’ve been doing this year! This is what it’s about! Great play!

8:41 p.m. HEY, THE COWBOYS ARE PUNTING! THE COWBOYS ARE PUNTING! THE COWBOYS ARE PUNTING!

8:39 p.m. Six catches for Owens for 147 yards? In the second quarter? Hey, I’m playing against him on my fantasy team! Ugh! Romo just had a rare lousy pass to Witten. 3rd and 11 for Cowboys. Got to hold them here.

8:38 p.m. Favre is massaging the arm. Holding the football the entire time he’s been out. Owens wide open again. Harris was totally fooled on that one. At least Kampmann almost got a sack on
Romo. But still, big play, Dallas out of their end quickly.

8:35 p.m. Why are the Packers losing? Favre on the sidelines with two interceptions and four of 12. Jennings and Driver? No catches.

8:34 p.m. Favre is working on his arm on the sideline. Be surprised if he’s not back in the second half.

8:33 p.m. What is with this coverage? Someone must be open! Collinsworth just called a Dallas defender a “tool.” I think he meant it in a positive way.

8:32 p.m. Good scramble by Rodgers. First down.

8:31 p.m. Just replayed the Favre hit. Looked worse than first thought. First Rodgers pass tipped.

8:31 p.m. AARON RODGERS IS NOW UNDER CENTER! WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?

8:27 p.m. The Cowboys are just having fun with the Packers at this point. Another touchdown. Owens wide open. 27-10 Cowboys. Still 10 minutes in first half. This is not looking good. But of course, Packers still having an awesome season. Sorry, but trying to look for any positives! They still have four games after this one. A big game, but not the biggest game of the year — that will hopefully come in February!

8:26 p.m. Impressed so far with Romo. 7 of 10 for 150 yards I just heard Collinsworth say? Cowboys lost the challenge. Hopefully the Packers used the time to shore up something defensively.

8:25 p.m. Wade Phillips is challenging the call that the pass was incomplete. That’s a drop. Cowboys lose this one. But can the Packers keep them out of the end zone?

8:23 p.m. Fasano dropped a for sure touchdown pass. Packers missed a bullet there. That’s an
incompletion.

8:22 p.m. Obvious pass interference on Bush covering Austin. Ouch. First and goal for Cowboys.

8:19 p.m. Have to limit those toss backs if they aren’t going to be able to stop penetration. Another interception. Favre is flicking his arm like something is wrong. His arm was hit as he threw.

8:19 p.m. Nice completion to Jones under pressure. 19 yards. 1st down.

8:18 p.m. Favre is now 4 for 12. Another long ball into double coverage. Something is not right here. 3rd and 10.

8:17 p.m. THE FLEA FLICKER? What is going on with the play calls here? Driver was double covered.

8:16 p.m. First down Packers. Big drive here.

8:15 p.m. So far Romo is playing well. Obviously the romance with Jessica Simpson isn’t affecting his game. But the Packers are making it easier than it should be.

8:12 p.m. The Packers are not playing Packers football, either offensively and especially not defensively. Need to be more aggressive in their pass defense. Cowboys back up by ten.

8:11 p.m. Touchdown Dallas. Romo to the fullback. A three-play drive. Ouch. WAY TOO EASY! Romo has way too much time. Where is Kampmann?

8:10 p.m. Huge reception for Owens. They have to take him out of the game. If Whitten or Crayton wins it for them, that’s one thing. But they can’t give Romo that much time and they can’t let Owens get that open.

8:07 p.m. Nice return for Dallas. Long first quarter! Holding on Dallas. Good stuff. End of first quarter. Very entertaining game so far. Cowboys in front 13-10. Packers defense needs to shore some things up.

8:06 p.m. Onside kick attempt? In the first quarter? That’s bizarre. Don’t like it. Didn’t work. Penalty on Packers. Rekick. Don’t think they’ll try that again.

8:04 p.m. I really like the NFL Network coverage. So much better than ESPN. They treat every game as if it’s the Super Bowl when most of their matchups are weak.

8:04 p.m. Oops. Cowboys still up 13-10. But huge touchdown for Packers to stop Dallas momentum.

8:03 p.m. Holy! HUGE run by Grant! Touchdown Packers! Looked at first like a short gain for first down, and then he was long gone! Tie game.

8:02 p.m. Odd time out there for Dallas. Maybe somebody wanted to check to see who was voted off of Survivor.

8:01 p.m. If there’s a receiver Favre doesn’t trust, it’s Jones. Dropped a big one there. But Cowboys get flagged for too many men on the field. Packers retain possession. 3rd down.

8:00 p.m. This long stuff isn’t working. Spread it out, more slants. The Packers lead the league in YAC!

7:59 p.m. I mean, no one should panic should they lose this game.

7:59 p.m. OK, not giving up yet, but should they lose, Packers still 10-2. Pretty impressive.

7:56 p.m. 2nd and goal for Dallas. Romo had all day. Touchdown Dallas. What is happening here? What is it about Texas Stadium? Cowboys up 13-3 after TD pass to Patrick Crayton.

7:55 p.m. Here’s where you start missing Woodson.

7:54 p.m. Owens wide open. Need to get him covered up.

7:53 p.m. That was ugly. Picked off. What happened there? Favre got hit, but that’s no excuse. Worst pass seen from Favre in a while.

7:52 p.m. Packers need to do something here. At least hold on to the ball for a while.

7:50 p.m. OK, I meant Cowboys on that last one. Thanks to Owens, the Cowboys settle for a field goal. They’re up 6-3. The Packers got lucky there.

7:49 p.m. Third and long for the Packers. Yes! Love to see Owens drop that ball. Would have been a first down.

7:48 p.m. 16 yards. OK, that throw by Romo was more like it. Owens will get disinterested if he doesn’t start breaking some big plays.

7:47 p.m. Huge run by Barber. Surprised to see those holes open up.

7:46 p.m. I think the Packers will give that short stuff to Owens.

7:45 p.m. Cowboys are running the ball a little better than I anticipated. But I do have Marion Barber on my fantasy team!

7:43 p.m. Favre held on to the ball too long. Surprised to see that. But not surprised to see some plays on defense by both teams.

7:42 p.m. Huge hit on Ryan Grant by Roy Williams. That was impressive.

7:41 p.m. Williams falls down on the return. What is this, Heinz Field?

7:39 p.m. Is there any product that Peyton Manning doesn’t endorse? Does he send a little of that money to Ryan Leaf? He should.

7:38 p.m. Tie game. 3-3. Both of these defense will bend, but it will be hard to get them to break. Good start for the Packers though. Got to take the crowd out of the game.

7:37 p.m. Short of the first down. Doesn’t the NFL Network put the down and yardage on the screen? There it is now.

7:36 p.m. Dallas in the red zone already? Good coverage there. Bush will be tested. Good start for him.

7:35 p.m. Challenge lost. No surprise. Now the Cowboys put together a nice looking screen.

7:31 p.m. How many people were wrong about Mike McCarthy? I know I was. He’s throwing his flag. He won’t win this one. He’s challenging whether it’s a catch. That’s a wasted time out right there. Maybe McCarthy has early jitters as well.

7:30 p.m. I think Harris has that ball. For those of you who can’t see the game, Owens went up for a catch and then Harris snapped it out. OK, they’ve already called it a catch.

7:29 p.m. I don’t think the Cowboys will win this game on the ground any more than the Packers will.

7:26 p.m. Pretty good field position. Let’s see how the Packers handle Owens.

7:24 p.m. Hey, Packers take the early lead. Just a field goal, but I don’t think this game will be as high scoring as many predict. Like that Colts/Patriots game earlier this season.

7:23 p.m. Pretty impressive coverage there. But the Packers are being aggressive. Good sign.

7:20 p.m. Well, that was ugly. Wait, penalty. Forget that.

7:19 p.m. Early jitters. Favre won’t overthrow that pass later on.

7:18 p.m. First pass for a first down. You are going to see this spread offense stuff all night.

7:17 p.m. Sorry. Can’t root for Koren Robinson. Since when do the Packers acquire guys with that much baggage?

7:16 p.m. Roger Staubach. What does he know about how good the Packers are?

7:15 p.m. Say what you want about the NFL Network. I love seeing Bryant Gumbel do football. Reminds me of being a kid and watching the AFC on NBC. Cris Collinsworth is about as exciting as a fourteen-hour bus trip, however.

7:14 p.m. Oh, the coin toss. The tension mounts. Where’s Jerome Bettis?

7:10 p.m. So this will be our first chance to see how the NFL marks the death of Sean Taylor. Interesting that the first moment of silence for a Redskins player comes at the rival Cowboys stadium. I trust most of the fans will be respectful, but you never know. You can drink a lot of Coors by 7:15 p.m.

7:08 p.m. OK, that first one posted. Before we get started and I’m proven wrong, I like the Packers in this game. I know they are the underdog but I like the Packers pass offense against the Cowboys pass defense. Hurts that Woodson is out, though. I’m saying Packers 24, Cowboys 21.

7:05 p.m. Welcome to the ongoing Packers/Cowboys game blog. My head is swimming from all of the instructions I’ve been given by our Web master, but I hope to absorb all of the information, the game, and maybe even some questions as we go along here. Thanks for tuning in!

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Wisconsin Sports Fans — Be Thankful
November 21, 2007

OK, my preseason prediction of Packers over Panthers held true. I predicted a closer game, but obviously didn’t know in September that both Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme wouldn’t be playing. Nor did I know much about this guy named Ryan Grant. Anyway, another dominating performance.

On to Thanksgiving’s matchup against Detroit. After slaughtering Denver at home three weeks ago, the Lions have dropped two straight to fall to 6-4, three full games behind the Pack.

Is Detroit done? Has their previously promising season fallen apart, leaving only the laughable, bumbling, joke of a franchise that we’re all used to in the Motor City?

Well, I wouldn’t go that far. Losing at the 5-5 Arizona Cardinals is not the embarrassment it once was (the Cardinals did beat the Steelers at home earlier in the year), and they did hang with the New York Giants, losing only 16-10. But clearly any discussion of Detroit winning the NFC North has to be put seriously on hold. At least until they can summon up a running game — in the past two weeks they’ve totaled seven yards on the ground — and stop the turnovers — Jon Kitna’s had five interceptions in the past two games and the team has lost four fumbles in that same span.

In contrast, the Packers have looked completely dominant the last couple of weeks, thanks largely to the continued great play of whats-his-name at quarterback and the emergence of Ryan Grant at running back. The only complaint Packer fans could have with last week’s game against Carolina was that the pass defense got a little sloppy in the second half, allowing the aged Vinny Testaverde to throw two touchdowns. The Lions do have a strong passing game, ranking fourth in the NFL (the Packers rank second) in passing yards per game. If the Lions have a prayer to beat Green Bay, and they did beat them the last time they played on Turkey Day, it’s going to be through the air. But it’s not going to happen. I suspect disheartened Detroit fans will be looking for sweet solace in their turkey and stuffing by the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Packer fans will be feeling mighty thankful this year. And in keeping with the spirit of the holiday, here’s my list of what Wisconsin sports fans should be giving thanks for this year:

1. Brett Favre is already hinting that he’ll be coming back next season. Not only should this be welcome news based on his stellar play this season, but it will save us all from the endless “will he retire” blather that has dominated recent offseasons.
2. The Packers missed out on the opportunity to hire Brad Childress as their head coach in 2006. After McCarthy started the 2006 campaign 2-4 and Childress started 4-2 with the Vikings, McCarthy has gone 15-5 and Childress has gone 6-14. The Packers have beaten the Vikings four straight times in that span. McCarthy has been impressive, proving many doubters (including myself) dead wrong. Childress is a lame duck coach who will be lucky to be coaching high school football next year.
3. It’s early, but after losing Kammron Taylor and Alando Tucker, there appears to be plenty of life left in the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team. Hughes is shooting lights out, Brian Butch has been solid in his return, and the team is blowing out the teams it’s supposed to be blowing out. All eyes on that game on Tuesday at Duke. That’ll be fascinating to see how the Badgers match up against that powerhouse — and it’s even on ESPN, so Charter Cable subscribers can see it!
4. The McRib is back at McDonald’s. Well, that’s not sports-related, but we can all be happy about that, can’t we?
5. After a very promising 2007 season, things are definitely looking up for the Brewers — especially if they can land catcher Jason Kendall to replace the injury-prone hothead Johnny Estrada and if they can resign closer Francisco Cordero. I thought fans’ optimism about the team last season was a year too early; I’m betting on them in 2008. Well, not literally “betting,” as that would be wrong, like sampling bulk foods without paying and watching TMZ.
6. That NBC Sunday Night Football opening only airs once a week. Why does this thing bug me so much? Oh, I know: Because it’s insane. Why are these NFL players going to this theater? To watch football? But — excuse me if I’m wrong — football is usually played in a stadium, not a theater. But they’re there to watch NBC’s coverage of it, you say, on a big screen. OK, even if I were to buy that NFL players would flock together like the Osmonds on Thanksgiving to watch a football game on a big screen, then why are Al Michaels and John Madden there? Aren’t they at the stadium? I know John Madden doesn’t like to fly, but is NBC suggesting that Al and John don’t go live to the games and just do their broadcast from some offsite football watching party? Can I get Al and John to come to my house to do their broadcast? If so, can Al keep his political views to himself and can John curb his appetite or do my kids have to hide their fruit roll-ups? Have I mentioned I hate this opening? And I haven’t even gotten to the incessant Sprint product placement or the moronic rewrite of Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” which is the worst bastardization of a song since Celine Dion saw fit to cover AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” In fact, the only way this credit sequence would be worse would be if it had Celine Dion in it. And didn’t you retire a while ago, Celine? Argh! Where’s my medication?
7. OK, this list started off a good idea and now I’ve lost the thread. I best be on my way. I need to rest up for hours of turkey, mashed potatoes, and football. Oh, and that special Survivor Thanksgiving-night recap. You know, that new episode that isn’t really a new episode, but rather a quickly patched-together “best of” of voted-off losers like Chicken and Jean-Robert. Seriously, CBS, I don’t care about these people now that the tribe has spoken. And stop with the finale reunions too. It made sense when Survivor was the most talked-about show on television, but now that it has all the buzz of Barney Miller, it’s enough already. I’d rather watch the lost episodes of Viva Laughlin.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Enjoy the Packers victory.

Final Badger Commentary
November 21, 2007

Blogger’s note: OK, here’s my commentary on the final (regular season) Badger game of the season in case you didn’t see it elsewhere on Channel 3000:

If you didn’t see it, you should be kicking yourself.

No, I’m not talking about Marie Osmond fainting on Dancing with the Stars, although that was pretty entertaining too.

I’m talking about Saturday’s Wisconsin Badgers / Minnesota Gophers football season finale, broadcast — to the outcry of many a cable subscriber — only on the Big Ten Network.

The game was everything a match-up between an 8-3 team and a 1-10 team shouldn’t be: close, exciting, evenly matched, and wildly entertaining.

In short, it was just the sort of game the Big Ten loves to have on the new network and just the sort of game that cable subscriber fans hate to have on the new network.

In the end, it was plays on special teams and the play of freshman running back Zach Brown — more than adequately filling in for the still-injured P.J. Hill — that made the difference for the Badgers, who escaped the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome with not only a 41-34 victory but also the Paul Bunyan Axe, which the Badgers have held now for four straight years.

The win gave the Badgers a final record of 9-3 (5-3 in conference play) and hopes of playing on New Year’s Day. It marks the first time in school history that Wisconsin has won nine games in four straight seasons. The loss secured Minnesota’s first winless season in the Big Ten since 1983.

Upon further review, it probably isn’t such a surprise that Saturday’s game was as close as it was: Not only was Wisconsin due a letdown game after back-to-back games against conference powerhouses Ohio State and Michigan, but Minnesota wanted badly to beat their border rivals in order to end a terrible season with a huge positive. Even more significantly, before Saturday, Wisconsin hadn’t yet won a road conference game this season, losing at Illinois, at Penn State, and at Ohio State by a combined total of 107-50. The defense, much maligned most of the season despite some improvements of late, was largely to blame in those losses, giving up not only big points but big yards — an average of 408 in the three games.

Unfortunately, it was the same road defense on display at the Metrodome; the Badgers surrendered 34 points and a whopping 501 yards of offense to the Gophers, who entered the game with the next-to-last ranked offense in the Big Ten.

Fortunately, the porous defense was continuously bailed out by the offense and by big plays on special teams. Freshman (and Minnesota native) David Gilreath constantly gave the Badgers good field position by returning seven kickoffs for a total of 119 yards and, even more impressively, by returning two punts for a total of 107 yards. Gilreath’s second mammoth punt return set up a two-play, 18-yard scoring drive that put the Badgers up 17-13 in the third quarter).

But it was in the decisive fourth quarter that Wisconsin’s special teams made their biggest plays: First they shut down the Gophers on a fake punt, the attempt of which — coming as it did early in the fourth quarter with his team only down by seven points and on their own side of the field — was undoubtedly Gophers’ coach Tim Brewster’s biggest blunder of the day. Wisconsin made Minnesota pay for that mistake four plays later by scoring on a Tyler Donovan touchdown pass to Travis Beckum that put the Badgers up by a score of 34-20.

Later on, after Minnesota sophomore receiver Eric Decker had beaten Badger cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu for the second time in the end zone to narrow the final score to 34-27 and the Gophers had forced Wisconsin into a three-and-out on its ensuing drive, senior Steve Johnson stopped Minnesota’s momentum by recovering a Gopher fumble on a Ken DeBauche punt at the Minnesota 15-yard line. That heads-up play resulted in another short Wisconsin scoring drive (culminating in Zach Brown’s second touchdown of the afternoon) that gave the Badgers their final points of the game.

But Minnesota still wasn’t done, as Gopher receiver Ralph Spry grabbed a tipped pass and ran 71 yards for a touchdown that resulted in the final points of the game. After the Gopher defense held Wisconsin, it was punter Ken DeBauche’s turn to contribute his best play of the day, as his final punt of the game landed with a thud at the Minnesota eight-yard line with just 1:25 left, effectively squashing any hopes the Gophers had about sending the game into overtime. Two plays later, Ben Strickland intercepted Gopher quarterback Adam Weber to ice the victory.

One Badger special teams player who wasn’t so special: kicker Taylor Mehlhaff, who missed on two of four field goal attempts, a bizarre showing given not only that the game was indoors, but that he had connected on 10 consecutive field goals prior to his first miss on Saturday.

While the Gophers did a decent job shutting down the Badgers’ passing attack — Donovan finished with just six completions (five to tight end Travis Beckum, who had 89 yards and a score) on 14 attempts for one touchdown and one interception — Minnesota had no answer for the Badgers’ rushing attack, which given Hill’s injury and Lance Smith’s ineligibility, was limited to Zach Brown and Donovan. While Donovan was mobile as ever, racking up 68 yards and a touchdown, it was Brown who truly shined. The freshman carried the ball 29 times for a monster 250 yards, including two runs of 60 and 64 yards. Even though the Gophers knew Brown was getting the ball time and time again, especially as the Badgers had the lead in the second half, they time and time again could not stop him.

Although the Badger defense can’t be given too much credit for Saturday’s win, it is noteworthy that they made adjustments at halftime and completely shut down Minnesota’s best rushing threat — its quarterback, Adam Weber. In the first half, Weber, doing his best Tyler Donovan impression, scrambled for 80 yards on only nine carries. He finished the day with just nineteen yards more.

While the Badgers put the clamps on Weber’s feet, they couldn’t shut down his arm, as the Gopher freshman finished with 352 yards and three touchdowns. Wisconsin wasn’t the only team this year unable to contain Weber: Despite the Gophers’ awful season, he broke pretty much all Minnesota quarterback records, finishing the year with 24 touchdowns and 2,895 yards.

Unlike the Gophers, Wisconsin now waits to find out if it will be invited to play in a marquee bowl game on New Year’s Day. After winning four out of its last five, Wisconsin likes its chances to be invited to the January 1, 2008, Outback Bowl. For Badger fans, anything would be preferable to the Insight Bowl, broadcast on the NFL Network, which, like the Big Ten Network, isn’t available on Madison-area cable.

Whatever bowl game the Badgers end up playing in, it will have a hard time equaling the entertainment value of Saturday’s game, the final game in a sometimes frustrating, sometimes disappointing, but ultimately successful (come on, nine wins!) Badger season.

Undersell of the Year: After Travis Beckum injured his shoulder on a touchdown grab early in the fourth quarter that made the score 34-20, the Big Ten Network sideline reporter commented that the loss of Beckum (who should be back for the bowl game) wouldn’t matter to Wisconsin because of the lopsidedness of the score. Usually announcers will try anything to get viewers to stay tuned even during blowouts, so calling such a back-and-forth game over with about 10 minutes left was bizarre to say the least. Sure enough, the game tightened up again following the premature comments. Someone needs to give that reporter some sales training.

Packers and Wisconsin vs. Minnesota Sports
November 16, 2007

OK, so the Packers utterly demolished the Vikings last week 34-0. Back on September 7, I predicted a closer, 13-10, Packers victory. (To my credit, I did write that “Adrian Peterson will just about be hitting the wall around this point in his rookie season. And what happened? The rookie sensation was held to his lowest rushing total this season and was knocked out of the game with a knee injury.)

Did anybody with any appreciation of the Packer/Viking rivalry really enjoy this game? Isn’t it overall more satisfying for Packer fan to see a hard-fought, close game that comes down to a single decisive play, a la the Monday night game on November 6, 2000, when Antonio Freeman caught that ball on his back and strolled into the end zone for the winning touchdown in overtime?

Isn’t it better to break Viking fans’ hearts by stringing them along, believing that they have a chance, and then crushing their beloved losers in purple in the fourth quarter? That game on Sunday was ridiculous from the outset. I can’t believe it held the interest of too many people, regardless of affiliation, much past halftime. I certainly tuned out by the fourth quarter. That blowout is the reason why FOX and CBS reserve the right to switch laughers in progress; folks in Minneapolis were probably calling KMSP and begging the station to switch to that Atlanta/Carolina game.

Speaking of Carolina, the Panthers come to Lambeau Field on Sunday in what should be another blowout victory for the Packers. Carolina is a mediocre 4-5 in a lousy division, but more significantly, has dropped three in a row by the combined score of 71-27. The Packers’ defense should be able to concentrate on shutting down the Panthers’ mediocre running game and force 94-year-old Panthers quarterback Vinny Testaverde to beat them, something he won’t be able to do, especially if star receiver Steve Smith (listed as questionable) can’t play. I’m not saying it will happen, but a second shutout in a row wouldn’t surprise me.

Anybody who says the Cowboys are the best team in the NFC isn’t paying close enough attention. The Cowboys have a little more sex appeal with Tony Romo and Terrell Owens, but they’re not the team that the Packers are. I like Green Bay to win that game on November 29.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. What about this weekend’s Badger football game against the mighty Minnesota Golden Gophers? It will probably make last week’s Packer/Viking game look like a nail-biter in comparison. Let’s see, the Badgers men’s basketball team beat Savannah State by 47 points on Thursday night. I’ll take that spread for the football team Saturday.

Has the discrepancy between Minnesota and Wisconsin sports ever been greater than it is right now? Look at the facts: Coming off the 34-0 beatdown, the Packers are 8-1, while the Vikings are 3-6. The Badgers’ football team is 8-3, while the Gophers’ football team is 1-10. The Bucks, while not exactly a championship NBA team, are 3-4, while the Kevin Garnett-less Minnesota Timberwolves are 1-5. For the first time since I can remember, the Brewers had a better season than the Twins. While it’s too early to say what will happen this year, the Badgers’ men’s basketball team has been a powerhouse in recent years; the Gophers’ men’s basketball team has been a laughing stock since the “do my homework” scandal of 1999. Only the Minnesota Wild of the NHL can boast of outshining their Wisconsin counterpart, and that’s simply because Wisconsin doesn’t have an NHL franchise.

What does all of this mean? Well, if you know a sports fan from Minnesota, give him or her a sympathy hug. It is the holiday season, after all.

Badger Commentary from Michigan Game
November 16, 2007

Blogger’s note: In case you missed it, here’s what I had to say about last week’s Michigan / Wisconsin game:

This one they wanted.

It was clear from the outset that the Badgers wanted to beat Michigan more than any other team on their schedule this year.

No need for pretty “play ball” wristbands this week; the Wolverines coming to town was all the motivation Bret Bielema’s team needed.

Why the desire to win? Well, it was Senior Day, and many players — including quarterback Tyler Donovan, receiver Paul Hubbard, and punter Ken DeBauche — were playing in their final game at Camp Randall. The day was also noteworthy because the team was retiring former running back Ron Dayne’s number 33. Add to that the fact that the Badgers were trying to win their 14th straight home game as well as go undefeated at home for the second straight season. Not to mention that it’s always fun to beat a team coached by Lloyd Carr, who could be the second most annoying life form on the planet (after Brooke Shields; how exactly does a toothpaste help anyone balance “kids, work, life,” and when was the last time Brooke Shields had work to worry about anyway? “Suddenly Susan’s” been off the air for seven years).

But the biggest motivating factor had to be revenge. Michigan was the only team to defeat Wisconsin last year, and Bielema and his players were out for payback.

And boy, did they get it. Tyler Donovan had a spectacular, better-than-the-stats-make-it-look day. Both Travis Beckum and Paul Hubbard went over 100 yards receiving. Freshman running back Zach Brown — playing for injured back P.J. Hill — had 108 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The Badgers’ defense held the Wolverines to 48 net yards rushing and limited the Michigan quarterbacking tandem of Chad Henne and Ryan Mallett to a miserable 14 completions out of 41 pass attempts. Wisconsin held the ball for 38:15 en route to a 37-21 victory over No. 13 Michigan.

With Minnesota, next week’s opponent in the regular season finale, playing football about as effectively as a busload of retirees, Saturday’s game against Michigan was the Badgers’ last real test this year.

They passed.

But amidst the celebration of Saturday’s victory, Badger fans have to wonder just how badly did Lloyd Carr want to beat Wisconsin? It appeared not that badly.

Facing Ohio State next week with the Big Ten conference title on the line, Carr seemed to treat the Wisconsin game as little more than an exhibition. Despite being in full pads and literally begging to be inserted into the game, star running back Mike Hart did not play. Quarterback Chad Henne was benched after two drives. Both Hart and Henne have been injured this year and injuries were vaguely cited by Carr as reasons they sat out – of Hart, Carr said, “I just didn’t feel like putting him out there,” and of Henne, Carr said that he “didn’t feel right.” But both played last week against in-state rival Michigan State.

Would Hart and Henne’s presence have made a difference in the final score? Quite possibly, especially considering that even without the pair, Michigan was able to cut Wisconsin’s 23-7 lead to 23-21 midway through the fourth quarter. And they did it in record-setting fashion: After failing to connect much of the game, Mallett hit receiver Mario Manningham for a 97-yard touchdown pass, the longest touchdown reception in Michigan history. Just a few minutes later, Adrian Arrington made a beautiful diving catch in the end zone to bring Michigan to within two and make the seventh-largest home crowd in Camp Randall history very nervous indeed — at least those fans not dressed in Michigan Blue.

Despite another setback — the loss of Tyler Donovan to an apparent wrist injury — Wisconsin pulled away late in the fourth quarter, thanks to the two touchdown runs by Zach Brown. The freshman’s first run was set up by a Jack Ikegwuonu interception (his first of the year), and the second by Michigan’s failed, desperate attempt to try to convert a 4th-and-19 from their own two-yard-line. Brown’s ensuing two-yard touchdown run sealed the 37-21 victory for Wisconsin. The 37 points are the most the Badgers have ever scored against Michigan in their 61-game series.

Before the Wolverines’ near-comeback in the fourth quarter, the Badgers had completely dominated Michigan. Key to that domination was the play of Tyler Donovan, and key to his success on Saturday was his remarkable ability to scramble out of trouble to either gain yards on the ground (he finished with 49 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown) or buy time to find an open receiver (finishing 14-of-27 for 245 yards and one touchdown). Michigan’s pass rush was very good for most of Saturday, but not good enough to contain Donovan, although he suffered enough hits to finally be taken out of the game, complete with Michigan blue paint helmet streaked on his throwing hand.

While the pressure that Donovan faced caused him to overthrow on several occasions, he was much sharper than Michigan freshman Ryan Mallett. Undone by the Camp Randall crowd and by the Badgers total shutdown of the Wolverine rushing game, Mallett made numerous bad throws, visibly angering receiver Mario Manningham and delighting Badger defenders, particularly Ikegwuonu and Shane Carter, who was the beneficiary of not only a Mallett up-for-grabs special but also an errant throw by Chad Henne on Henne’s last play of the game.

Only slightly souring Saturday’s win were the injuries that Wisconsin suffered. Already without P.J. Hill (although Hill did carry the ball five times in the second half), running back Lance Smith injured a shoulder, to go along with Donovan’s aforementioned wrist injury. The extent of both injuries were not known by late Saturday night, although Smith is ineligible to play in next week’s finale in Minnesota regardless (although he will be allowed to play in whatever bowl game the Badgers qualify for this season), and Donovan shouldn’t need to be at full strength to pick apart the woeful Gophers’ defense next week. (Goldy is allowing 38 points and 549 yards per game this season. Ouch.)

Next week’s battle for the Paul Bunyan Axe kicks off at 2:30 p.m. and can be seen locally on the Big Ten Network. Now that the Badgers got the game they wanted most, don’t look for them to let up next week on the hapless Gophers. The axe and the victory — and maybe a New Year’s Day bowl game bid — will be theirs.

Packers and Chiefs and Packers and Vikings
November 9, 2007

All right, I’m doing this late in the week, but I’ll try to make some sense of it.

Packers beat the Chiefs in Kansas City. Predicted it correctly before and during the season. Although Kansas City has been better of late and as anyone who watched the game knows, the Packers had to come from six points down with three minutes to go. Turnovers and penalties were to blame for the Packers not putting this game away earlier. Could spell trouble if not corrected as the season progresses — although not as much trouble as the lack of a consistent running game. But you’ve heard that before.

Let’s move on to the rest of the season: This Sunday the Vikings come to Lambeau. And when people mention the Vikings, one thing comes to mind: That 1998 NFC Championship Game that they blew to the Atlanta Falcons. Wait, that’s what my father still thinks of. People following the NFL currently think of rookie running back sensation Adrian Peterson. How are the Packers going to stop him?

Luckily for the Packers, Peterson’s biggest foe is not any opposing team, but his nimrod coach. Chances are that Brad Childress will have one of two thoughts concerning Peterson and this week’s game plan: Either that he doesn’t want to wear him down so he’ll limit his touches — after Peterson ran for 224 yards against the Bears, he was only given 12 carries the following week in Dallas, which he turned into 63 yards (still a fine 5.3 average). But the Vikings lost the game, largely because they didn’t use their biggest weapon. Or Childress, knowing that the Packers will be looking to stop the run, will try to let his quarterback win the game with his arm.

Either ploy would be a huge mistake for Minnesota. The Vikings’ quarterback play is awful, and any trickery or deviousness employed by Childress regarding the position — at the time of this writing, he was still refusing to confirm who will start for the Vikings at quarterback — is meaningless. It’s like my son trying to get me excited about watching TV with him: I know he’s not going to blindside me with any show I’ll actually enjoy. Likewise, Childress is not going to be able to blindside the Packers with any quality quarterback play no matter how long he keeps them in the dark.

You have to love the ineptitude of the Vikings: They should be basking in the glory of having the league’s most talked about rookie — and probably, second to Tom Brady, the most talked about player, period — coming off not just a great game but a historic game in which he set the all-time single-game league record for rushing yards. And what do they do? They screw themselves in the public eye by fining one of their players for making arrangements for and attending his grandmothers’ funeral. Granted, the Vikings should be fining the player — receiver Troy Williamson — simply for being a rotting crap sandwich of a wide receiver — but you can’t fine someone for going to his grandmother’s funeral. It’s petty, crass, callous, stupid, and wrong. What’s next? Do they start docking players’ pay for suffering game-related injuries? “Hey, sorry that hit you took will cause you to have blurred vision and hemorrhaging for the rest of your life, but it’s not good business for us to have you in intensive care. We’ll have to cut your pay.”

As for the Packers — they’ve got an interesting stretch coming up here: Three games in the next twelve days, including what should be a fascinating game against the I-guess-they’ll-really-not-going-away Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. Then they play at Dallas on November 29, a game that only cool people like me who have the NFL Network and talk loudly in restaurants will be able to watch. But the Packers got November off to a good start with a tougher-than-it-should-have-been win against the Chiefs and they’ll continue it against Minnesota on Sunday.

If the Packers beat Minnesota and the Lions beat Arizona — and both Green Bay and Detroit should prevail — that’ll make the Pack 8-1 and the Lions 7-2. Wow. If you would have told me either team would have either record at this point, I would have laughed. That OJ’s in legal trouble again . . . that’s less surprising.

Badger Commentary Yet Again
November 9, 2007

Blogger’s Note:

OK, this story is almost a week old, but if you didn’t see it before, here it is:

About halfway through the third quarter of Saturday’s Badger football game, I thought I had my introduction to this week’s commentary already written.

As Wisconsin took a 17-10 lead over the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes with a second unanswered touchdown, I pictured myself writing something along the lines of, “If you’re a Badger fan fuming about the inability of Charter and the Big Ten Network to come to some sort of distribution agreement, the time has come to stop complaining and take action. Meaningful action, like switching to a satellite service. Because you are not going to want to miss any more games like this one.”

And then Ohio State scored 28 straight points to beat Wisconsin in Columbus by a final tally of 38-17.

So maybe it’s just as well that many Badger fans were unable to witness the stunning turnaround this game took in the second half.

Actually there were two stunning turnarounds in the final thirty minutes: First the Badgers took the second half kickoff and went on a beautifully executed 92-yard drive that featured two of Tyler Donovan’s best pass plays of the season – Paul Hubbard hauled in a 50-yard play that was the longest reception of his career, and then Donovan hit Travis Beckum in the end zone to tie the score at 10-10. The Beckum touchdown, besides being a beautiful diving catch on a ball thrown under heavy pressure, was notable for being the first offensive touchdown the Buckeyes had allowed at home all season.

After the Badger defense had forced Ohio State into a three-and-out, Donovan led Wisconsin on a 62-yard scoring drive that culminated in a touchdown pass to a wide-open Chris Pressley. Once again, Beckum provided the drive’s highlight, as he bounced off tacklers and took what should have been a much shorter gain for 46 yards. The Badgers, to the astonishment of the estimated Ohio Stadium crowd of 105,449, were ahead 17-10 and seemed to be in complete control of the game.

Then, the second stunning turnaround happened. And when I say “stunning turnaround,” I mean, “The Badgers started taking an old-fashioned beating.”

After the Pressley touchdown, running back Chris Wells picked up 54 yards on the Buckeyes’ next possession, including a 31-yard touchdown run, to tie the score at 17-17. Then, the Badgers went three-and-out. Then Wells scored on another, almost identical, 30-yard touchdown to give Ohio State the lead at 24-17.

Then the game’s most bizarre play happened: Punter Ken DeBauche, who had completed a perfect 31-yard pass in the first quarter on a fake punt, tried a run on a second fake punt that was doomed from the start. DeBauche was drilled for a loss of two yards that gave the Buckeyes first-and-ten on Wisconsin’s 25-yard line. The decision not to punt was inexplicable, considering the Badgers were deep in their own territory, and were only down a touchdown with nearly the entire fourth quarter to play.

Bielema graciously laid all blame on DeBauche, saying the punter was the only Badger who thought the play was supposed to be a fake. I suspect had the play worked, Bielema would have been plenty happy to take credit for the gamble.

No matter who was ultimately responsible for the boneheaded play, it was a huge mistake, as it only took four plays for Buckeye quarterback Todd Boeckman to hit receiver Brian Robiskie for a touchdown that effectively put the game out of reach.

Two of the next three Badger possessions ended with lost fumbles — one from freshman running back Zach Brown, starting for the injured P.J. Hill, and the other from Donovan. To add further insult to injury, Chris Wells scored on his third carbon copy rushing touchdown to put an end to the game’s scoring.

Ohio State wasn’t only unstoppable in the fourth quarter; they also took the opening kickoff and easily marched down the field 75 yards for the game’s first score. The seven-play drive took all of 2:35 to complete. The Badgers came right back and drove 73 yards — a drive highlighted by DeBauche’s pass to Paul Standring — and ultimately scored on a Taylor Mehlhaff 21-yard field goal to cut the Buckeye lead to 7-3.

Despite the early scoring, the game then took a decisive turn toward the defensive, as neither team could get anything going. While the Badgers defense played admirably for much of the game’s first 30 minutes, ultimately it was the Buckeyes’ defense — which came into the game leading the nation, allowing only 8.8 points and 214.5 yards per week — which dominated.

Tyler Donovan was pressured all day long, took countless shots, and was sacked a total of nine times for a total loss of 64 yards. And while Zach Brown posted career highs in both rushes (20) and rushing yards (63), Ohio State’s defense clearly dominated the line of scrimmage for the majority of the game. Especially overwhelming were All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis, who had 19 tackles, and tackle Vernon Gholston, who tied a Buckeyes record with four sacks.

Besides playing tough defensively for two-plus quarters, there were other bright spots for the Badgers — Tyler Donovan, especially considering the massive pressure he faced all afternoon, played well, completing 17 of 29 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Travis Beckum had another monster game, finishing with nine receptions for 140 yards, while Paul Hubbard (2 catches for 67 yards) appears to be completely healthy coming off the injury he suffered the second week of the season.

But ultimately the Badgers were simply overmatched by Ohio State, which survived not only the biggest test they faced all season but also probably Wisconsin’s best effort all year, and still managed to win by a three-touchdown margin. The Buckeyes have now rattled off a record-breaking 20 straight Big Ten conference wins.

Despite whatever misgivings most college football fans have about who is ranked where, there would seem to be little doubt after today’s game that Ohio State is deserving of being considered the best team in all of college football.

Next week the Badgers will hope to improve to 8-3 overall and 4-3 in the conference as they face the resurgent Michigan Wolverines in their final home game of the season. Not only will next week’s Michigan game — scheduled to kick off at 11 a.m. Saturday — be the first Wisconsin game since Oct. 13 that won’t be on the Big Ten Network (ESPN is scheduled to provide coverage), but also during the game, the Badgers will retire Ron Dayne’s number 33. Dayne will be in attendance, and maybe, especially if P.J. Hill’s injury keeps him out of action another week, he can be persuaded to suit up. Bucky might need him.