Huh?

One of my daughter’s favorite books is a Sesame Street classic entitled No Cookies?, which is about Cookie Monster’s nephew Max and his refusal to eat cookies.

In the book, Cookie Monster is understandably dumbfounded and despondent over Max’s disinterest in cookies. Cookie Monster’s confusion is shared by his Sesame Street friends, all of whom offer Max cookies (he is Cookie Monster’s nephew, after all) only to be rudely rebuffed by Max intoning the titular phrase “No cookies.”

From Cookie Monster to Big Bird to Bert and Ernie to Baby Bear to Elmo to Zoe, all of the characters’ reactions to Max’s seeming hatred of cookies is a befuddled “Huh?”

That’s how I felt watching football this past weekend.

Let’s start with the Wisconsin game on Saturday. Now I certainly expected the Badgers to prevail against the mighty Terriers of Wofford, but I will admit that after two hardly encouraging non-conference wins, I was a tad nervous that the Terriers of the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) would be able to keep things close.

After all, the Badgers didn’t blow away The Citadel in 2007 and they were extremely lucky to escape with a win against Cal Poly last year.

Turns out there was little need for concern as the Badgers whipped Wofford  44-14.

But besides quarterback Scott Tolzien’s continued impressive play — the junior finished 15-for-20 with two touchdowns before being spelled for Curt “what happened to the QB controversy?” Phillips — the game featured tons of head-scratching moments.

Three of the first six plays from scrimmage — and two of Wisconsin’s first five — resulted in lost fumbles. Overall the Badgers fumbled a whopping six times, losing three of them.

Huh?

For a team looking to make some sense of its talented if inconsistent backfield, both John Clay (143 yards in week 2) and Zach Brown (the week one starter) were upstaged in the running game by third-string back Erik Smith, who scored Bucky’s first rushing touchdown and more importantly did not fumble the ball away, and by Phillips, who had the day’s longest runs of 25 and 37 yards.

Huh?

Wofford’s head coach Mike Ayers must know something, as he’s been able to hold on to his job for a a remarkable 22 years, but on Saturday his play-calling was as bizarre as a prairie dog in buttless chaps.

Despite the fact that the Badgers secondary was continually torched by Fresno State’s Ryan Colburn in week two, Ayers kept his team ridiculously one-dimensional on Saturday, allowing his quarterback to attempt only  two passes in the entire first half. As a team, Wofford did not complete a pass until the third quarter and finished with a scant 45 passing yards, the lowest passing total against the Badgers in seven years.

Huh?

While playing conservative the entire first half, Ayers nevertheless elected to go for it on a 4th-and-4 despite being backed up on his own 26. In the second quarter. On the fourth down play, linebacker Mike Taylor sacked QB Mitch Allen and the Badgers needed only three plays to score on a Erik Smith touchdown to take a commanding 24-0 lead. Yes, I know the Badgers had blocked the previous punt, but does that mean, mighty Terriers of Wofford, that you’d never punt again?

Huh?

So Wisconsin is now 3-0 heading into Big Ten play, but two close non-conference wins and a turnover-laden effort against a Wofford-ly (get it? Instead of woefully, I said Wofford-ly. Man, that’s solid gold.) overmatched FCS team do little to clear up any uncertainty about how good the 2009 Badgers really are.

Some  questions should be answered next week as Michigan State comes to Camp Randall. The Spartans were a trendy sleeper pick in the Big Ten by some, but early losses to Notre Dame and Central Michigan (!) have them desperate to start the conference season strong.

One thing is for sure, this year’s Spartans are better than last year’s Wolverines, and we all remember what happened when an overconfident 3-0 Badger team went to Ann Arbor to begin Big Ten play a year ago.

BadgerNation is still muttering “Huh?” to themselves about that 27-25 loss.

If Badger fans were underwhelmed by Saturday’s victory, Packer fans have to be shellshocked with how Green Bay’s 2009 campaign has started. After a dominant preseason that had many pundits picking the Packers to go to the  Super Bowl, the Packers have underachieved mightily so far in 2009.

After leading the offense to 66 points in just 12 preseason possessions, the Aaron Rodgers Experience has come back down to earth as the Packers have scored an unremarkable 38 points in two games. That’s one game in which the Packers’ defense continually put their offense in favorable situations and one game against the Bengals.

Huh?

Of course, the lack of offensive production isn’t all on Aaron Rodgers; Ryan Grant continues to be a shadow of his 2007 self, the offensive line can’t protect Rodgers, who was sacked six times on Sunday, and the Packers’ receivers suddenly look as sure-handed as a drunken boater.

Which brings us to Cedric Benson. For a defense that was lights out in the preseason and in the season opener against Chicago, Sunday’s game was a huge step back, as Cedric Benson —yes, that Cedric Benson! — ran for 141 yards. Not only did the Packers defense make Benson look like the second coming of Walter Payton, they couldn’t get off the field on third down, allowing Cincinnati to convert on 9-of-14 third-downs and ensuring Cincinnati a decisive win in the time of possession battle.

The Bengals? Huh?

As poorly as the Packers’ defense played Sunday overall, two of their plays have to be singled out: One was allowing the Bengals to convert on a 3rd-and-34 in the first half, a play that had Packers fans everywhere flashing back to the 4th-and-26 play from the 2003-2004 divisional playoffs (Sunday’s conversion eventually led to a Chris Henry TD) and the other was allowing Chad Ochocinco to score. After Ochocinco’s trash talk of a Lambeau Leap earlier in the week, a defense with any pride would have done whatever was necessary to keep him out of the end zone.

The Packers getting pushed around by NFL misfits Ochocinco and Cedric Benson? Huh?

But hey, Packers fans can look on the bright side — Green Bay only collected 11 penalties for 76 yards , compared to the Bengals’ 13 flags for 100 yards. (This is why I don’t believe those people that say Cincinnati is for real — good teams simply play more disciplined football than that.)

The other good news — The Packers go to St. Louis next week to take on the horrendous Rams. Unless they look past St. Louis to the following week’s Monday night game against Brett Favre and the Vikings, the Packers should have little trouble in the Show Me State.

But those lofty preseason predictions for the 2009 Packers now look as out of whack to me as Max’s cookie-hating ways looked to Cookie Monster in my daughter’s book.

By the end of No Cookies?, Max sees the light and gorges himself on sweets, ending the confusion his behavior has caused. Time will tell if the Packers and Badgers can play well enough in the next few weeks to end the confusion their inconsistent (Badgers) or just plain bad (Packers) play has caused.

Huh?

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