Offensive line hopes to rebound against Iowa

first_imgMATTHEW KUTZ/Herald photoWith a potential Big Ten title and BCS bowl bid on the line Saturday, the 2005 Wisconsin football team came back to earth as the Badgers suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Penn State Nittany Lions.The Badgers, who entered the game with only one Big Ten loss, were dominated by a superior team in nearly every facet of the game.Among the units being exploited, perhaps the most surprising and apparent was that of the offensive line. The unit had dominated opposing defenses all season long and had been a major factor in the team’s success thus far.Badger fans had grown accustomed to seeing gaping holes for running back Brian Calhoun and excellent pocket protection for quarterback John Stocco. In Happy Valley Saturday, Calhoun being swarmed by defenders and Stocco lying flat on his back became all too familiar sights.Leading the way for Penn State was defensive end Tamba Hali, who recorded four sacks and had seven tackles for a loss. Hali, a senior playing in his final game at Beaver Stadium, ran around or over most of the blockers Wisconsin threw his way. “[Hali’s] a heck of a football player,” offensive line coach Jim Hueber said. “He was throwing a lot of different things at us and our guys did their best. We just have to forget about it and move on.”While the offensive line knows it was playing a superior opponent Saturday, no one is making excuses, and all maintain their lackluster performance was not a matter of effort but rather a lack execution and proper technique.”I was disappointed with our performance. We came out and played physical against them, but you got to give them credit. I mean, they’re a heck of a defensive line,” senior guard Joe Thomas said. “Against a team like them, you have be perfect in technique and executing assignments, and we weren’t perfect on Saturday. When that happens, you allow defenses to make big plays on you, and that’s what they did.”Despite a rough day at the office, the offensive line remains confident in its abilities and believes it is still the unit which contributed to the Badgers’ potent offensive attack and the No. 1-scoring offense in the Big Ten.”We don’t feel like we have anything to prove,” sophomore guard Kraig Urbik said. “We’ve been strong all season long, and we just need to regroup and play this game like we’re supposed to and like we know we can.”Next up for the Badgers is their final home game against Big Ten rival Iowa. The Hawkeyes, who are 5-4 on the year, have a capable defense that has allowed 19 points per game this year and recorded a total of 17 sacks.Iowa has a strong defensive line but generally uses its linebackers to get pressure and get to the quarterback. Inside linebacker Abdul Hodge leads the Hawkeyes’ linebacking corps and received preseason honors that included a third-team all-American selection. He was also ranked the No. 4 inside linebacker by The Sporting News. Hodge, who has been shredding offensive lines all season, has one sack and 112 tackles on the year.”Their defense is keyed by their linebackers,” Thomas said. “They’re a very highly regarded unit in the Big Ten, and they’re really outstanding linebackers. Their defense tries to eat up the o-line and let the linebackers run free, so we got to know where the linebackers are at all times and get to them.”After such a devastating defeat, it is important for the offensive line to have a short-term memory and maintain its composure. Among the veterans on the offensive line is Thomas, who has taken it upon himself to right the ship.”I consider myself a leader on the offensive line and on the offense as a whole,” Thomas said. “Every week we go out, and I personally try to make things go as smoothly as possible and motivate the guys. I try to keep everyone where they should be, and I’ll do the same this weekend.”last_img