October 7, 2008

Quarterback controversy upcoming?

MADISON, Wis. - At his weekly press conference yesterday, head coach Bret Bielema left the door open for a possible move at the quarterback position if current starter Allan Evridge fails to improve as the season progresses. He was quick to point out however, that the fifth-year senior would be starting this Saturday against Penn State and that nobody needs to "read into it."

But, anytime a coach says there is no need to read into something, it usually means there is something to read into. The following is a game-by-game recap of Evridge's performances.

Game 1: Akron at Wisconsin
Final line: 7-10, 75 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception
Result: 38-17 Wisconsin win

Recap: Anytime a team only throws the ball ten times, it is somewhat difficult to analyze a quarterback's performance. But some shortcomings of Evridge's decision making became evident in the season opener.

On first and goal from Akron's six-yard line, already leading 17-7, Evridge attempted throwing out to the flat but was intercepted by Zips defender Bryan Williams who jumped the route. Williams returned the interception 62 yards into Badger territory. Akron would kick a field goal to go into the half down 17-10 instead of potentially 20-7, or 24-7.

Game 2: Marhsall at Wisconsin
Final line: 17-26, 308 yards, 1 touchdown
Result: 51-14 Wisconsin win

Recap: This was the really the first chance the Badger faithful had to soak in what Evridge brings to the table. Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst opened the playbook and let his quarterback throw the ball downfield. Still, in UW's first three possessions, the signal caller could not lead the offense to anything other than three drives totaling 10 total yards.

It was not until Marshall took a surprising 14-0 lead that Evridge and the offense started producing. Early in the second quarter, Evridge threw one of his best balls of the season finding Lance Kendricks near the Badger sideline for a 36-yard gain. From that point on, it seemed Evridge had bolstered his confidence as he led UW on a 7 play, 88-yard touchdown drive in just over two minutes, and the route was on.

Game 3: Wisconsin at Fresno State
Final line: 12-24, 143 yards, 1 touchdown
Result: 13-10 Wisconsin win

Recap: It was not a pretty performance for the quarterback, but he did help his team to victory in what, at the time, was their best opponent. Everything started off good for Evridge and the Badgers as he connected with a wide open Garrett Graham for an early 7-0 lead.

However, as the game progressed, Evridge's erratic arm started to rear its face. In the second half, Evridge , who to his credit was suffering severe cramps, started missing receivers who had an edge on their defenders, prematurely ending UW drives that could have put the game away much earlier. In the end, UW only needed 13 points to claim victory in the valley, but his inaccurate throws were only a sign of things to come.

Game 4: Wisconsin at Michigan
Final line: 20-37, 226 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, 4 sacks
Result: 27-25 Michigan win

Recap: In what has to be considered one of UW's toughest losses in program history, Evridge's second interception of the day led to Michigan's first lead. To his credit, the ball was catchable but Kyle Jefferson let it slip through his hands and tipped it up into the air for the easy interception on his slant pattern Also in the first half, Evridge delivered a strike to his receiver, only to have it go through his hands and into the grasp of the Wolverine defender.

Moving past his interceptions, Evridge really showed signs of being too indecisive in the pocket while holding the ball too long. In total, he was sacked four times, two of which resulted in a lost fumble, and was in control of too many three and outs that kept the tiring Badger defense on the field.

Over the course of the game, his inaccuracies showed up again as he consistently threw behind and over open receivers down field. Granted, multiple receiver drops really hurt the offensive prowess throughout the game, but some decisions from the offensive leader were questionable at the very least.

Game 5: Ohio State at Wisconsin
Final line: 13-25, 147 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 2 sacks
Result: 20-17 Ohio State loss

Recap: Twice, at crucial junctures of the contest, Evridge had running back P.J. Hill in the flat with nothing but open space in front of him. Twice, Evridge threw balls that didn't give his running back a chance to make the play. The first, Evridge spiked the ball five yards in front of Hill as he was being pressured. Second, Evridge tried to lob the ball over the oncoming rusher, and delivered the ball too high for Hill to pull in.

Finally, after OSU scored the go ahead touchdown late in the game, Evridge threw unwisely across his body, right into the hands of Malcolm Jenkins for the decisive interception.

Cumulative Stats:
Line: 69-122, 899 yards, 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 56.6 completion percentage.

Recap: Overall, Evridge has shown flashes of brilliance at points so far this season. His late drive that set up UW's game tying two-point attempt at Michigan showed great poise and leadership. He also bulleted a pass to Jefferson late in the first half against Ohio State that displayed his arm strength. However, as the season continues to unfold, it will be up to him to continue moving forward. If not, the door will remain open for a possible change.

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