Defense struggles to contain BG’s Jacobs

first_imgWisconsin defensive coordinator Bret Bielema knew his defense was in for its fair share of headaches Saturday afternoon. The dominating exploits of the Falcons’ Heisman hopeful, quarterback Omar Jacobs, were well noted heading into the contest — 4,002 yards, 41 touchdowns, four interceptions. Jacobs’ 2004 statistics were stellar by any stretch of the imagination and, Saturday, he lived up to that billing.Thriving in head coach Gregg Brandon’s fast-paced, multi-set offense, Jacobs scorched the young, inexperienced Badger defense, slinging 30 completions for 458 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.“They’re a very unique offense,” Bielema said. “Especially the first two series, there [were] a lot of things we didn’t even prepare for. But we knew that. They came out with two backs in the backfield, something that wasn’t a high priority for them a year ago.[Jacobs] is a good football player. He makes good decisions. He can throw the long ball, the short ball and he has good poise in the pocket.”When asked to compare Jacobs to another quarterback, UW free safety Roderick Rogers compared the Falcon gunslinger to another great spread-offense quarterback, Purdue’s Kyle Orton.“Omar — he’s something special,” Rogers said. “I think he’s more like a Kyle Orton, but he’s real steady out there, a great quarterback.”Rogers, who was tagged for a pair of pass-interference calls, was just one of several victims in the secondary Saturday. Playing perhaps as much as 85 percent of the game in a nickel defense, according to Bielema, the Badgers struggled to stop the Falcons’ receiving corps, especially in the first half.Bowling Green’s Charles Sharon, Steve Sanders and Corey Partridge shredded a UW defensive backfield that used at least eight different players, including a pair of freshmen. The Falcon trio combined for 22 catches, 403 yards and four touchdowns. All three receivers also showcased their big-play abilities, each posting at least one catch of more than 40 yards.“We just can’t let people behind us — that’s the big one,” Bielema said about Bowling Green’s ability to get behind the UW defensive backs. “The play before the end of the first half just absolutely killed me, internally, but also hurt us very much from a game perspective.Those are things you can’t let happen. I knew they were going to get a chunk of yardage, but we have to be able to keep the ball in front of us and make them earn every yard. We can’t just give up a play.”But the Badger defense clearly came out with a renewed vigor in the second half. Wisconsin held the Falcon defense to a paltry one yard on 10 plays in the third quarter, and made an impressive goal line stand just seconds before the final whistle blew to halt Bowling Green’s last-second comeback attempt.“We did respond well in the third quarter,” Bielema said. “We switched up some stuff, we played a lot of different stuff today. I knew we were going to have to try to give them some different looks, try to get in Jacobs’ head a little bit and get him out of rhythm.”Though Jacobs looked in control for most of the game, those different looks, including several varying blitz packages and line stunts, resulted in four Badger sacks and several hurries. Bielema was pleased with the pressure, especially when considering Jacobs was sacked just 10 times last season.“We never want to be a reactive defense. We want people to react to us,” Bielema said. “So what we tried to do was put him in a situation where he had to make a decision right away based on the pressure he saw. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn’t. But I don’t remember them getting a big play on us based on the pressure.”last_img read more

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What does Craig Kimbrel’s decline mean for the Cubs and their NL Central chances?

first_imgIt seems increasingly unlikely, though, for Kimbrel to circle all the way back to his former self. After all, that peak form represented one of the best closers in MLB history.So, the Cubs will for the time being continue to hand Kimbrel the ball in the ninth inning despite this shortened season making each game count much more than in a normal year. At this point, their choices are limited, with Jeffress for now being next in line to take over the closer’s role should Kimbrel keep faltering.Just a few games into 2020, it’s too early to make a definitive call on how Chicago will fare late in games. But the trauma of 2019 certainly casts doubt on what this year will bring. Craig Kimbrel’s ninth inning against the Reds on Monday transpired as follows: Walk, wild pitch, ground out, walk, walk, hit by pitch, walk.Kimbrel exited with the bases loaded and one out, the Cubs clinging to an 8-7 lead. Even though right-hander Jeremy Jeffress bailed him out by retiring the next two batters to end the contest, much of the postgame focus centered on his inability to locate pitches. Kimbrel was supposed to be a reliable closer for Chicago this year despite his rocky second half in 2019. Now it seems he might be cooked for good, unable to get anywhere close to his former dominance. After watching the previously excellent relief duo of Carl Edwards Jr. and Pedro Strop implode last season, the Cubs are staring down another potentially brutal year from their bullpen.There could be serious repercussions for Chicago if the club can’t solve the problem soon — the NL Central is set up to be a four-team race in which glaring weaknesses will be punished. The impact of Kimbrel’s potential bottoming out might be magnified by an increased league-wide reliance on relievers during a 60-game season.MORE: Dr. Fauci thinks MLB should continue despite outbreakAt least on paper, the Cubs don’t have many obvious top-end alternatives to Kimbrel. Jeffress endured the worst year of his career in 2019, and it remains unclear what the team will get from him. Rowan Wick is interesting — the fastball/curveball pitcher has a career 3.19 ERA — and unproven arms such as Dillon Maples and Adbert Alzolay are perhaps on the verge of a breakthrough despite their lack of MLB success with extremely limited opportunities.Kimbrel could obviously return to respectability, a shift manager David Ross continues to insist is coming. Ross has said the restart amid the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown off the rhythm of some pitchers.”I’m not trying to make excuses for anybody,” Ross told reporters Tuesday. “But, we’ve got to give a little bit of leash (to Kimbrel). This is a really unique situation that we’re dealing with.”last_img read more

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