Fourth-down miscue symbolic of Badgers

Wisconsin has put the off in offense most of the season.

Something hasn't been quite right with the Badgers this year, and as Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal, the team's final snap against Nebraska on Saturday illustrates that perfectly.

Wisconsin faced a fourth-and-1 from its own 49-yard line in the final two minutes, trailing Nebraska 30-27. The play we saw was a botched handoff to Montee Ball, which resulted in a fumble and the end of the Badgers' chances. But that's not what it was supposed to be.

Offensive coordinator Matt Canada told reporters that the call was for a naked bootleg run for quarterback Danny O'Brien, who had come in late to replace Joel Stave.

“It was a designed run for Danny,” Canada said. “Obviously, somehow he got confused. It was certainly a designed keep. ...

“If there was a discrepancy, if there was any miscommunication, that falls on me. I’m not shunning that part of it. We felt like it was communicated. Obviously, that’s what Montee thought but Danny didn’t.”

Ball, who was supposed to fake a dive into the defense, looked surprised to receive a handoff and never fully grasped the ball. O'Brien said after the game that he saw something in the defense that made him believe a bootleg wouldn't work. Stave took a big hit on the second-to-last Wisconsin series, which is a major reason O'Brien was in the game.

“If we execute [the fourth down], it looks a lot better," Canada said. "We’re well aware of that. That was our decision at the time.”

The fourth-down miscue was just one play, and running it correctly wouldn't have necessarily changed the outcome. But it does illustrate some of the ways Wisconsin's offense has been off this year.