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September 30, 2013

Badgers look to improve during bye

MADISON, Wis. - Every college football coach has a few key statistics or ideas that make up their most basic game plan. Wisconsin's Gary Andersen is no different. Andersen and his coaching staff emphasize that playing great defense, winning the turnover battle, converting in the redzone, winning on special teams and winning the fourth quarter will put their team in a position to succeed every week.

The Badgers have had a lot of success in most of those five categories so far this season, with the exception of last weekend's game against No. 4 Ohio State. The Badgers "won" on just two categories against the Buckeyes, and Andersen said that wasn't enough against a good football team like Ohio State.

"This is a learning moment for this football team," Andersen said Monday at his weekly press conference. "If you look back at our plan to win: play great defense. [And] no we didn't play great defense. It was solid at times. Take care of the football. There was one turnover to zero, and it lead to seven points for them. That can't happen. We lost, so you're 0-for-2 on the plan to win."

The Badgers allowed the Buckeyes to convert 6 of 15 attempts on third down, after holding their four previous opponents to just 18 conversions on 59 attempts. The Badgers had also allowed just three points off of their four previous turnovers, until Braxton Miller threw his fourth touchdown pass of the night seven plays after Joel Stave threw his only interception of the night.

The Badgers did have some positives come out of the game, though. The Badgers have converted at least 67 percent of their red zone chances in all five of their games so far this season, which Andersen said is good enough to help his team win games.

"Score in the red zone- we did score in the red zone," Andersen said. "We want to get 70 percent; we got 67 [percent]. That will work, but I believe we did that."

The Badgers also "won" the fourth quarter for the fourth time in five games this season. The Badgers outscored Ohio State 10-0 in the game's final 15 minutes, and have outscored their opponents 47-13 in the fourth quarter so far this season.

But the Badgers were also at a significant field position disadvantage almost all night against Ohio State, and have struggled to "win" that category in almost every game this season. Ohio State's average drive started at their own 41-yard line, while Wisconsin's average drive started at their own 18. Other factors like kicking play in to Andersen's evaluation of his team's performance on special teams, but he said in the end his team missed too many opportunities to put extra points on the board or take possessions away from Ohio State.

"We had an opportunity to play great special teams, and I think it was a battle," Andersen said. "But we missed a field goal and we didn't get the rugby punt that was on the ground."

"When you sit and look you get two of them, you have a chance to win the football game," Andersen said. "If you get three of them your chances to win go way up and if you get four you're almost guaranteed victory."

At this point in the season the Badgers have won four of those five categories against UMass (a 45-0 win) and Tennessee Tech (a 48-0 win). They've also won three categories against Purdue (a 41-10 win) and Arizona State (a 32-30 loss). Andersen's five categories are definitely not the be-all and end-all of winning college football games, but winning at least a few of them tend to go a long way towards actually finishing a game with an extra "W" in a team's record.

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.

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