Spring football games are not always good indicators of the way things will go in the fall.
After a record-setting performance by the University of Wisconsin football team's offense last season, that side of the ball had a miserable outing on Saturday in the annual Cardinal-and-White scrimmage at Camp Randall Stadium.
The only points generated by the offense were a field goal by the second unit following a turnover.
Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was not available for interviews afterward, so it was left to junior center Peter Konz, who did not play following recent arthroscopic knee surgery, to provide some perspective.
"I just talked to coach Chryst about the offense," Konz said. "I was like, ‘We didn't score (any touchdowns). He's like, ‘Some of the best offenses I've been around, haven't always been the best during spring.'
"That's really promising. It really doesn't matter right now, because our defense can be one heck of a defense."
This was reminiscent of the 2005 spring game, played at Madison La Follette's Lussier Stadium due to the Camp Randall construction. It was Chryst's first year as offensive coordinator and the passing game, in particular, couldn't do anything.
That generated the memorable Chryst line, "You want to make it look like football."
The Badgers went on to finish 10-3 that season in former coach Barry Alvarez's final year. They averaged 34.3 points per game, which ranked third in the Big Ten Conference.
That's why there wasn't any panic among the offensive players, many of whom were quick to point it was only one of 15 spring practices. Yet, they acknowledged much work remains to be done.
"We have a lot of confidence as an offense," sophomore tailback James White said. "We have a couple people banged up, that can mess up things. We've still got to get better."
In addition to Konz, three other likely starters on offense were out with injuries: wide receiver Nick Toon (foot), fullback Bradie Ewing (stinger) and tight end Jacob Pedersen (ankle).
Still, sophomore quarterback Jon Budmayr didn't want to use that as an excuse for a No. 1 offense that couldn't generate a single point. An estimated crowd of only 10,000 fans showed up on a mostly overcast day.
Anybody walking away having only seen this scrimmage and not any of the previous spring practices certainly would have serious doubts about the offense.
"That's kind of completely up to them," said Budmayr, who is taking over as the starter for the departed Scott Tolzien. "I know in house we're not satisfied at all with where we're at. We have to continue to get better. It starts with myself. I've got to get better, know situations and improve on my whole play overall."
Budmayr completed 10 of 23 passes for 113 yards. Most costly were two turnovers, an interception he threw in which he never saw cornerback Devin Smith and a fumble in the pocket after blitzing linebacker Marcus Trotter swatted the ball out of his hand.
"You can't turn the ball over," Budmayr said. "That's one of the biggest things I need to come away with this spring. I know that."
The defense blitzed more than normal for a spring game and Budmayr was under heavy pressure at times. He was also facing the No. 1 defense, a departure from previous years, when the starters faced backups.
"They did blitz quite a bit," Budmayr said. "It looked throughout the spring, that's kind of what our defense is going to be like. It's great to see all those different looks, it helps us out down the road."
The only scoring generated by the offense came after Budmayr's fumble put the No. 2 offense, with freshman Joel Stave at quarterback, at the opponent's 44-yard line. A pass interference penalty against safety Michael Trotter netted the only first down of the drive and redshirt freshman Kyle French booted a 44-yard field goal.
UW coach Bret Bielema spotted the defense (White) a total of 14 points. Rapid-fire field goal competitions after the first and third quarters provided the other points in what was recorded as a 29-27 White victory.
"We needed to have a score, people are coming to see a score," Bielema said. "I wanted to see us work today. I thought we worked. I thought we were playing pretty clean. There's a couple pass interference calls on some of the younger players.
"For what we felt has been able to make us have success, that happened today."
That might be true of the defense, but the offense has a long way to go before the season starts.
"The encouraging thing is we have room to grow," Konz said. "It's not like we've hit a peak, it's not like we're going to be playing our best football at the beginning of the season. You really want to peak at the end, keep getting better."