As Bret Bielema systematically rebuilds the Wisconsin Badgers system, one cog remains broken: the kicking game.
While special teams play is usually reserved for the back page of the sports section, Wisconsin's kickers could prove to be costly if they continue their downward trend. So far, the alternating starters of redshirt sophomore Kyle French and true freshman Jack Russell have made only half of their field goals combined.
French is the relative overachiever with five out of eight kicks through the uprights. Russell, on the other hand, has yet to convert on the field after two tries.
It does not help that the offensive slowdown from last season forced the team to only kick 11 field goals all of last year. The Badgers are only one off that mark with a little less than half the season ahead of them, and all signs point to more involvement from the kicking game as Joel Stave learns how to score with his arm in the red zone.
When the Badgers do score a touchdown, French and Russell have missed three extra points as a unit. The kicking game in 2011 only missed two all season.
So, why do the misfiring kickers matter so much as the Wisconsin offense is starting to click again?
Wisconsin lost its last two road games by a combined margin of six points. The 18 points left on the field this season are the difference between 5-2 and 7-0, despite all the offensive struggles.
What's more, the four points specifically missed (one field goal and one extra point) during the Nebraska game means the Badgers could have edged the Huskers by a point when all was said and done.
In fact, the kicking duo has only made one combined field goal on the road with four attempts. That's a statistic no coach wants to see when headed into the fourth quarter of a tight game.
There are plenty of teams left on the schedule that will give Wisconsin a close game that will be won or lost by a field goal. Whether the Badgers' struggles be mental or physical, the kickers will need to find a way to reverse the downward spiral they find themselves in.
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