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Effort propels Watt to national honors

October 28, 2010

MADISON – If you asked Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, he’d tell you the truest test of a defense is its effort on extra-point tries after giving up a touchdown.

That being the case, J.J. Watt‘s extraordinary effort following Iowa’s first touchdown of the game Saturday proved to be the difference in the game. As Watt batted away the Hawkeyes’ extra-point attempt, he allowed his team to win by the slimmest of margins, 31-30, at Kinnick Stadium.

“This is two weeks now that this Watt fellow has played lights out,” former Ohio State coach John Cooper, who is one of the Legends Coaches that votes on the award, said in a statement. “He blocks an extra point and later sacks the quarterback to drive Iowa out of field goal range at the end and Wisconsin wins by a single point. That’s performing under pressure.”

In that Badgers victory, Watt recorded one sack, two tackles for loss, and five total tackles, to go along with his blocked extra point.

For his efforts, Watt was recognized for the second straight week as the Lott IMPACT Player of the Week. The Lott, named after Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, is awarded to college football’s Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year.

Additionally, Watt took home Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against Iowa, while also being named the Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week.

“It’s awesome, it’s very cool,” Watt said of the recognition. “I was just back home yesterday in Pewaukee and I was thinking about when I was super excited to be all-Woodland Conference, and now I’m getting these national defensive player of the week awards.

“It’s unbelievable to see where it’s come, but all the credit has to go to my teammates. If you don’t win football games, you’re not going to get awards like that.”

While his numbers against Iowa don’t exactly stand out on the stat sheet, Watt’s impact could also be seen in the Hawkeyes’ game plan, which was designed to avoid the junior defensive end from Pewaukee, Wis.

“They were doing some things, I think, to get away from J.J. just as much as anything,” Bielema said. “But you know, we do some things with him. He’s all over the place. He plays all four D-line positions, so it’s kind of hard to gauge where he’s going to be all the time.

“Now 1st and 10 would be a little bit different, but I always tell our coaches, and our players, that is a true sign of respect when somebody starts noticeably game planning around, to avoid you or, on the flip side of it, if they’re trying to find you, is another way to look at it.”

With the efforts of Iowa to avoid as well as double- and triple-teaming Watt, it took extra effort from Watt just to put up the five tackles and one sack he did manage.

While he did only have a single sack in the game, it also came at a crucial moment, as he brought down Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi for an 11-yard loss with just 26 seconds remaining in the game.

Stanzi and the Hawkeyes were forced to call timeout, which proved crucial on the final play of the game, when they ran out of time after failing to reach the sideline to stop the clock.

“If you outwork your opponent, you’re going to get opportunities,” Watt said. “We could definitely use a little bit more pressure, but we got to him when it counted.”

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