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Posts Tagged ‘Antonio Fenelus’

Notes: Third downs critical on D

November 7, 2010 Comments off

WEST LAFAYETTE – Most of the focus after the Badgers’ second half turnaround led to a 34-13 victory was on the turnovers, which seemed to spark the entire team.

Simple execution may have had something to do with it, too.

In the first half, Wisconsin ran into a familiar problem as it struggled to stop Purdue on third downs. The Boilermakers were 6 for 9 on third down conversions, as the UW defense struggled to get off the field and give its offense an opportunity to put point on the board.

“We knew the only way we were going to win this ballgame was getting off the field on third downs, and we were able to do that in the second half,” said linebacker Culmer St. Jean, who shifted the momentum with a third quarter interception.

The Boilermakers’ converting on two-thirds of their third-down attempts was even better than the 9 of 18 mark put up by Michigan State as they handed Wisconsin its only loss early last month.

If the Badgers didn’t turn things around after halftime, they were likely headed for a second road loss in Big Ten play. Fortunately, as head coach Bret Bielema said in his postgame press conference, they didn’t need anything resembling superhuman effort to turn things around.

“It was just about execution,” St. Jean said. “In the first half, we had people there and we weren’t tackling. That was one of the things that we stressed going into this game, we knew we were going to have guys in space and we had to get them down. We weren’t able to do that in the first half, and in the second half we just swarmed and kept getting the ball.”

In particular, defensive end J.J. Watt pointed to the team’s performance on first and second down defensively, which made third downs more difficult for Wisconsin and easier to convert for Purdue.

When they went out in the second half, the Badgers forced the Boilermakers to pick up more yardage on third down, averaging 3rd-and-5 on 10 attempts. Purdue went 3-for-10 on third down in the second half.

“When you’re putting them in 3rd-and-long, you’re going to give them tough situations,” Watt said. “We did that well in the second half and obviously that paid off.”

Injury updates

For safety Jay Valai, the bye week wasn’t quite as beneficial to his health as it was for most of his teammates.

After aggravating his right calf on Wednesday, the senior further injured it Thursday, partially tearing the muscle. When the game rolled around Saturday, he was noticeably limited by the injury, especially in the first half.

Eventually, the coaches were forced to sub Shelton Johnson in for Valai.

“Being a senior, you always want to be on the field, but at that point in time, I was more hurting the team than helping the team, so I think that was a smart decision,” Valai said. “It felt a little better in the second half, but it’s still something I need to work on.”

Amid the Badgers’ troubles in the first half, Watt appeared to have suffered an injury, leaving him on the Ross-Ade Stadium turf a little longer than everyone else.

He got up and walked off under his own power, but nonetheless, provided a scare to the Wisconsin players, coaches and fans. Afterward, he expressed little concern over the shoulder injury.

“I was extended out and I dove, and my shoulder kind of clicked in and out,” Watt said. “I’m feeling pretty good now. I’ve still got a little bit of adrenaline going, so we’ll see tomorrow, but I don’t see it holding me out at all.”

While there was plenty to celebrate about in the second half of the 34-13 victory, Wisconsin saw center Peter Konz go down with an injury. As he walked off the field afterward, Konz appeared to be in significant pain, while using crutches and wearing a boot on his right leg.

According to Bielema, the sophomore aggravated the right ankle he injured against Ohio State, which forced senior Bill Nagy to take over at center once again.

Quotable

St. Jean on his second-half interception

“First I went to my drops and it was an out route, so I knew I wasn’t able to get there. We had extra leverage on that side so I just dropped back and read the quarterback and he took me right to the ball.”

Watt on second-half comeback

“It says we have some good character, we have guys who understand the situation, when we get down we can’t get out. We came back in the second half and played like a first-place team plays, and that’s what we need to do from here on out.”

Watt on the team’s first-half play

“It wasn’t necessarily flat, we just didn’t tackle very well on defense and didn’t put together a very good half.”

John Moffitt on the first half struggles

“I think we came out the first half, there were a lot of looks we didn’t see [before], we weren’t executing right away, and maybe a little hangover from the two weeks off. But you don’t really want to lean on that excuse, because you’ve got to be ready to play at all times.”

Moffitt on the change after halftime

“Obviously, the second half, the execution was there, we were doing the right things, the defense looked great and that made the difference.”

Moffitt on what the comeback says about the team

“Guys didn’t quit. The guys fight to the end and that’s what we need because the game’s not over until the last second ticks off the clock and I think guys understand that.”

Mike Taylor on the team’s slow start

“Yeah, you could say we were flat. It took us a little while to kind of get warmed up I guess, but we came out excited in the second half and took care of business.”

Antonio Fenelus on the turnovers in the second half

“It was very big. In the first half we didn’t come out and do as best as we could. We got talked to after that and they just told us to go out there and just play to the best of our abilities and that’s what I went out there and did.”

Fenelus on getting two turnovers in one game

“It feels real good. I haven’t had a pick since the third game of the season, so it feels good to be just go out there and be able to make a play on the ball.”

Montee Ball on the shift in momentum

“We came in here, got our mistakes down and had a chance to talk to everybody. Coach had a chance to talk to us, and we knew we needed to come out and play Wisconsin football and we get focused because we weren’t in the first half. Once we came out and we knew our assignments, we went out and did it.

“In the first half, I had to knock the dust off a bit from the bye week and we all had to. But once we came out of the locker room, we knew ‘This is our half, and we’ve got to produce.'”

Scott Tolzien on the offense

“Offensively it was a struggle for us, and that’s going to happen at times. But I thought the defense was just tremendous, especially in the second half.”

Tolzien on the team’s slow start

“What frustrates me is, that was one of the things that we emphasized in the bye week. We wanted to start fast because that’s always a concern when you have a week off. We didn’t do that.”

Badgers roll after slow start

November 6, 2010 Comments off

WEST LAFAYETTE – For two weeks, the Wisconsin football team talked about focusing on Purdue and not taking any team lightly, especially on the road.

That didn’t stop the Boilermakers from making things interesting Saturday against the Badgers at Ross-Ade Stadium. For two quarters, Purdue controlled the game, leading 10-3 at the half before Wisconsin dominated the final 30 minutes for the 34-13 victory.

Coming out in the second half, the Badgers turned the game around with something they had lacked this season entering Saturday’s game: turnovers.

“We did think at halftime, after we kind of saw their offensive plan, that we might be able to get our hands on a couple balls,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “We talked about being opportunistic, and obviously that started off the second half pretty good.”

On its opening drive of the second half, Purdue faced 3rd-and-5 on its own 25-yard line. A Sean Robinson pass was intercepted by Culmer St. Jean, who returned it 14 yards to the 18-yard line.

St. Jean’s grab set up a 7-yard touchdown reception by Jared Abbrederis in the back of the end zone, giving Wisconsin its first lead at 13-10, and setting the tone for the final two quarters of play.

“I was just trying to be opportunistic and make a play,” St. Jean said. “I was able to get that and that was able to trigger the whole team to just keep rolling.”

“When you can come out and get a turnover like that right away, it obviously sparks your whole defense and it sparks your team,” J.J. Watt said. “That was a great way to start the half for us and obviously steamrolled through the rest of the half.”

St. Jean’s interception was the second turnover of the day for the Wisconsin defense. On the Boilermakers’ first possession of the second quarter, Robinson found Antavian Edison on 2nd-and-10 at the Wisconsin 31-yard line, but Edison fumbled the ball to Antonio Fenelus, who picked it up and ran to the Purdue 27-yard line.

Fenelus’ recovery and return stopped what looked to be Purdue’s second scoring drive of the day, while also setting Wisconsin up for its first points, a 44-yard Philip Welch field goal.

“Huge,” Bielema said of the fumble. “They were going in for a score there. I was holding my breath on that challenge, because that challenge came in pretty quick. … Fortunately for us we were able to get points there.”

Following the fumble and subsequent Wisconsin field goal, the Badgers limited the Boilermakers to just twoCarson Wiggs field goals, despite falling behind 7-0 early. With a 20-13 lead early in the fourth quarter, Mike Taylor added his name to the list of those that secured turnovers for UW.

Taylor made an impressive play on a second down Robinson pass, making the interception at the Purdue 40-yard line and returning it 26 yards before he was tripped up at the 14-yard line. On the day, Taylor had six tackles, two for loss, one sack and one interception.

Following a 1-yard loss on first down, Montee Ball rushed 15 yards for an easy touchdown, giving the Badgers a 27-13 lead and all but putting the game out of reach for the Boilermakers. Ball’s touchdown run was his second of the day, as he rushed for a season-high 127 yards on 21 carries.

“The one I liked the most was one of our zone plays that we had,” Ball said of his touchdown run. “I hit the cut back and just hit it up for like 10 yards or so. That was nice. The line did a great job of giving me the hole and I just hit it.”

On the very next drive for Purdue, it was Fenelus who struck again, shutting the door on any potential Boilermaker comeback.

Robinson threw incomplete on first down, setting up 2nd-and-10 at his own 31-yard line. Fenelus jumped in front of the pass, and returned it 31 yards for the score. With the lead up to 34-13, the Badgers’ second half resurgence made the final score look as if it had been in control the entire time.

Not only that, with a fumble recovery and three interceptions, Wisconsin nearly doubled its season total of interceptions after entering with 11 through nine games.

“I said last week I think turnovers kind of come in bunches,” Taylor said. “You get one and everybody gets hyped up.”

His head coach agreed.

“As long as I’ve been in this game, it seems like the more you try to emphasize it, they don’t come, and then all of a sudden they come in a flurry,” Bielema said. “The kids really did a good job. You’ve got to catch those passes, you’ve got to get them in the end zone, and they were able to do that.”

Spartans’ big plays hurt UW

October 2, 2010 Comments off

EAST LANSING — Every time you looked up, it seemed like Michigan State had the ball, and down-and-distance was in the Badgers’ favor.

More often than not though, it also seemed as though the Spartans picked up enough yardage to earn a new set of downs. As if that weren’t enough, many of those third-down conversions turned out to be big gains, dramatically changing the course of the drive and the football game.

“Big plays on defense hurt us,” said Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema.

“We’re a team that if we do things uncharacteristic of what we are, we’re going to meet failure and not have success in critical situations.”

Wisconsin’s defense was not the only unit hurt by big plays. The Badgers were hurt yet again on special teams in the second quarter when MSU returner Keshawn Martin returned a Brad Nortman punt 74 yards for the touchdown.

While it may not have won the game for the Spartans, Martin’s touchdown changed the momentum in a hurry.

“I wouldn’t say it got us beat today,” free safety Aaron Henry said of the special teams. “But it didn’t help.”

On their three touchdown drives, the Spartans converted on five third downs and two fourth down attempts. Those three drives also featured nine plays of 10 yards or more for the Michigan State offense.

All told, MSU went for 10 or more yards on 17 plays in the game, including three that were at least 20 yards and three more of 30 yards or more. On third down, the Spartans went 9-for-18, while converting two of three fourth downs.

“We need to get it together, man,” Henry said. “It’s just the small things that we’ve got to correct. We know we have a ton of talent, we know we’ve got a real good football team, we know we can play with anybody in the country.

“But today, Michigan State was a little bit better than us.”

On no drive were the Badgers’ third down struggles more evident than the Spartans’ final trip down the field. Reeling off 15 plays over 8:03 for 84 yards, Michigan State delivered a devastating knockout punch to Wisconsin.

Crucial to their success on that drive were three successful third-down conversions, from third-and-9, third-and-11 and third-and-5. The first was converted on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins to Mark Dell. That was nothing compared to the back-breaking pass that came just three plays later.

Facing third-and-11 on his own 28-yard line, Cousins found Larry Caper for a 35-yard completion, moving the ball down to the UW 37-yard line.

“We did a great job on first and second down,” cornerback Antonio Fenelus said. “We’ve just got to be able to convert and stop them on those third and longs and just [eliminate] those big plays they had.”

Caper struck again later in the drive, rushing for 11 yards on third-and-5, which set up a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line and gave Michigan State a shot at a game-winning touchdown a few plays later.

Wisconsin’s inability to prevent big plays and stop Michigan State on third down was reflected in the final statistics for the Spartan offense. On the ground, MSU outgained UW 175 yards to 165. Through the air, Sparty put up 269 yards to just 127 for Bucky.

All told, the Spartans tallied 444 yards to 292 for Wisconsin. Both numbers were far from the Badgers’ season averages of 484 yards per game offensively and 265.2 given up on defense.

“That’s all on the players, we’ve got to pick it up,” safety Jay Valai said. “It was very frustrating because we’re a better defense than that. We’ve got to be able to stop them eventually.”