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Extra week, tackling key for ‘D’

November 4, 2010 Comments off

MADISON – It was the icing on the cake of Wisconsin’s best defensive performance in more than a decade.

One of the defining moments of the Badgers’ 2009 season came in the most unlikely of circumstances, as Wisconsin led 37-0 over Purdue with just 6:44 remaining.

After turning the ball over on 3rd-and-3, the Badgers gave the Boilermakers the ball in excellent field position, needing just 39 yards to find the end zone for the first time. With backup quarterback Caleb TerBush at the helm, Purdue picked up 36 yards, giving them 2nd-and-Goal at the 3-yard line.

Three plays and a handful of impressive defensive efforts later, Wisconsin’s goal line stand was complete, sealing the Badgers’ first Big Ten shutout since 1999.

“We got after them,” said defensive end J.J. Watt, who broke up a fourth-down pass in the end zone. “We were flying around, we were having fun and we were just playing great technically-sound football.

“They put the starting defensive line back in for that goal line stand, and we were excited about that because we knew we wanted to preserve the shutout. That was a huge stand for our defense as a whole because it showed we could persevere through a tough drive and that was a big one for our team.”

Having suffered back-to-back tough losses to Ohio State and Iowa last year, the Badgers were hungry for a win, and they put together an impressively complete performance against the Boilermakers.

One key factor that may have helped was having an extra week to prepare for the spread offense of Purdue. After defeating the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes this year, the Badgers had an extra week once again, and hope to use it effectively against the Boilermakers.

“I think it helped scheme-wise, we got to know some of their plays better than we normally would,” linebacker Blake Sorensen said. “It just kind of gets us used to playing a spread team. We haven’t really played one since Arizona State, so the extra week with more practices, it definitely helps.”

After four nonconference games to begin the season, Wisconsin settled into the heart of its Big Ten schedule, facing four traditional offenses and three of the conference’s top teams. Over the final four games, the Badgers will see plenty of variations of the spread from four of the second-tier teams in the Big Ten.

While they’re a spread team, the Boilermakers utilize the run quite a bit from the spread look, creating another wrinkle to figure out as the Badgers prepare for Purdue. Last year, Wisconsin looked like it knew what was coming holding Purdue – the Big Ten’s fourth-leading offense in terms of yardage entering the contest – to only 141 total yards.

The Boilermakers gained just 60 yards on 29 rushing attempts while picking up 81 yards through the air on just nine completions. To have similar success, the Badgers will need to put together a strong team effort in terms of tackling this week, especially in the open field.

“Defensively we’ve got to tackle well, probably now more than ever because in spread offenses, they create one-on-one spacing, so that’s a big difference in this game,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “We haven’t had many missed tackles.

“But, again, now that this is a different type of offense, where there’s one-on-one tackling because of the spread formations, it’s going to be a unique challenge that we really haven’t seen to this point.”

Fans flood field after upset victory

October 17, 2010 Comments off

MADISON — Pandemonium.

That was the consensus description of the scene on the field at Camp Randall Stadium after the Badgers’ 31-18 win over No. 1 Ohio State. And why shouldn’t it have been?

Despite repeated warnings not to do so, fans poured onto the playing surface as the clock wound to zero, mobbing the 18th-ranked Wisconsin football team as it secured its biggest win in recent program history.

Within minutes, the green field turf was replaced by a sea of red.

“I’ll remember how quickly that thing can fill up,” Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. “Mark Taurisani, my office guy, told me, ‘If they rush the field, go out the far tunnel,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, you better tell everybody else the same thing.’ We hadn’t exactly gone through an evacuation plan.”

Without any briefing on what to expect after such a momentous victory, a number of players found themselves in precarious situations, surrounded by classmates and alumni.

With the Badgers defeating the nation’s No. 1 team for the first time since 1981 and the fourth time in school history, everybody wanted to be a part of the big moment.

“It’s so much excitement and so much joy,” free safety Aaron Henry said. “Coming into this game, we knew what to expect. I know a lot of people on the outside looking in, they didn’t really give us a chance, and that’s fine. As long as the core group of guys in that locker room believe in each other man, the sky’s the limit.”

Before the game, the Badgers were a picture of quiet intensity, according to Bielema and other players who recalled their teammates showing a surprising, but intense, calmness.

Afterward, as Camp Randall exploded in excitement, the Badgers celebrated their first win over Ohio State in the Bielema era.

“That was nuts,” said linebacker Blake Sorensen, who had a big late-game interception. “It was a big win for the team and the fans as well. That was huge. The last I saw the goal post was rocking back and forth when I left. It was awesome.”