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Posts Tagged ‘J.J. Watt’

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.”

Badgers ready for Ross-Ade

November 5, 2010 Comments off

MADISON – As stadiums go, Ross-Ade Stadium is never going to be mistaken for one of the great, historic venues in college football. Even so, Purdue has won 254 games there all-time against just 149 losses, including the Boilermakers’ 3-1 home record this year.

In fact, just last year Purdue knocked off then-No. 7 Ohio State at home, 26-18, in a stunning upset. That win came on the heels of a five-game losing streak for the Boilermakers, who have lost each of their last two games, on the road, in blowout fashion.

Add the Badgers’ recent success, and Wisconsin looks to be headed into a classic trap game.

“We’re well aware of it,” quarterback Scott Tolzien said. “I think the main thing is that it’s just another Big Ten game. You just look at last year, they knocked off Ohio State.

“Every year there seems to be that game where someone gets nipped from behind. We need to approach this game like any other game. The second you take your foot off the gas pedal and start relaxing, that’s when you start to get some adversity.”

Unfortunately for the Badgers, they don’t have any past experience to lean on against Purdue. While they shutout the Boilermakers last year, 37-0, the last time Wisconsin traveled to Purdue was in 2006, when Bret Bielema was a first-year head coach and UW’s current fifth-year seniors were in their redshirt seasons.

Junior defensive end J.J. Watt will be making his second appearance at Ross-Ade, having played there once in his career at Central Michigan.

As such, they’ll need to rely on their experiences in other Big Ten stadiums, rather than recall past games as Ross-Ade.

“I think anybody can beat anybody,” said John Moffitt, who redshirted in 2006. “You have to respect teams and you have to especially respect teams at home. I think we’re doing that with our preparation and we need to continue to do that.”

Not only has the team not played in West Lafayette in four years, they’ve also not made a bus trip as long as the one scheduled for this weekend. A 271-mile drive, the drive from Camp Randall to Ross-Ade is said to take five hours and six minutes, according to Google Maps.

On a bus, that easily translates to at least a six-hour drive. And that’s assuming the buses make it through the Chicago area without significant delay.

“That’s something that I don’t like at all,” free safety Aaron Henry said. “I understand we’ve got to do it, but six hours man, I can’t sit in a classroom for 50 minutes, let alone on a bus for six hours.

“It’s something we’ve got to do, so I don’t really have a choice in that, and we’ve just got to roll with it. I’m not really a big fan of bussing for six hours, though. Hopefully, if we take care of business, we won’t be bussing back.”

Confined to seat on the bus for the length of nearly two football games, the Badgers will need to find some ways to occupy their time. Homework, music, movies and sleep are among the most popular time-wasters for bus trips.

Of course, they’re typically more like three to four hours, such as is the case with the trip to Iowa City.

“I’m going to probably be doing a ton of things,” Henry said. “Probably on the phone listening to music, going over some of my notes, writing up some of my interests on the blog that I have. There’s no telling what I could be doing, man.

“Once you focus on one thing, that thing is going to die out eventually. And me, I’m always trying to find what’s new. But hopefully sleep will be my biggest friend on that trip.”

Running back John Clay had a simple answer to what could make the bus trip better for him.

“Having my own seat,” Clay said with a laugh. “If I can sit in the back and have my own seat, I’ll just be thinking about the plays that are going to get called and thinking about making a big play every time I get a chance.”

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.”

Kerrigan next test for O-line

November 4, 2010 Comments off

MADISON – In putting together a list of the top defensive linemen in the Big Ten, four names quickly come to mind: Cameron Heyward, Adrian Clayborn, Ryan Kerrigan and J.J. Watt.

Of those four, Wisconsin has faced two, Heyward and Clayborn, in their two biggest wins of the season over then-No. 1 Ohio State and at Iowa. Watt, of course, lines up at defensive end on a weekly basis for the Badgers, earning a number of national honors in recent weeks.

That leaves Kerrigan, the Purdue Boilermakers defensive end, and the third in a line of three straight high-profile defensive stars on the schedule for UW. While the other three may get more press, Kerrigan could very well be the best of the bunch.

“To this day, I think that Ryan Kerrigan, their defensive end, is probably one of the premier players in our league,” Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said. “I really thought last year he was at a whole other level. [He] plays extremely hard, extremely gifted.”

Through eight games this season, Kerrigan leads the Big Ten in several defensive categories, including sacks with 7.5 and tackles for loss with 18.5. Ranking fourth and second in those categories, respectively, is Watt with five sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.

Kerrigan’s three forced fumbles also tie him with Michigan State’s Greg Jones for the most in the conference, with the Boilermakers having played one fewer game than MSU. With 49 tackles and a 6.1 tackles per game average, Kerrigan is 21st in the conference, while Watt ranks 47th.

“I probably went up against him once or twice, maybe,” said John Moffitt, referring to Kerrigan. “Obviously he’s very strong, and he’s got a little bit of speed to him, too. He’s not just a bull rush guy. He’s a good player, he plays hard and that’s evident when you watch him on film for sure.”

Against the Badgers, the top performer among Heyward, Clayborn and Kerrigan last season was Kerrigan, who had a game-high nine tackles, 2.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks.

In his last two games against UW, Clayborn has 11 tackles, three for loss, and two sacks. For Heyward, the last two battles against Wisconsin have yielded nine tackles, 2.5 for loss and one sack.

Having faced all three, how does Gabe Carimi assess their abilites?

“I’d say Heyward is more of a bull [rusher], Clayborn would be a speed and bull guy, and Kerrigan is a motor guy,” Carimi said. “He’ll keep driving his legs, moving around, ripping under and twisting his body. I think he gives unbelievable effort on film and that’s why I think he might be a better defensive end.”

Having come away with victories over the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes this season, while limiting Heyward and Clayborn along the way, the Badgers now turn their focus toward Kerrigan and the Boilermakers.

While they certainly respect Kerrigan and consider him among the conference’s elite, the Wisconsin offensive line has plenty of reason to believe they’ll come out on top when they head to West Lafayette, Ind., for Saturday’s contest.

“I know he’s a great defensive end, and I think he is the best in the conference,” Carimi said. “But I’m coming in there with a little bit of confidence and trying to pull out a solid performance against him.”nd, ripping under and twisting his body. I think he gives unbelievable effort on film and that’s why I think he might be a better defensive end.”

Having come away with victories over the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes this season, while limiting Heyward and Clayborn along the way, the Badgers now turn their focus toward Kerrigan and the Boilermakers.

While they certainly respect Kerrigan and consider him among the conference’s elite, the Wisconsin offensive line has plenty of reason to believe they’ll come out on top when they head to West Lafayette, Ind., for Saturday’s contest.

“I know he’s a great defensive end, and I think he is the best in the conference,” Carimi said. “But I’m coming in there with a little bit of confidence and trying to pull out a solid performance against him.”

Effort propels Watt to national honors

October 28, 2010 Comments off

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.”

Focused on stopping Pryor

October 14, 2010 Comments off

MADISON — Twenty-two teams since 2008 have seen first-hand just how good Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor can be. Only four have left victorious.

All of those teams — aside from Purdue last season — were ranked in the top three of the AP poll: No. 3 Penn State in 2008, No. 3 Texas in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, No. 1 USC in 2008, and No. 3 USC in 2009.

Not surprisingly, Pryor struggled in each of those five losses, especially when he looked to escape the pocket and run with the ball. On 66 attempts, Pryor picked up just 194 rushing yards, for 2.93 yards per carry.

In the Buckeyes’ 27 wins since he arrived on campus, Pryor has rushed for 1604 yards on 289 carries for a 5.55 average. Two of those wins came against the Wisconsin Badgers, but those were games in which Pryor did not run particularly well.

“The offense is ran around No. 2,” free safety Aaron Henry said. “So we feel like if we can contain No. 2 and make sure No. 2 doesn’t beat us, then we’re going to force other guys to make plays.

“We’re going to go out there and do our best as we can to contain him, but we’re also going to try to go out there and make those other guys make plays.”

In two games against Wisconsin, the 6-foot-6 quarterback has rushed for 55 yards on 25 carries for a 2.2 yard average. Though they’ve shown an ability to shut him down defensively, the Badgers know as well as anyone what kind of impact Pryor can have on a game with his legs.

Last year at Ohio Stadium, the Buckeyes’ only offensive touchdown came late in the first half wound down, as the Buckeyes drove 88 yards in 72 seconds, to take a 14-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The drive began and ended on big plays, both of which involved Pryor. The touchdown was scored on an impressive 32-yard toss by Pryor to wide receiver DeVier Posey, but the first play of the drive was the one that set everything in motion.

“I was chasing down on the back side, I needed to go to the upfield shoulder, and I went to the near shoulder,” said defensive end J.J. Watt, who put the blame on himself a year ago. “Obviously that’s going to hurt you big time, and it did.

“He makes quick cuts and I’m 290 pounds, I don’t make as quick of cuts as he does. He beat me on that play. That’s for sure.”

As a freshman, Pryor had an even bigger impact in his first visit to Camp Randall Stadium.

In a game that was also played under the lights, Pryor led the Buckeyes down the field on two fourth-quarter scoring drives, using both his arm and legs. With 1:08 remaining in the game, Pryor found the end zone from 11 yards out for the game-winning touchdown.

On that play, Pryor and the Buckeyes took advantage of some confusion on the defensive side, snapping the ball quickly and catching the Badgers off guard just enough for the score.

“Once again, he used those feet of his,” Valai said. “His feet are what makes him go. He’s doing a great job passing this year, but his legs are what make Terrelle Pryor a Heisman candidate.

“For every two steps, he’s taking about six yards.”

With those two game-changing plays in mind, the Badgers know they’ll have their hands full this week against the Buckeyes’ signal caller.

While the Wisconsin defense has demonstrated an ability to limit Pryor’s effectiveness as a duel threat quarterback, his ability as a passer, as noted by Valai, has drawn a lot more national attention this season.

Through six games, Pryor has completed 104 of 153 passes for 1,349 yards, 15 touchdowns and three interceptions. His 170.5 passer rating is more than 40 points better than a year ago and a better than 25-point improvement on his career rating.

But does Pryor’s improvement as a passer mean the Buckeyes have become a pass-first team?

“They’re Pryor first, whether run or pass,” Valai said. “They may drop into pass, but Pryor may turn the edge. You’ve just got to respect him either way, and that’s what makes them a great offense, because you’ve got to play the run and play the pass equally.”