Posts Tagged ‘Michigan Wolverines’

Big day in Big House for Ball, White

November 20, 2010 Comments off

ANN ARBOR — What do you do when you know what’s coming, and you still can’t stop it?

If the Wisconsin Badgers have the ball, more often than not, it’s going to be a running play. You know it, I know it, Bret Bielema knows it, the opposing defenses know it.

But it doesn’t matter.

Between its monstrous offensive line and all-Big Ten worthy running backs, Wisconsin is so good at what it does running the ball that you cannot stop it. As the saying goes, you can only hope to contain it.

“I got on (with offensive coordinator Paul Chryst) and said, ‘Hey, they can’t stop your run game,'” Bielema said. “Point blank. There wasn’t anything they could do to slow that down.”

With that in mind, Bielema and Chryst went to the run game when they needed it most. After an early second-half interception allowed Michigan to cut the lead to 24-14, the Badgers dropped back to pass just one more time in the game, though that play ended with quarterback Scott Tolzien rushing for five yards.

The next 28 plays were runs by either James White or Montee Ball.

“Wisconsin’s always been built off the running game,” said White, a Big Ten freshman of the year candidate. “So whenever we’re going down, or things seem to be down, we always just go back up and just rely on the run game.

“Me and Montee just took it in our hands. We knew that the team was going to be counting on us, so we just went out there and had a great performance.”

White and Ball rushed for 181 yards and 23 carries and 173 yards on 29 carries, respectively. Ball did not lose yardage on a single carry, while White lost eight over the course of the game.

Combined, the duo netted 354 yards and six touchdowns on 52 carries, with an average of 6.68 yards per attempt. By comparison, Michigan rushed for 168 yards — 121 of which came from Denard Robinson — on 36 carries as a team, averaging 4.7 per carry.

“We just imposed our will on them,” Ball said. “The offensive line did a great job of pulling off the blocks.

“We tell each other, ‘We’re going to move this ball.’ What John Moffitt always tells us in the huddle is, ‘Let’s roll.’ That’s what we’re all about.”

With the way they’ve run the ball over the past few games, Wisconsin looks reminiscent of its glory years during the Barry Alvarez era.

When they went to back-to-back Rose Bowls in 1999 and 2000, the Ron Dayne-led Badgers would line it up with everyone in the stadium knowing they would run the ball. It didn’t matter.

Now, the Badgers have a strong enough rushing attack that they can do the exact same thing, for 28 straight plays even, with two “backup” running backs. As reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year John Clay watched on the sideline, his replacements have stolen the show of late.

Of course, at nearly any other school in the nation, Ball and White would be starters.

“Somebody just told me, 150 yards apiece, that was only the second time in school history, or something along that lines,” Bielema said. “It allows us to recruit good running backs, I know that.

“I get excited because, to see the smiles on their faces, and to realize that one’s a true freshman and the other’s a sophomore, is a pretty good feeling with the all-Big Ten player sitting on the bench. It feels good.”

Defense stops Denard, comeback

November 20, 2010 Comments off

ANN ARBOR — It was like déjà vu all over again.

Through two quarters, Wisconsin dominated all facets of the game in its first trip to Michigan Stadium in more than two years. Entering halftime, the Badgers had shut out the Wolverines, leading 24-0.

As the two teams headed to the locker rooms, the Michigan players were booed off the field, just as they were in 2008, when Wisconsin led 19-0 through 30 minutes of play. Unlike two years ago, however, the Badgers weren’t celebrating anything in the locker room.

“We talked about it being 0-0, just like it was last week against Indiana,” head coach Bret Bielema said of his halftime speech. “That was part of the past.”

That past came back to haunt Wisconsin in the present as the third quarter kicked off.

Michigan took the ball first after the break, and quickly marched down the field for their first touchdown of the day. Capping a drive of 71 yards on 10 plays in just under four minutes, Denard Robinson found Darryl Stonum from 24 yards out, putting the Wolverines on the board for the first time in the game.

Three plays later, Isaac Anderson turned the ball back over to Michigan.

Robinson connected with Stonum again, for 34 yards this time, giving the Wolverines a 1st-and-Goal at the 4-yard line. On the next play, Robinson punched it in.

All of a sudden, the game went from 24-0 to 24-14, and things got very interesting.

“One thing about this team is we don’t let momentum just completely snowball effect and destroy us like that,” senior safety Jay Valai said. “We knew eventually we were going to make a play… and we locked it down from there on.”

One thing that helped was the offense answering quickly following the second Michigan touchdown. Whereas in 2008 the Badgers failed to move the ball effectively as they struggled in the second half, UW went 69 yards in eight plays and 3:52 to go up 31-14.

After another Robinson touchdown run six plays and 2:19 later, Wisconsin answered again, going 45 yards in seven play and 3:14 for the score. Then came the big defensive play that slowed the Michigan offense.

With the Wolverines threatening at the Wisconsin 32-yard line, J.J. Watt tipped a 2nd down pass and hauled in the interception, returning it 15 yards to the Michigan 40-yard line. While it only resulted in three points for the Badgers, it kept at least three, and more likely seven points off the board for the home team.

“We obviously screwed up a little bit in the beginning of the second half,” Watt said. “We know the third quarter wasn’t our best quarter, but the best part about our team is we regroup and we come back and we play strong. That’s exactly what we did.”

After a 40-yard field goal put Wisconsin up 41-21, Michigan answered with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to Roy Roundtree. Unfazed, the Badgers went back down the other way for a 9-play, 40-yard touchdown drive to retain the 20-point margin at 48-28.

With Tate Forcier in at quarterback for Robinson, the Wisconsin defense made one final stop. After two kneel downs by quarterback Scott Tolzien, the Badgers secured their first win in Ann Arbor since 1994.

Fittingly, they did so by doing the exact opposite of what cost them a win in 2008.

“It’s huge,” said Aaron Henry, who led the team with 10 tackles. “It’s the Big House, everybody knows about the Big House. Everybody knows how hard it is to win in the Big House.”

Big House brings bad memories

November 18, 2010 Comments off

MADISON — When he woke up on Sept. 27, 2008, Aaron Henry saw his team come out of the locker room, in front of a crowd of 109,833, leading 19-0 on the road at Michigan.

Henry watched for a few minutes before turning the game off for most of the third quarter. When he tuned back in, things weren’t going so well for Wisconsin.

“I thought, ‘this game’s over,'” Henry said of his first reaction. “When I turned it back on, man, the game was really, really close. It was very, very frustrating and I was a little disappointed to see how things turned out.

“I was very surprised. We were doing everything well as far as our defense goes, and our offense was pretty much doing what they wanted to. But their offense is a big play offense, and they had a couple of big plays. That woke that crowd of 110,000 people up.”

Just minutes before Henry turned the game on, that same crowd was awake and fired up, but not in a way the Wolverines were accustomed to hearing.

“I remember their fans were giving us a pat on the back, telling us we were doing a good job, and they were booing their own team,” Culmer St. Jean recalled. “That was probably a first, but that’s what happens when you get up 19-0 going into the half on the road.”

With such a commanding lead through two quarters, the Badgers had plenty of confidence going into the locker room at halftime. Perhaps even too much.

That’s not too surprising, though, when you consider that Wisconsin outgained Michigan 202 yards to 21 in the first half, while running nearly twice as many plays offensively. Add in more than 20 minutes in time of possession, and the Badgers certainly had quite the half.

Unfortunately, out of five scoring drives, four ended in field goals. Wisconsin went just 1-for-10 on third downs in the first half, and only once punched it in the end zone for a touchdown.

“It was terrible,” Bill Nagy said. “It was just one of those games where we had so many opportunities in the first half, and the defense played their tails off in the first half, but the offense, we just couldn’t capitalize. We got some field goals and it ended up catching up with us in the second half because they had some big plays. That was just a terrible feeling watching that slip away.”

At halftime, leaving the Big House with a loss was the farthest thing from the minds of Badgers as they sat in the visitors’ locker room.

After all, in their minds, they had already won.

“All our guys were piping off in the locker room, we thought it was over, but obviously it wasn’t,” senior safety Jay Valai said. “They came out and they showed that to us.”

“We felt good about ourselves. We were definitely feeling good and I think that’s what killed us,” St. Jean added. “We went in and I don’t think we had the same attack mindset in the second half. We thought they were just going to be flat coming into the second half and they definitely did the total opposite.”

Fortunately, the lesson of that 2008 debacle has not been lost on the 2010 Badgers.

They’ve shown an ability to win on the road already this year, knocking off Iowa at Kinnick Stadium and winning at Purdue earlier this month. Perhaps more importantly, though, they also have shown they’re not afraid to keep their foot firmly on the gas pedal.

With a 21-0 early lead against the then-No. 1 Buckeyes a month ago, the Badgers didn’t get complacent. Even when Ohio State cut the lead to three points in the second half, Wisconsin answered with a couple scores to seal the game.

More recently, UW made national headlines by putting up 83 points against Indiana last week. Even after leading 38-10 at the half, Bret Bielema‘s squad stayed aggressive.

“You just learn from your lessons,” Valai said. “Don’t ever feel satisfied when you’re on the football field, you just keep playing hard. We’ve got to learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen this year.

“Keep playing. Don’t count your eggs before they hatch, because that’s what we did at halftime.”

For those that might worry the team is too focused on the revenge factor and is not concerned enough with the 2010 Michigan Wolverines, don’t worry.

As the fifth-ranked team in the nation, Wisconsin is well aware of the situation at hand.

“We definitely learned from that game, but it’s not like we’re sitting here thinking about it every single day,” said defensive end J.J. Watt. “We’re the 2010 Wisconsin Badgers, not the 2008 Wisconsin Badgers.”