Defense lacking in Badgers’ win

first_imgDEREK MONTGOMERY/Herald photoMINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — A week’s worth of preparation and reflection didn’t help the Wisconsin Badgers’ defense Saturday with the win against the Golden Gophers. Just seven days removed from a contest that saw the UW defense give up a record number of total yards, the defense almost set another record: most rushing yards allowed in school history.For the second consecutive week, and third time this year, the Wisconsin defense allowed their opponent to post more than 30 points in a game. But unlike UW’s previous two opponents that posted upwards of 30, Northwestern and Bowling Green, Minnesota is not a team anyone would classify as a high-octane offense.In fact, Minnesota’s crawl ball is the antithesis of the offenses run by the Wildcats and Falcons. But that didn’t stop the Gophers from putting up huge numbers, and for the second consecutive week, it was an opposing team’s tailback that created most of the damage.Minnesota’s star tailback, Laurence Maroney looked nearly unstoppable in the game, running, juking and plowing his way to an impressive 258 yards on the ground. The Gophers’ running game was so dominant that Maroney passed the century mark before halftime, and his backup, Gary Russell, finished the game with 139 yards on 19 carries.”Maroney’s one of the best backs in the country,” defensive tackle Mike Newkirk said. “We knew that coming in and we had to prepare for him. But we were going after him whether he was the best or the worst, it doesn’t really matter. We knew we had to try and contain him.”All told, the Badgers gave up 411 yards on the ground on the day, just 41 yards shy of the most yards allowed by a Wisconsin defense. UW’s run-stuffing ability was a far cry from the defense that was allowing less than a 100 yards per game on the ground prior to their loss to Northwestern.”As a defensive line we preach that everything is on us,” Newkirk said. “There might be issues in the secondary, there might be issues at linebacker but that doesn’t matter to us. As far as the yardage that the other guy is getting we take that all on ourselves.”So what has changed in the last two weeks that have transformed this team from a veritable wall against the run, to the porous product fans saw Saturday? To a man, the Badger defense will tell you the biggest culprit is one thing — tackling.”Our tackling wasn’t good today, that’s definitely our biggest problem right now,” free safety Roderick Rogers admitted.The Badgers missed tackles throughout the day, allowing the Gophers to get second chances on their running plays and rack up the yards after catch in the passing game. Perhaps one of the most telling statistics is the number of yards Gopher rushers lost Saturday.Despite running the ball 63 times in the contest, Wisconsin’s defense was unable to stop the Gophers at the point of attack and Minnesota’s backs only lost a grand total of four yards on the game.Injuries were also a factor for the Badgers, who spent much of the second half with a makeshift defensive line. A unit that could ill-afford to lose more bodies got even thinner throughout the game as defensive end Joe Monty and defensive tackle Jason Chapman both left the game due to injuries forcing defensive coordinator Bret Bielema to rely heavily on Matt Schaunessy, Kurt Ware, who was also nicked up during the game, and Nick Hayden while rotating in various players throughout the game.”We were thin coming in and we lost a couple more, so there were some guys out there that I didn’t know were out there,” Bielema said.The wear and tear of the season, which doesn’t give UW a bye week until the end of the conference season, was also evident in the secondary. While UW did open the game with their usual starters, Allen Langford and Brett Bell, on the field, the two cornerback spots saw unusually high number substitutions against Minnesota.”There are a lot of plays out there and I took special attention to that after last week,” Bielema said. “We had 89 snaps for some of our guys and then there’s special teams players in there as well, we just got to make sure we’re not putting too much on our guys physically.”Redshirt freshman Jack Ikegwuonu saw the most action of his career Saturday, while Levonne Rowan also saw a noticeable increase in his playing time. That playing time came mostly at the cost of Bell, who saw his time diminish increasingly as the game went on.”You’ve got to help as much as you can,” Bell said. “I’m not on the field, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to win the game.”With the injuries mounting and the length of the season taking its toll, UW must spend the week again trying to figure out an approach to stop opponents running attacks.”We’ve just got to go in, watch film and see why we’re giving up so many rushing yards. I really don’t know why it’s happening,” linebacker Mark Zalewski said.last_img

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