Badger defense keeps Wildcats without touchdowns in 35-6 victory

first_imgWith a 35-6 Homecoming victory that brought the UW football team its second conference win, the Badgers trounced a No. 19 Northwestern team that failed to accumulate a touchdown throughout the 60 minutes of play.Though fans did not get the close, fourth-quarter showdown they may have anticipated, the Badger defense got back to work after a disappointing performance at Ohio State two weeks ago, keeping the Northwestern offense out of the end zone for the first time since the Wildcats played Michigan in 2006.“Defense was awesome all day long. I thought they swarmed to the ball. I thought they communicated. They tackled well. Pursuing the quarterback was obviously very, very good all day long. So that was good,” head coach Gary Andersen said. “This is a big win and these kids need to enjoy it. We all need to enjoy it. So we’re not going to talk about anything negative. It was all good in my mind.”Entering the game, Northwestern was riding the second-longest active streak in the nation having scored at least 30 points in each of its last seven games. A team that almost topped the Buckeyes last weekend, but ultimately lost 40-30, the Wildcats appeared weak and unprepared to match the Wisconsin defensive unit.The Badger defense held a Wildcat team that was averaging 218.4 rushing yards per game to just 44 in Saturday’s Big Ten showdown. UW also held Northwestern just two third-down conversions all day.Leading the way for Wisconsin was senior linebacker Chris Borland, who recorded 10 tackles in the game, his third double-digit performance of the season following a career-high 17 tackles against OSU.“Chris, he’ll never cease to amaze me. I don’t know if he’s ever going to surprise me with the way he plays. He played at a high level. He plays at a high level every single week. He’ll continue to do that,” Andersen said. “Things go unnoticed out there that you don’t see. The kid rolled his ankle early — I think it was first quarter — and didn’t bat an eye. He just got up.”While Borland continues to lead the defense both in his performance on the field and his attitude that garners respect off the field, according to Andersen, he was backed by a pass rush that recorded a season-high seven sacks, a total the team had not seen on the score sheets since October 2003 in its home loss to Purdue.Of the seven sacks, all came from different Badgers, including a senior nose guard Beau Allen sack in the fourth quarter for a loss of 10 yards to bring up second-and-20 for the Wildcats.“We’ve had to develop some depth, which has taken time, but I think it [has] started to show itself. We have some good pass rushers who aren’t necessarily starters and good guys in the back end who are coming along. Hopefully today’s the precedent and that is kind of where we set the bar and perform like this the rest of the year,” Borland said. “It is just a lot of fun. That is how you should play defense.”Heading into the game, Wisconsin had said all week long they were preparing to take on either of Northwestern’s quarterbacks, with strategies differing slightly for each of the Wildcats. Senior Kain Colter got the nod to start, but after an opening drive interception to the hands of Badger freshman cornerback Sojourn Shelton and the following drive failing to convert a touchdown after getting as close as the UW 3-yard line, redshirt junior quarterback Trevor Siemian took the field for NU and played the majority of the remainder of the game.Siemian found equally little success against the young Wisconsin secondary, completing just 13 of 34 pass attempts for a total of 163 passing yards — combined with Colter’s performance the Wildcats were 17-39 in the game for a total of 197 passing yards.“We’re a very confident defense. We know what we can do. Just being out there and seeing it happen, it was just … finally, finally,” Shelton said. “Those games before, against Purdue, those were all great games, but this was the game that we had to step up in, and we did.”The highlight of the day for Northwestern came at the close of the first half. After Northwestern’s junior safety Jimmy Hall picked off redshirt sophomore quarterback Joel Stave for his second, and final, interception of the game as the Badgers were advancing into scoring position with 42 seconds left on the clock, Siemian completed a 46-yard pass to senior wide receiver Rashad Lawrence, the longest of the day for Northwestern. The completion set up 43-yard field goal conversion by senior kicker Jeff Budzien to give Northwestern its second, and what would be their last score of the day.Secondary asserts dominanceThe Badgers’ secondary showed the most poise it has had all season long. Allowing just 66 total passing yards in a scoreless second half for Northwestern, the young group including two true freshman seeing significant playing time in Shelton and freshman corner back Jakarrie Washington — who recorded a career-high two tackles — impressed coach Andersen with its progression.“Jakarrie is making strides. You’re talking two true freshmen playing corner in the Big Ten, in the biggest situation they’ve ever been in in their lives as far as football goes,” Andersen said. “I’m feeling better and better, and I know the defensive staff is feeling better and better about just putting him on the field.”Redshirt sophomore quarterback Tanner McEvoy earned his first career start Saturday as a free safety. The quarterback-turned-safety recorded four tackles, tied for third-most on the team Saturday, and is looking more and more comfortable on the defensive side of the ball.“I am just happy to be out there to help this team win, obviously today was a great performance by everyone,” McEvoy said. “I came here as a quarterback. I still think I’m a quarterback; but right now, the situation that we’re in, I’m playing safety and I’m loving it.”last_img read more

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