November 8, 2008

UW secondary sets tone in rout

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Considering the Wisconsin offense and special teams turned the ball over four times, the UW defense did a great job of holding Indiana to only 20 points. Twice, the Hoosiers started well within Badger territory and twice UW kept them out of the endzone. Then, Wisconsin dominated the second half and cruised to a 55-20 win.

The following is defensive positional analysis:

Defensive line: Outside of Matt Shaughnessy's early roughing the passing penalty, the Badger defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. The only time Hoosier running back Marcus Thigpen had any sort of success running the football was when he got outside his offensive tackles.

UW did not rack up many sacks, but they constantly shut down the run and for the most part, tackled well. In the passing game, both Ben Chappell, Kellen Lewis and Mitchell Evans never found any sort of comfort level in the pocket and managed only 141 passing yards combined.

Grade: A

Linebackers: The Badgers knew Thigpen was at his best when he was able to get out to the perimeter and work the outside of the field. With that said, UW's outside linebackers Jonathan Casillas and DeAndre Levy were all over the field.

Anytime Thigpen did get outside, Levy or Casillas was there to bring him down before any damage was done. Before Saturday's game, Indiana's senior running back had four rushes for over 75 yards. After Saturday's game, Thigpen's longest rush was only 11 yards.

After Jaevery McFadden was roughed up early in the game, Culmer St. Jean had a solid game at the middle linebacker spot. He managed the defense effectively and chipped in on some tackles in the second half.

Grade: A

Secondary: Overall, Saturday's game against IU may have been the UW secondary's best performance of the season. Other than Andrew Mean's 43-yard touchdown in the first quarter, UW's defensive backs were relentless.

Late in the second quarter, following David Gilreath's muffed punt that was recovered by Indiana, Jay Valai may have made the games most critical play. On the first play of the ensuing drive, down 21-20, IU's Chappell ran a quarterback draw and had ran inside the Badger 10 yard line.

Valai came off his block and absolutely crushed Chappell, forcing him from the game and a fumble that Levy picked up and returned 45 yards. Seven plays later, UW added a field goal to lead 24-20 at the break.

Niles Brinkley also bounced back from his miserable performance of a week ago as he was able to shut down his man without drawing any sort of defensive penalty.

Grade: A. Other than IU"s one passing touchdown, the Badger secondary completely shut down the Hoosier offense, especially in the second half.

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