MADISON, Wis. - Last season, Wisconsin traveled to Illinois as the No. 5 team in the country. When they left, they had suffered their first loss of season due in large part to the playmaking abilities of Illini quarterback Juice Williams.
Then, obviously the 2008 season has not gone the way the UW players had envisioned, but Saturday afternoon they will present another opportunity to take the field with hopes of exacting revenge on homecoming.
The following is a question and answer with the Badgers senior cornerback Allen Langford:
The Illinois game last year was kind of the one that started the change and make up of last season. Does that hold any sort of special significance of what Illinois did heading into this game?
Langford: Illinois did something to us last year that we haven't been able to do this year, and they finished on us. So, we have to make sure that we put together a complete game and finish as a defense and go out there and make plays. You know, cause turnovers, put the offense in some better positions and go out there and compete. Put together a whole complete game, finish and make tackles.
Of all the spread teams you've seen, is Illinois maybe a little more advanced?
Langford: Illinois is a great team, they have a great offense. Juice is a phenomenal passer now. He's definitely capable of running. We've been in that position before where he can do that. They have some great receivers and they have some great athletes over there. So they're a great great offense, explosive offense. I think Juice is number one in pass efficiency in the Big Ten so we got to challenge that we look forward to.
Have you seen any changes in his game that's made him a better passer?
Langford: Well yeah, he's patient now, he's looking downfield. So, you know, if the pocket gets collapsed, he's going to do his best to get out of that pocket and look downfield instead of just taking off and running. He's looking downfield and making some very amazing throws on you.
Does it help him when he's got the wide receivers that he does?
Langford: Oh definitely, I would imagine it does. You've got to have somebody to throw the ball to and hope they catch it I would imagine.
Last training camp, a lot of guys on this team talked about getting 11 guys on the field and creating cohesion with each other. Has it been tough this year with all the personnel changes?
Langford: I wouldn't say that. Whoever's in there we have to play ball, whoever's in there we have to go out there and compete as a unit. This is a whole team effort, it's not one guy here or one guy there. We just have to go out there as a unit, the 11 guys that are on the field, we just have to play together as one unit.
We talked about Juice a little bit, can you compare him to Terrelle Pryor?
Langford: I'm not into comparisons but I just know that Juice is a great quarterback. He's a capable passer this year which is something that, you know, last year he was really looking forward to run a little bit more often. Now he's looking to pass then run.
What does it take to shut him down?
Langford: You got to contain him, that's the main thing. You contain that guy, keep him in the pocket, hopefully get him down. Limit the big plays. They've got some big play receivers and they've got some running backs that could take off. We've just go to be fundamentally sound.
What was film like on Sunday, seeing all the missed tackles on Sunday?
Langford: Film on Sunday is always going to be hard. No matter if we win, it's going to be hard. You just got to take that, go in there and look forward to trying to create the mistakes that you made in the game and go out there next week and have a great practice. That's what we've been doing.
What has been the emphasis this week in practice, in reaction to last Saturday's game?
Langford: Well, we just want to be fundamentally sound and get back to the basics. Tackling, getting off blocks, making plays, having fun doing it. So we just got back to the basics and now we look forward to going out there and executing on Saturday.
You look at the guys playing this year on the defense and all the experience, do you almost catch yourself saying you know, we should be playing better than this with the guys you have on the field?
Langford: You can't get into all that, you just got to look forward to right now. You got to look to the present, you got to look forward to what can go on right now. You can't look back at the past, can't look back at what we should do, how we should be playing. You've just got to forward to going out there and playing great on Saturday.
Is there a greater sense of urgency, especially with the seniors, to turn this thing around right now?
Langford: There's always that sense of urgency. You have to have that sense of urgency playing football. Right now our urgency is we feel like we have to be very urgent. We desperately want to win, we definitely don't want to lose all our games. Winning is something you don't want to never get used to. We're urgent, we definitely have that urgency and we're definitely going to have it for the rest of the year. You can't not have it right now.
You've been in a position where you're playing along with a couple of young guys in Niles Brinkley and Mario Goins. They said they've been able to learn a lot from you, have you kind of been able to be their mentor in their first year doing all this?
Langford: Like I said, I try to lead by example, I try to do the right stuff on film. By them watching me on film they can learn as much as they can. Have any questions, I try to answer as much questions that I can for them. That's the way I try to look at it.
Do you learn from them at all?
Langford: I learn from everybody. I love football, so I just love the game, I learn that different stuff that they do may work. And you see if I can take that, so I definitely learn from them.
We seen them have maybe a little bit easier of a transition to college with coach Kerry Cooks. He's always been kind of a younger guy, players coach.
Langford: Yeah, like I said, they've been getting a lot of reps. With reps comes experience, with experience comes, you're going to play a lot more confident. That's what they're doing right now. Both of them are playing real confident right now and they feel comfortable right now.
Illinois game, back on your turf, is that kind of a special thing to kind of have an opportunity to turn this thing around in front of your home fans?
Langford: Definitely. It definitely feels good to play at home. You want to go out there and play hard, do everything that we know we can do.
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