August 30, 2008

Defense sturdy, dodged some bullets

MADISON, Wis. - Even though the first team defense left the game Saturday by only allowing Akron to score 10 points, it was still an adventurous day. The secondary, as expected due to inexperience, was tested by the Zips quarterback throughout the course of the day.

The following is an analysis of the defense following the season opener:

Front Seven:

Analysis: The game started off very promising for the defensive line as end O'Brien Schofield displayed a nifty spin move and sacked the Zips quarterback on their first third down of the day. After one quarter, UW's defense had held Akron to a total of five yards. The Zips were only able to muster 70 yards on the ground during Saturday's contest, a direct tribute to the defensive line and linebacker's ability to slow their attack.

Heading into 2008 one of the big questions surrounding the Badger front seven is how they would bounce back from an injury riddled spring. On Saturday, their depth new depth showed as they were able to stay fresh with young or new players such as Brendan Kelly, and Dan Moore.

With the injury to Jonathan Casillas that sidelined him on Saturday, sophomore Blake Sorensen had an opportunity to accrue some reps. Along with the rest of the linebacking unit, tackling was solid as not many were missed throughout the game.

"I do think we ran pretty well," head coach Bret Bielema said. "I was really interested in how Blake Sorensen was going to play today. He's never played as many reps as he did today and we have a lot of stress on those outside backers in this package so they need to be able to do some things.

"I think he did well at times as well as some things that he'll really improve on.

Grade: B+. Very solid, but not great.

Secondary:

Analysis: This was arguably the biggest question mark heading into the season. How were the young cornerbacks such as Niles Brinkley and Mario Goins going to perform under the limelight? How was Allen Langford going to bounce back from his injury? It all played out on Saturday afternoon.

"I thought just from initial view that our young corners played half-way decent today," Bielema said. "Then they gave up some plays there at the beginning, overthrows by their guys, so we got a break. In the secondary in particular, you'll have a lot of growth in a short amount of time and that's what we've got to do."

Akron missed a few opportunities to jump on the Badger secondary with wide receiver drops and overthrows. On a running back pass, a wide-open receiver was overthrown in the end zone. Earlier in the game, the Zips could have picked up first downs, but their receivers were unable to corral the pass. What turned out to be a 17-point output for Akron could have been more, and therefore the game, in all, could have been different.

"We definitely dodged a lot of bullets," safety Jay Valai said. "But I think we'll be clean, prepared next week. It shouldn't happen again if we're doing what we got to do."

Grade: B-. The defense was able to get off the field, but there were some missed opportunities for Akron to take advantage of in the Badger secondary.

Special Teams

Brad Nortman

Analysis: Simply put, his one punt went 58 yards due to a friendly roll after two Zips, including the returner, ran into each other.

Grade: A

Philip Welch

Analysis: Welch did a good job handling kickoffs, connected on his only field goal attempt and make every PAT. His worst kickoff was going into the wind and was being held by his teammate. Overall, it was a solid debut.

Grade: A



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