MADISON, Wis. -. Both, UW and Marshall enter the game after winning their respective season openers last weekend. However, at the conclusion of week two, one team will have a blemish on their record.
The following is a breakdown of the UW-Marshall match up:
When the Badgers have the ball:
There is no doubt the Thundering Herd will be keying in on UW's three headed rushing attack of P.J. Hill, Zach Brown, and John Clay, but that does not necessarily mean they will slow them down.
A week ago, that trio rushed for over 400 yards combined against lowly Akron. While it would be asinine to expect that type of performance week in and week out, the Badgers do have a solid chance to create some havoc on Marshall defenders.
Up front, the Thundering Herd's defensive line, while more athletic than that of Akron, still finds themselves outweighed by the Badger offensive line by 43 pounds. Albeit, Marshall's defensive tackles are both over 300 pounds, including 6-foot-3 Brandon Bullock as a backup, their ends are much smaller in weight.
In week one, UW fans did not really get a full introduction into the entire Badger offense. In that game, the cardinal and white rushed the ball 63 times out of 73 plays, therefore, new quarterback Allan Evridge did not have a wealth of opportunity.
This week, unless the running backs run rampant again over the Marshall defense, expect to see Evridge have more opportunities to showcase his skills as a passer. If Travis Beckum returns from his strained hamstring, look for him and Evridge to attempt to develop some chemistry in the game atmosphere.
If not, look for some of the young wide receivers, Kyle Jefferson, David Gilreath, Maurice Moore, among others, as well as tight ends Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks to be the lefty's primary targets.
Evridge could have a big day against a defense that allowed 229 passing yards against Illinois State mostly because the Badgers will control the time of possession and have the ball a lot.
When Marshall has the ball:
Perhaps Marshall's skills come at exactly that, their skill positions. They return running back, and Conference USA's top freshman, Darius Marshall to an offense that averaged more than 24 points per game in 2007. In the season opener, Marshall rushed for 115 yards on 20 attempts and a touchdown. He will be the first true running back threat the Badgers will face in 2008.
The Thundering Herd also returns senior wide receiver Darius Passmore who started off the season with 111 yards receiving on four catches and two touchdowns against Illinois State last Saturday. Couple that with Marshall out of the backfield and they comprise two talented skill players that could pose problems for the Badgers defense, especially Passmore in the secondary.
On the other hand, the Badger defense will be a brute force like they were against Akron. Sure, there were some receivers that got past the defenders and some dropped balls saved them a couple of times, but they were able to get off the field and held the Zips to only 10 points before the backups came in.
If senior linebacker Jonathan Casillas is able to return to the lineup, the task will be even tougher for the Thundering Herd. Casillas provides a veteran presence in the Badger defense and returns as UW's leading tackler from a year ago. With him in the lineup, look for UW to blitz Marshall's redshirt freshman quarterback Mark Cann and thus, present the secondary with some turnover opportunities.
In the end, the experience of the Badger defensive line and solid linebacking play, means the young Thundering Herd offense will be in for a long day.
Both teams are in similar positions as far as the kicking game goes. The Badgers start true freshman Brad Nortman as punter and redshirt freshman Philip Welch as place kicker. Meanwhile, Marshall's place kicker Craig Ratanamorn was on the soccer team a season ago and decided to try his hand on the gridiron. Thundering herd punter Kase Whitehead is also a true freshman at that position.
As far as kick returners go, UW's David Gilreath was one tackle away from having a touchdown last week against Akron, and already has over 1,000 yards returning in his 14 game career. The Thundering Herd's Marshall and Chubb Small provide a talented return duo on kickoffs. Wide receiver Emmanuel Spann will also provide a test for the Badger punt coverage unit as well.
After UW held All-American punt returner Andre Jones in check during kickoff coverage and Gilreath flashed his knack for returning kicks, the Badgers hold the upper hand in this position.
One can't expect the Badger running backs to rush for more than 400 yards all the time, but they will once again have a big day. Head coach Bret Bielema has never lost a game at home as the head guy, not to mention non-conference games. Thus, it's hard to see Marshall pulling the major upset at Camp Randall Stadium with their young offense and the Badgers very dominant offensive line.
The game stays close for maybe a quarter and a half, before UW pulls away to win 41-21.
BadgerBlitz.com season record:
1-0 overall; 0-1 versus spread. (UW is 20.5 point favorites this week)
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