September 19, 2009

Five things to watch: Wofford

MADISON, Wis. - Each of the past two seasons have brought an interesting match up with Division 1-AA teams for Wisconsin. In 2007, the Badgers were booed off the field heading into the locker room after the Citadel was able to tie the score.

Last season, if Cal Poly's kicker would have had a better day, the Badgers would have likely lost. Now, UW gets its shot at Wofford, the 2009 1-AA opponent.

Before kickoff in a matter of hours, provides five things to watch for during the game as well as Lea's prediction.

1.) UW defensive line against the triple option run attack:

Wofford does not run an offense very similar to teams in the Big Ten, so it shouldn't be a surprise if the Terriers are able to do some things early in the game. They spread their offensive line wider than usual and use plenty of misdirection to throw off the defensive line.

It has been well documented that Wofford prefers to run the ball 85-90 percent of the time, so the Badger defensive line will have to play stout to prevent any big running plays that would open up the play-action pass.

"They run it quite a bit," UW sophomore defensive end J.J. Watt said. "That's something that's fun for D-linemen. We love playing the run. It's really toe-to-toe with the O-linemen and see who is better.

"So, I'm excited to find out on Saturday."

So far this season, the Badgers have done a decent job against the run. Through two games, UW has held Northern Illinois and Fresno State to only 3.8 yards per carry and that number is relatively inflated after Ryan Mathews ran for 55-yards on one play last week for Fresno State.

But for Wofford, with their No. 1 running back injured, it seems the Badgers defensive line has the upper hand.

2.) John Clay getting his first start:

When meeting with reporters earlier in the week, UW sophomore John Clay took the modest approach when asked about his first career start. He made it clear that he would approach the game the same way he would any other week and just try to carry any momentum he generated last week into today's game.

Through two games, Clay is the team's leading rusher with 186 yards on 36 carries, good enough for a 5.2 yards per carry average. His 72-yard outburst in the fourth quarter showed how much of a playmaker he can be if he gets adequate blocking from his front line.

Clay is probably the most talented back on UW's roster and now has a chance to display that against a Wofford team that has struggled in stopping the run.

3.) UW's secondary getting lulled to sleep?

As was mentioned earlier, Wofford loves to run the ball and set up the play-action pass. They will continually run the ball out of the shotgun formation 85 to 90 percent of the time. But that remaining 10 percent, if the secondary is lulled by the rushing attack, can be recipe for disaster for the Badger defense.

"You really need to have your eyes in the right spot and you really need to be reading your keys really good," UW senior Chris Maragos said. "It's tricky what they do. They lull you to sleep. They run, run and run and then they throw one over your head.

"I think for us, we just need to be on with our keys and be disciplined with what we do and I think we'll be alright."

4.) Konz making first start at center:

Last week, Peter Konz was expecting to get some reps at the left guard position. However, when Travis Frederick went down with an ankle injury early in the game, those plans changed.

Now, with a full week of practice under his belt, the freshman center is poised to make the first start of his career.

"Peter will start," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "I'm a lot more comfortable now. It was kind of interesting, when it happens during the course of the game you have no recourse. You just go with what's out there. Pete was the next man in and did a great job. I have to admit, had that have happened at Tuesday's practice and then he'd of practiced all week….you just have that unknown.

"Once you do it once, you've got to expect it every time."

Bielema also said that he would like to get both John Moffitt and Bill Nagy into the game as both have returned from their injuries. How he will work Moffitt in at center really depends on the flow of the game.

5.) Team finally healthy:

After last week's debacle with the flu, it seems that the team is back to full strength and that the virus spreading throughout the team is over. Still, after going through those hardships last week, and then persevering against a tough Fresno State team, the players seem to think that will only strengthen an already solid team chemistry.

"If we can get through this, we can get through anything," UW safety Jay Valai said. "So team wide-flu, get through it, win the game and come back and hopefully step up this week just focusing on Wofford and getting ready for the Big Ten right after that.

"That should be team bonding enough. I know that much."

Every starter throughout the two games should be healthy and good to go during Saturday's game.

Lea's prediction:

I wouldn't be surprised to see Wofford hang around through the first quarter and potentially through the first half. Their offense, though UW has prepared for it, will catch the Badgers off guard and lead to an early Terrier score.

But, UW's running game and consistent quarterback play will be too much for Wofford. UW goes on to win 42-13.

Lea's prediction record: 2-0

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!