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October 17, 2011

No fuel to the fire

MADISON - If you were expecting a war of words this week leading into UW's highly anticipated game at Michigan State, you're about to be disappointed.

"We'll do our talking with our pads," Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said during his weekly Monday press conference. "We'll do it between the whistles."

Michigan State obviously has revenge on its mind after missing out on a trip to the Rose Bowl a season ago, even though it was solely responsible for Wisconsin's lone loss.

So much so that its starting safety Isaiah Lewis spoke harshly about what UW can expect Saturday night in East Lansing.

"Wisconsin should know we're coming," Lewis said during an interview with espn.com. "They have a good offense and that quarterback (Russell Wilson).

"But they should just know our defense is coming. And just like any other team, if they're throwing the ball up, our DB's are going to go get it, our linebackers are going to go get it and our linemen are getting after the quarterback.

"And they're going to hurt him."

That promise, albeit prime bulletin board material for the Badgers, didn't seem to phase Wilson. It also didn't bait him into chirping back with any motivational fuel.

"I think the games are won on the field," UW's senior signal caller said. "That's by our preparation during the week, by watching the extra film we put in and everything we do during the week.

"It really helps you prepare for the game."

Michigan State's defense is currently ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten. Through six games it's allowing just 10.8 points per game (4th nationally), 67 yards rushing per game, 119 yards passing per game and just 186.2 yards of total offense per.

"Every defense is trying to go for the quarterback," Wilson said. "Every defense is trying to stop the quarterback. I think the main thing is just playing great football, executing our offense and doing the things that we need to do to win."

Wisconsin, led by the dynamic Wilson, is the only team in the country that averages at least 240 yards rushing and receiving per games. Through its six games, UW has amassed 1,594 yards passing and 1,545 yards rushing.

Wilson, protected by one of the best, if not the best, offensive lines in the Big Ten, has been hit just a handful of times.

Michigan State, a school that is becoming notorious for aggressive, if not excessive physicality under head coach Mark Dantonio, has made it a point to rattle opposing quarterbacks both mentally and physically with their style of play.

Wilson, Bielema and the rest of the Wisconsin offense are well aware of that theme.

Instead of firing back at MSU with words that could be used as encouragement, Bielema just shared how he felt his offensive line would respond.

"I think our guys up front," Bielema said. "Our running backs, our tight ends and anybody that is called into action to protect Russell is probably going to do it to their highest abilities this Saturday.

"They know how important it is."

Bielema also said he hasn't seen anything out of Wilson during his time in Madison that would indicate a propensity to become rattled with the situation. That doesn't seem to be the veteran quarterback's style.

He's already played on a professional platform, he's thrown for more than 10,000 yards in his career, he's played in plenty of hostile stadiums during his days in the ACC and most importantly, he's confident in his abilities.

Michigan State will definitely provide UW's stiffest challenge to date. But it doesn't seem to be anything that will overwhelm the Big Ten's best quarterback to this point.

"When I'm preparing during the week, especially when I'm playing away, I envision myself playing in that stadium," Wilson said. "I make sure to know where the clock is, the first downs and all that stuff. I visualize being in that stadium. So that prepares me for the game.

"We have to play a great game and it should be fun."





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