September 11, 2008

Inside Fresno State: Defense

MADISON, Wis. - Defensively, Fresno State went across the United States and held Rutgers, a bowl team from a year ago, to seven total points in their season opener. Keep in mind, although losing a few key players from that team, the Scarlet Knights averaged more than 32 points per game in 2007.

So far in 2008, the Badgers boast an offense that averages nearly 45 points per game. On Saturday, in California, these two forces will meet. The following is an inside look at Fresno State's defense:

Defensive line: Up front the Bulldogs return two starters starting with 6-foot-2, 280-pound Jon Monga. A season ago, Monga was one of the WAC's best run stuffers as he recorded 11 tackles for loss and 6.5 quarterback sacks. Against Rutgers he recorded four tackles.

Joining Monga on the defensive line is fellow returning starter Wilson Ramos at end and new starters Cornell Banks and [db]Ikenna Ike[/db], who missed games a season ago due to injury. Collectively the line helped slow Rutgers to only 106 yards rushing.

If the Badgers hope to start the game by exerting their rush attack, they will have to break through this tough line that averages approximately 276 pounds. Note, the Badger offensive line average weight is 319 pounds.

Linebackers: This group features three starting sophomores. Chris Carter is tied for the team lead in tackles after pulling down eight Scarlet Knights in the season opener. Joining him are Ben Jacobs, a returning starter and second leading tackler from a season ago, and Nico Herron.

This unit is similar to that of Big 10 linebackers as Jacobs and Herron both measure out at 6-foot-3, 240-pounds. Carter comes in at 6-foot-2, 220. The Bulldog linebackers will have the duty of sinking into coverage against Badger tight ends Travis Beckum, Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks. If they can help limit the running game and slow down the tight ends, Fresno State will be in a great position to pull the home upset.

Secondary: This athletic secondary returns two starters and two others with plenty of experience as they prepare for UW. Strong safety Moses Harris is tied with Carter for the team lead in tackles. Jake Jorde, free safety, notched seven takedowns of his own against Rutgers. In that same game, Jorde's backup [db]Marvin Haynes[/db] was impressive as he intercepted two Rutger's passes.

At corner, juniors A.J. Jefferson and Damion Owens will have the responsibility of slowing the Badger wide receivers that are off to a somewhat slow start.

Special teams: So far the Badgers have had a solid test in regards to opponent kick returners. This time around, they get the nation's leader in kickoff returns from 2007 in Jefferson.

"We've faced the No. 2 and No. 3 NCAA leader from a year ago," head coach Bret Bielema said. "Now this week we face the absolute No. 1 guy last year in 2007. So, we've got our hands full in the special teams phase once again."

So far, UW freshman punter Brad Nortman has been incredible, averaging 50.2 yards per punt. It will be crucial for him to continue him momentum on Saturday at Fresno State.

The Bulldogs start a redshirt freshman place kicker in Kevin Goessling. So far on the season he is 1-for-1, connecting on a 31 yard attempt.

The Fresno State punter, sophomore Robert Malone, has an average of 39.3 yards per punt. Depending on Malone's hang-time, UW returner David Gilreath could play a major role in Saturday's contest.

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