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September 17, 2010
Secondary looks to avoid devilish time
MADISON - To say the Wisconsin secondary is firing on all cylinders would be like saying the a car doesn't need an engine to run. It's simply not true.
But to the back end of the defenses credit, there have been moments of greatness. Unfortunately at the same time, there have been moments of weakness. Maybe week three will be the time things really start to click and the men of the Badger secondary figure out their wrongs and correct them.
"Everybody has got room for improvement," senior cornerback Niles Brinkley said. "I'm not so much pleased with how we played but I think we've made progress. I think that each game we've got to continue to make progress until the last game. If we do that, we'll be the secondary that we want to be.
"But if we don't make progress each week then it's going to be pretty ugly."
Against San Jose State, in particular, the Badger secondary struggled through the majority of the game. Spartans quarterback Jordan La Secla threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns. Without a consistent pass rush, he La Secla had time to connect on 77 percent of his throws (20-of-26).
If San Jose State was able to carve up the Badger secondary in that fashion what will a team like Arizona State, one that has Steven Threet averaging 35 pass attempts per game, be able to do?
"The whole defense has got to play better," Brinkley said. "We obviously need to have the crowd help us with it especially by being loud so they can't check as much and it will take the communication of their offense out of the game."
In addition to enjoying the benefits of what should be a raucous afternoon crowd inside Camp Randall, the Badgers could also benefit from a pass rush that struggled to consistently get after the quarterback a week ago.
Part of the problem was the fact that J.J. Watt was battling double teams and no linebacker was able to harass the quarterback like Chris Borland is capable of while the sophomore linebacker sat out with a shoulder injury.
With Borland back in the lineup, and not to mention Mike Taylor set to play a larger role, the Badger linebacker core is seemingly healthy and very deep entering Saturday's game.
And that should so up on the field.
"When you're talking about pass defense everybody looks at defensive backs and what they've given up," Bielema said. "There's a thing called rush that really determines what kind of success a quarterback can have. Arizona State throws the ball very quickly and gets rid of the ball now and takes the rush element out of it.
"Especially in certain schemes."
That, in essence, is what San Jose State did a week ago and part of what hampered the pass rush from the Badger defense. While Threet isn't as quick to release the ball as La Secla was, he is still very serviceable in that department.
Knowing that, and knowing the Sun Devils are content with running the no huddle offense at a consistent level, running the 'Badger package' that creates rushing opportunities for the UW defense will be difficult.
"When they go no huddle, depending on where we are on the field it can really get down to whether someone is able to sub in and get to that area of where they need to be," Bielema said. "We may be able to use it on first down as well just because of the flow of the game."
There's no question that Arizona State will be the stiffest challenge the Badgers have had to this point of the season. And for a team that had various levels of adversity and inconsistencies show up on both sides of the ball, playing the Sun Devils at this juncture in the season could be a blessing.
It could present the Badgers an opportunity to put everything together and play solid for a complete game, instead of just certain instances or drives in a particular game.
"Last week was definitely a good win," UW senior middle linebacker Culmer St. Jean said. "It was a win, but as far as our performance we didn't execute as much as we wanted to. Everybody wants to have a perfect game and we were far from that. We've got a learning curve this week.
"To have our best opponent after a win like that is a great thing to reprove ourselves."