Wisconsin Owns Nation's 3rd-Best Scoring Defe

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Except for All-Big 10 cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu, Wisconsin's defense might as well be in the federal witness protection program.

While quarterback John Stocco, tailback P.J. Hill and Outland Trophy-winning offensive tackle Joe Thomas grab the headlines, the Wisconsin defenders have quietly allowed 11.9 points per game -- third best in the country.

"Our defense is similar to Arkansas'," Badgers coach Bret Bielema said. "No big names, and relatively young."

The lack of recognition doesn't bother Wisconsin sophomore linebacker DeAndre Levy, who said, "Our goals were team goals this year."

Joe Stellmacher, a team leader as senior strong safety, echoed, "We play together and don't care who gets the credit."

That sentiment is shared by speedy sophomore linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who has escaped national notice despite running a 4.37 40-yard time.

Mainly, Casillas is just thinking about stopping Hogs Heisman runner-up Darren McFadden.

"You could say that," Casillas allowed. "He's one of the best in the nation and you always want to be aware of where he is. You want to get him squared up in your vision."

Stellmacher has had similar thoughts about Arkansas go-to receiver Marcus Monk.

"You have to try to rip his arms when he tries to catch the ball," Stellmacher said. "Actually, I'd rather put Jack on him."

Ikeguono, Stellmacher's road roommate, goes a bit against the Wisconsin grain. He was suspended on suspicion of residential burglary, but has been reinstated for the Capital One Bowl game.

"Jack is fine," Stellmacher said Thursday. "Everything is cleared up."

While Ikeguono puts the clamps on receivers, Stellmacher takes care of the run support.

"Jack's got a little swagger to him," Stellmacher said. "He talks more than I do."

Except on Thursday, when Ikeguono was off limits to reporters.

Most of the Badgers defenders talked Arkansas up.

Senior defensive end Joe Monty said, "Arkansas is very dangerous, very fast. Their No. 2 tailback (Felix Jones) could play anywhere in the nation.

"We're built to play physical teams like Michigan and Ohio State, and I think Arkansas' offensive line is like a Big 10 team's."

But a few Badgers bit on the question of what would happen when Arkansas' 30-point offense faces a Wisconsin defense that has held everyone under 30 points.

"I don't know -- we'll have to see," Stellmacher mused. "If we execute, we'll be just fine."

Levy said, "We're going to do our job and try not to give."

Mark Zalewski, a senior linebacker, added, "Everyone has to be assignment-sound. If one guy is out of his gap, their backs can go a long way. We have to fill the gaps and make McFadden go to the sidelines."

Casillas looked at it another way.

"If we come out and be a dud against Arkansas, next year no one will give us any consideration," he said.


Wisconsin's somewhat overlooked defense ranks in the top three nationally in four statistical categories, as shown below.

SCORING DEFENSE: Third, 11.9 points yielded per game

TOTAL DEFENSE: Third, 243.5 yards yielded per game

PASS DEFENSE: Second, 138.5 yards yielded per game


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