Badger offense a two-headed monster and more

A common theme that has been echoed by Cougar players and coaches alike when talking about Wisconsin is the Badgers' power run game behind large offensive linemen. It's what Wisconsin has traditionally been know for, but the Badger attack doesn't end there.

The Cougar linebackers will have their hands full against Wisconsin. They'll be given the task of stopping two very good Badger backs in 5-foot-10-inch, 196-pound speed senior James White and 6-foot-2-inch, 231-pound fullback Derek Watt.

"They have a 1,000-yard rusher and an 800-yard rusher," said Kyle Van Noy. "You know, they're a two-headed monster and they run the ball and they do it well, and that's what we're trained here to do when we play defense at BYU is stop the run. It's going to be a battle and it's not going to be easy. It's going to go back and forth and will probably come down to the wire, and it's going to be very physical and they're going to make plays and we're going to make plays."

White was nominated to the 2013 preseason Doak Walker Award watch list, Maxwell Award watch list, and the third-team all-Big Ten team. Together, White and Watt have led a rushing attack that has averaged 287 rushing yards per game.

"They just keep pounding over and over," said Coach Tidwell. "The idea of being physical, you gotta be physical and try and keep those big guys from mauling them and getting their mitts on them. So, they're going to have to be quick as well as physical, and I think they play that way. So, I don't have to coach them too much [to] come downhill and hit somebody. They play pretty physical."

Wisconsin's backs have drawn some comparisons to players that the Cougars have gone up against the past few seasons.

"We've played backs like them before," said Coach Howell. "I think the guy from Boise [Jay Ajayi] is similar, probably not as much juice as the bigger guy [Watt] has. I think the kid from San Diego State last year [Adam Muema] was pretty good too. He's probably comparable to [White], so we've played backs like them. Notre Dame's backs are like them."

"Well they are very good, very good running backs," said Coach Tidwell with a slight laugh. "I think that [Muema] played really well. I think the running back from Boise State [Ajayi] was a good running back and they're comparable. These guys might be a little more shifty, but, yeah, they're good running backs. They're really good and it will be a challenge for us. Every week's a challenge and every college team has good players, and we just have to rally like we do and gang tackle and get to the ball."

How well the Cougar linebackers will be able to control Wisconsin's ground game – which has averaged 6.7 yards per carry – will depend on how well BYU controls the line of scrimmage. That's a tall order given the size of the Badger offensive line:

Left tackle Tyler Marz (6 feet 5 inches, 321 pounds)
Left guard Ryan Groy (6 feet 5 inches, 320 pounds)
Center Dallas Lewallen (6 feet 6 inches, 322 pounds)
Right guard Kyle Costingan (6 feet 5 inches, 315 pounds)
Right tackle Rob Havenstein (6 feet 9 inches, 327 pounds)

Keeping the offensive line off the linebackers so they can flow to the ball will be vital in stopping the run.

"You know, that's the key," Tidwell said. "They're really the key to everything, and this is true with any defensive line, not just with our defensive line. If you get knocked back it makes it tough on the second-level guys to fit their gaps, so they're going to have to keep their pad level low. They're going to have to play physical as well. Coach Kaufusi does a great job of teaching them to take two and keep the linebackers free, so I love those guys up front. It's going to be a challenge because, you know, those big guys are going to lean on them, and they're going to have to hold their ground."

"They're good and what they want to do is block it up good and run the ball," said Coach Howell. "So they recruited some good running backs for their system. They're good.

"They're big. They look like Notre Dame last year. That's who I would compare them to that we've played, or maybe like Oklahoma a couple of years ago, that size."

This season Wisconsin brought over former Utah and San Diego State offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who faced BYU last year in the Poinsettia Bowl. What the coaches have seen on film is an Aztec-style offense coupled with the strengths of a traditional Badger ground-and-pound rushing style.

"There's still power-I, two tight ends, sometimes three tight ends, and a coordinator that we faced in San Diego State," said Coach Tidwell. "We've watched that game a lot this past week, a lot of the same plays, so we're preparing for a dogfight."

"Schematically it's exactly like San Diego State last year," said Coach Howell. "It's identical and with the same coordinator. They haven't changed much from what they were doing up there. They're a little bit different but not a ton different from what they were doing from when the old coaching staff was there. You know, they have that personnel."

The Badgers have a passing game that complements the run game. There are play-action elements within the Badger offense that they use after establishing a successful ground game.

"We watch both and we have to defend the pass as linebackers as well," Coach Tidwell said. "They do a lot of play action. They'll run, run, run and do a fake run and pop up and try and hit something deep downfield. You know, when you stop the run, then the pass off the play action isn't as effective."

The primary receiver in the Wisconsin passing attack is 6-foot-2-inch, 190-pound versatile wideout Jared Abbrederis. Abbrederis has been nominated to the Biletnikoff Award watch list and Paul Hornung Award watch list. In 2012 he was a first-team all-Big Ten consensus selection. BYU's cornerbacks will have their hands full and be charged with containing Abbrederis when the Badger passing game turns to him to make plays.

"[Abbrederis] is getting the ball and he's good, and he's their main guy," said Coach Howell. "Their tight end [Brian Wozniak] is good and he's adequate. He's big and he catches it. Then little number three [Kenzel Doe] is not bad. He's the little slot guy.

"They're throwing it to [Abbrederis]. I don't care what formation they're in. If he's in, they're going to him. He can line up anywhere on the field and he's getting the ball. He's getting the ball. [Abbrederis] is getting the ball and that's what we're planning on."

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