Two losses in a row and a bye week have left the Badgers with a nasty attitude.
Barry Alvarez is hoping he'll be left with a very angry team when Wisconsin takes the field Saturday against Minnesota. The Gophers have the top-rated offense in the Big Ten and one of the best running attacks in the country, so he'll need a tremendous defensive effort in order to compete for 60 minutes at the Metrodome.
That is one thing Alvarez did not get in a 16-7 loss at Northwestern on Oct. 25.
Wisconsin had been all about attitude as the team built a 6-1 record that included a major win over Ohio State in mid-October. That attitude began with the offensive line, which took it upon itself to grind up everything in its way early in the conference season. Now the Badgers are apparently having trouble working up that same attitude and playing with the same consistency.
A return to form against Minnesota would not be out of the question. The Gophers have defensive deficiencies, and if the Wisconsin offensive line plays the way it can — and RB Anthony Davis can get loose for a couple of big runs — the Badgers are capable of lighting up the scoreboard and matching Minnesota point for point.
Davis has been troubled by a badly sprained ankle throughout the season, but his 6.5 yards per carry shows how dangerous he can be when healthy.
QB Jim Sorgi could be back in the lineup as well against the Gophers. Sorgi is not having a great year — seven TD passes and seven interceptions — but the offense seems to function a bit smoother with him in the lineup, rather than inexperienced Matt Schabert, his game-winning TD pass against Ohio State notwithstanding.
To keep from seeing a successful season fritter away, a win against the Gophers is a necessity.
GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Booker Stanley — With Anthony Davis out for much of the past month, the Badgers have had to go to backup RBs Dwayne Smith and Stanley. Both have been solid, but Stanley has gone above and beyond the call of duty with 453 yards and five touchdowns. Stanley has shown power between the tackles and has had success in clutch situations.
KEEP AN EYE ON: DB-PR Jim Leonhard — A very smart and clever defensive back, Leonhard leads the Badgers with five interceptions. He has also returned two punts for touchdowns. Leonhard gets it done with make-you-miss moves, but is not going to run away from the opposition.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We need to recharge and get some guys healthy." — Alvarez on what the team needed to do to prepare for Minnesota.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The Badgers won't panic in clutch situations. To wit: After falling behind in the opener, they rallied to beat West Virginia in the fourth quarter. One week later, a fourth-quarter 99-yard pass from Jim Sorgi to Lee Evans clinched a win over Akron. Fast forward to the 17-10 win over Ohio State, when Matt Schabert hit Evans with a 79-yard TD pass late in the fourth quarter. Jim Leonhard returned a punt 63 yards for a TD with 2:55 left to tie Purdue the following week before the Boilermakers won on a late field goal.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: The Badgers need to get healthy and get back to basics — run, run, run. They are still in good position for a strong run down the stretch in the Big Ten season.
INJURY IMPACT: RB Anthony Davis aggravated his sprained ankle against Northwestern, but he should be much stronger after a week off. ... QB Jim Sorgi had knee surgery, but he should be back when the Badgers line up against Minnesota.
Badgers seeking nasty attitude
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