Badger offense brings balance

Wisconsin's offense will test Ohio State both through the air and on the ground this Saturday. Quarterback Jim Sorgi and WR Lee Evans will make for a tough combo through the air while the ground game should give OSU's defense their biggest ground test yet even though Anthony Davis might not be 100%.

Wisconsin enters its game against Ohio State equipped with one of the Big Ten's most balanced offenses.

The Badgers are third in the conference in total offense with 422.3 yards per game (222.5 rushing; 199.8 passing) and fourth in scoring at 30.5 points.

Wisconsin is renowned for its running game, but there are some issues in its backfield this week.

Star tailback Anthony Davis (5-8, 200, Jr.) re-injured an ankle injury last week against Penn State and will not be 100 percent if he is able to go against the Buckeyes.

"If we had a game today, he would not play," Wisconsin offensive coordinator Brian White said Wednesday. "We wouldn't play him against a defense (like Ohio State's) without having confidence that he's where he needs to be. You need to cut it loose and be a reckless football player and I'm not sure he can do that right now."

Even with the injury, Davis has 467 rushing yards (5.4 per carry) and four touchdowns this season.

The Buckeyes are of course game-planning as though Davis will play.

"Anthony Davis is one of those guys we have plenty of film on," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "He supposedly wasn't going to play against us in 2001, but he did. He's a gamer and a tough kid. He played against us last year and did very well. We expect him to play. This is huge game in the Big Ten conference."

Like they always do, the Badgers have a deep stable of tailbacks. Due to Davis' injury, two have stepped up and proved themselves this year.

Dwayne Smith (5-11, 223, So.) has rushed for 460 yards (6.7 ypc) and four touchdowns. Booker Stanley (5-10, 203, Fr.) has added 329 yards (4.5 ypc) and four scores.

"The second guy (Smith) is a big strong guy," Tressel said. "They didn't miss a beat when he stepped in there.

"Then the third person, Stanley, is out there getting 100 yards (against Penn State)."

The Badgers' fullback is big Matt Bernstein (6-2, 270, So.). He has 15 carries for 70 yards this year, but is of course out there for his blocking abilities.

Wisconsin doesn't try and hide the fact that it is a run-first team. The Badgers have a lot of respect for Ohio State's defense, but they are still going to try and eat up yards (and the clock) on the ground.

"We are going to try and establish the run – we need to run to win the game," White said. "But let's be realistic. This is as good a defense as we have played, or will play. We'll find out a lot about ourselves this week against an outstanding defense.

"But we want to make it a physical, fourth quarter game."

No one is more impressed with Wisconsin's running game than Tressel. He sees three good backs and a team committed to the run.

"They are very well schooled," he said. "I don't know anyone in our league that has run the ball as consistently well as they have for the last several years. They have a good system."

Wisconsin's success in the running game has a lot to do with attitude.

"It starts with a belief," Tressel said. "They believe they need to run the football well and that's what they do. Their scheme is very well suited to their personnel. They have had good success recruiting people to fit in to what they believe in."

According to Tressel, the Badgers are good at mixing up their running attack. They are able to keep it on the ground without being too vanilla about it.

"They pound it at you across the front. Then, they will use the cutback play," Tressel said. "You can't load up in any one place and stop the run.

"Then, they do a good job of when they throw and what they throw. We're playing against a good run team, knowing they can hit the home run (pass) at any moment. That makes the challenge tougher."

In his first season as a full-time starter, quarterback Jim Sorgi (6-5, 200, Sr.) is 73-of-142 for 1,182 yards. He also has seven TDs and five INTs.

Nothing too impressive, but Sorgi is a capable thrower and does have some quality weapons at receiver.

Lee Evans (5-11, 196, Sr.) is back from a knee injury that shelved him for the entire 2002 season. He leads the team with 30 receptions, 517 yards and five touchdowns.

"Lee Evans, I watched their first game against West Virginia and I thought he got out there and was looking to make plays and get things going and he did," Tressel said. "He doesn't look any different to me than he did prior to the injury. He's a player. He makes a play when they need it. He's back 100 percent in our estimation."

Ohio State safety Nate Salley is well aware of Evans' gamebreaking skills.

"He's pretty physical," Salley said. "He's not a big guy, but he will cut (block) you. He seems like he is pretty fast. He's got his legs back from that injury. He is their biggest playmaker on offense."

The other starting wideout – Brandon Williams (5-11, 170, So.) – has 21 receptions for 373 yards and one TD. He led the team with 52 receptions last year.

"Brandon Williams got to play all of last year. He was the go-to guy," Tressel said.

Wisconsin's offensive line returns three out of six starters from last year – including tight end Tony Paciotti (6-4, 262, Jr.).

The starters on the always-big Wisky O-line are: LT Morgan Davis (6-5, 318, Jr.), LG Dan Buenning (6-4, 303, Jr.), C Donovan Raiola (6-3, 290, So.), RG Jonathan Clinkscale (6-3, 298, Jr.) and RT Mike Lorenz (6-5, 314, Jr.).

Buenning and Clinkscale are the returning starters.

Ohio State defensive end Simon Fraser will be looking to find some holes in the O-line, but has been impressed with what he's seen on film.

"The thing that makes their offensive line great is they're assignment sound," Fraser said "They're all clicking on the same page; they're all working together. Not one person is making a mental error when they're out there."

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