The Specialist

Junior defensive end J.J. Watt has made the loss of O'Brien Schofield easier to handle by stepping into top the playmaking role. The junior defensive end finished third in tackles Saturday, led the team in tackles for a loss and got his hands on a San Jose State field goal attempt.

MADISON — More then a few Badgers tossed around the word "disappointed" after Wisconsin's 27-14 victory over San Jose State Saturday afternoon.

J.J. Watt, who currently holds the title of best player on defense, was not one of them.

Amid a plethora of errors — four fumbles, a bad ball interception and red zone problems to name a few — Watt chose to focus on the only stat that mattered.

"We are 2-0," Watt said. "You can't be any better then 2-0. So we will be happy with that."

Given Watt's play, he has plenty of reason to just concentrate on the positives. For the second straight week, the junior defensive end was a force Badger fans were used to seeing on the field last season.

Except last year, the non-stop motoring playmaker was O'Brien Schofield. In a seamless transition, Watt has replaced the now-Arizona Cardinal as Wisconsin's top playmaker.

Watt's imprint can be found on nearly every positive play on defense. He started the game bringing down SJSU running back Brandon Rutley for a loss of yards on the Spartan's first play from scrimmage. He collected 2.5 total tackles for a loss in the game, consistently crashing into the backfield.

An even more impressive performance, considering the San Jose State offense is designed to get rid of the ball quickly in the passing game.

"Not a lot of dropbacks," Watt said. "Mostly two, three step drops. I just did my best to get in his face and make it difficult."

And make it difficult he did. Watt can take partial credit for the Badgers first turnover of the game, with the junior hurrying Spartan's quarterback Matt Faulkner into a gimme floater that linebacker Blake Sorensen took full advantage of for his second career interception.

"I disrupted the quarterback a little bit, he threw it right to Blake," Watt said. "A huge play for our defense."

The best was yet to come for Watt, however, as the former tight end got his hands on the fourth ball in two games.

This one ranks a tad more impressive, however, as he blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt, getting just enough on the ball to redirect its course.

"We had Josh Oglesby and Gabe Carimi standing right next to me knocking the guard over, so I have to give a lot of credit to those guys. They knocked the guy right back, all I had to do was put my hand up and block it," Watt said.

"I am happy it is a trend, a couple blocks last week and the block this week, I'll take it."

Watt finished the game with six tackles, at least three hurries and one official QB hit. A super utility man, he also played in two goal line sets for the Badgers as a second tight end, sealing his man while John Clay plunged in for a 1-yard touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter.

Not satisfied with simply playing in all three phases of the game, Watt wants to make an impact on offense.

"If I scored a touchdown I would be pretty happy with that," Watt said with a laugh. "But I am just doing anything to help the team."

Just like Schofield last season, Watt qualifies as the unquestioned leader of the defensive line. And Bielema could not be happier with the job he has done on the team's youngest position group.

"J.J. is an unbelievable competitor," head coach Bret Bielema said.

"Because of what J.J. brings to the table, I really think he inspires other guys to play harder … He is an exception."


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