The results have shown for the first-team defense, which has shut down Wisconsin's first-team offense in back-to-back practices in the two minute drill.
"It's about building momentum day to day," junior linebacker Mike Taylor said. "If they get us one day, we're going to get them the next day. The point of spring game is getting acclimated to football again, exercising your mind and getting back to fundamentals. Right now, it's seeing the little things the offense does and shutting them down."
Led by Taylor, the first team defense allowed only two first downs in two chances against the offense, as the second drill ended with a Dezmen Southward interception after Jon Budmayr overthrew Jacob Pedersen over the middle.
Compared to the second-team, however, the first team offense had great success. On the first play from scrimmage, Joe Brennan threw an interception right into the arms of sophomore Conor O'Neill. O'Neill wasn't done, as he capped a mistake-filled drill (Kenzel Doe and Jake Byrne each had a pass go off his hands) by picking off another Brennan pass.
Getting moved back to linebacker after spending last season trying to work at safety, O'Neill is playing with a ton of confidence, having picked off four passes in the last three practices.
"I feel like I am able to get a good read on the play, a good read on the receivers, see what routes they are running and making a break on the ball," O'Neill said. "I am definitely moving in the right direction."
The only success UW had was with the third-team offense under Joel Stave. Utilizing Doe throughout the drive, Stave completed three passes to Doe for 13, 7 and a touchdown pass over the secondary. Stave went 4 of 5 under center during the drill, including a 15-yard reception that tight end Brian Wozniak held on to despite a loud collision from safety Jerry Ponio.
The offense certainly had the upper hand early in practice during 7-on-7 work, particularly Budmayr. The redshirt sophomore was crisp, completing 11 of 14 passes, 10 of which went for touchdowns. The only pass that didn't find the end zone was a one-handed catch by an outstretch Jeff Duckworth heading out of bounds at the one. The only mistake was a pass forced into traffic that senior Aaron Henry intercepted.
Budmayr went 6 of 10 on third downs, with five of those plays going past the markers. Budmayr's best throw was when he unleashed a deep pass to Jared Abbrederis down the near sideline. With Devin Smith proving good coverage, Abbrederis was able to haul in the pass while getting a foot down for a 30-plus yard gain. However, Budmayr did throw two interceptions, one to Henry amidst three defenders and one to a leaping Taylor when Budmayr tried to throw over him.
Brennan went 3 of 5 and his best play was a 15-yard pass over the middle to Pedersen.
11 on 11 Red Zone
The first team started with a bang, as Budmayr completed an 18-yard pass to Pedersen and then ran a naked bootleg 9 yards into the end zone. The defense didn't allow anything after that. The first team defense relied on pressure from Nzegwu on back-to-back plays in the next series, holding James White to a one-yard game and then pressuring Budmayr off the edge to force an off-target pass. On the third drive, Nzegwu ended it with a third down sack.
The second-team defense shutdown Brennan and Co. on three straight plays, as Brendan Kelly overpowered left tackle Robert Burge for the quarterback sack on third and seven, and the third-team offense couldn't get anything going either, going three and out after Marcus Cromartie registered a pass breakup in the end zone.
Extra Points: Senior Kevin Claxton did not practice after getting his on the ribs and it doubtful for Saturday's scrimmage. Sophomore A.J. Fenton took his place on the first team … Greg Russo (shoulder) and Michael Trotter (toe) did not practice … Badgers alumni Niles Brinkley, John Clay and Joe Thomas all stopped in to watch practice.