Following individual drills, brief team and special teams work and 7-on-7 skelly drills, Wisconsin conducted its first refereed scrimmage of fall camp.
"It's a good starting point, but we're certainly not going to cancel practice tomorrow," offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said. "We've got to keep going."
From the Infirmary
Chris Borland (shoulder) Jon Budmayr (right elbow), Manasseh Garner (hernia surgery), Nick Hill (ACL), Nick Toon (foot), Fred Willis (dislocated thumb) Philip Welch (strained quadriceps), Brian Wozniak (hamstring) Kevin Zeitler (right ankle), Dallas Lewallen (knee cap), Marcus Trotter (hamstring), Peniel Jean (mild MCL sprain) Austin Maly (concussion), Michael Trotter (hamstring), A.J. Fenton (hamstring) and Brendan Kelly (foot) did not scrimmage.
The only casualty of the scrimmage was Ethan Armstrong suffering what appeared to be an upper-body injury. Armstrong walked off gingerly under his own power while being accompanied by two members of UW's medical staff. Linebacker coach Dave Huxtable did not have an update at the end of practice.
Scrimmage - Stationary
James White kicked off the scrimmage with a bang, reversing field and speeding down the left sidelines. When he was finally caught, White gained approximately 27 yards. Not to be outdone, Ball did just the same, waiting behind the line of scrimmage until a gap opened, broke a tackle and powered his way to a 16-yard gain.
Even Wilson got into the act. On the fourth play, Wilson faked the handoff but looked to be dead to rights with Fenelus staying home in coverage. That changed quickly, when Wilson unleashed a quick juke that the senior cornerback bit on, causing him to fall to the turf and Wilson plenty of room to run. In four offensive running plays, Wisconsin had run for three first downs with three different players.
Ball continued his power running, a showed how his new physique is going to benefit him. On an inside handoff, two massive seal blocks from Konz and Groy left a huge hole in the middle of the field that Ball sprinted through for 22 yards.
"When you have a tandem back there like that, a group that can make you miss and a group that can run through you, you get to a point where you feel good about tackling them, you can tackle anybody in a country," co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge said.
Brennan attempted the first pass in the scrimmage, a WR screen pass to Doe that netted the offense eight yards. Brennan looked pretty confident in the pocket, staying in despite getting rushed by a number of defensive linemen on a couple plays. Hard to say what he would have done if he wasn't wearing a green jersey though.
Gordon first carry went for 13 yards, breaking one shoe-string tackle before being brought down by a second one. Gordon looked like he was shot out of a cannon, but Hammock was disappointed by the second tackle, especially since Gordon had a lot of room in front of him.
When the first team got its second chance, Bielema put them in third-down situations. UW's running attack was able to convert a third-and-two with a run that stretched to the sideline and Wilson completed a 15-yard pass on a play-action pass to Ball on third-and-3. It appeared, however, that UW's defensive line got good penetration on the play and slowed up once they got within five yards of Wilson.
Wilson showed good awareness on third-and-8 when the pocket broke down and his receivers were covered to buy some time by scrambling and eventually throwing the pass away, discipline that paid off considering he threw a perfect 20-yard strike on the next third-and-8 to Abbrederis on a crossing route.
The first-team offense continued their dominance on third-and-10 when a simple screen pass to Ball turned into a 15-yard gain with Groy and Oglesby out in front and clearing out the linebackers. On third-and-13, Gilbert managed to stop the bleeding when he got a hand on Wilson's pass attempt. Still, Wilson and the offense went 4-for-6 on their opportunities.
"There were some opportunities at the line of scrimmage and behind the line of scrimmage to make some plays," Partridge said. "Obviously, if you get a TFL instead of a big play, it changes the face of the scrimmage. We've got a lot of work to do in terms of our tackling."
On third-and-3, Gordon took the inside handoff and broke a big gain when he saw opening to his left, turning on the jets for an approximate 17-yard gain. Brennan's play-action pass went nowhere on third-and-3, as he forced a pass to Cadogan in double coverage, and his third-and-7 pass to Arneson was the same story with his decision to throw to a well-covered receiver. Cromartie made another big play for the defense when he came untouched on a corner blitz. Had it been a real game, Cromartie's blow to Brennan's blindside could have yielded a big turnover.
After overthrowing Cummins on a deep route on third-and-10, Brennan settled for hitting Gordon in the flat, as the freshman running back was able to gain eight yards before being brought down short of the marker.
Scrimmage - Move the Ball
Starting from the 24-yard line, a false start penalty on the offensive line moved Wilson and Co. to the 19-yard line. After a run play got Wisconsin back to the original line of scrimmage, Ewing, who had a tough day with a couple drops in skelly drills, failed to turn around for a pass coming to him in the flat. On third-and-10, a blitz by the defense caused Wilson to scramble and a holding penalty to be called on Pedersen stunted the drive.
Starting at the 24, Jeff Lewis quickly moved the sticks with a physical run through the right side, gaining roughly 11 yards. Cameron Ontko, replacing Armstrong, blew up the next run play by charging through the line and earning a TFL. Brennan came right back at Ontko, throwing a nifty pass to a diving Cadogan for a six-yard gain, setting up third-and-5. Despite Gordon throwing his body in front of a blitzing backer, Cadogan couldn't haul in the first down pass, forcing a punt.
"I think like anything, you appreciate the fact that he can go out and run plays," Chryst said of Gordon. "There is a lot thrown at him the first week and we're just coming out of that. He stayed with it. A lot of guys get ‘paralysis by analysis,' and I didn't see that out of him. Anything positive that happens, we can build on that."
After no gain on first down, an inside handoff was chased down by Nzgewu, whose new spin-like move is really paying off for him so far in fall camp. Faced with a third-and-8, Gilbert's pressure and ability to catch Frederick off guard drew a slight tug of the jersey, a holding penalty, and negated a 40-yard completion from Wilson to Abbrederis in double coverage.
One of the more headsy plays of the scrimmage, Doe saved the offense a turnover after Brennan shorted a backwards pass to him in the flat. Doe rightfully picked up the ball and was able to get 11 yards down field to move the chains. It was a good move, seeing as Brennan completed a 27-yard strike to Arneson on the nest play, getting the offense for the first time inside the 30. That's as far as UW would get, as Matthias' penetration into the backfield on third-and-7 caused Brennan to scramble out of the pocket and the play to be blown dead.
Starting at their opponent's 40-yard line, a White run got the Badgers four and six yards. After Wilson completed a 15-yard pass to Pedersen to get inside the 10-yard line. On second-and-goal from the 5, Lewis bounced an inside handoff to the outside and went untouched into the end zone.
One of the keys to this drive was what happened at the end of one of the earlier drives. When the offense didn't look particularly crisp, Wilson gathered the group together on the sidelines and spoke to them. What he said is unknown, but the results spoke loudly.
"What it tells you is there is an awareness (there)," Chryst said of Wilson's talk. "He was around there with some other guys to get it going, and I think he understood we were our own worst enemy. There were two negatives, and you have to be able to overcome that. There were two messages there. One, don't put yourself in that position but two, overcome it, whatever hand you are dealt."
On first down at the 35, Cromartie registered the scrimmage's first turnover, stepping in front of a Brennan pass and returning in 15 yards before running out of bounds. It was a great read by Cromartie, who read the play the entire way and undercut the route without coming into the slightest of contact with the receiver.
Brennan got his revenge though, throwing a perfect pass to Cummins along the sideline. Brennan threw the ball just out of the defensive back's reach and Cummins showed some surprising breakaway speed, going 65 yards for the touchdown.
"He came over and ‘finally' is what he said," Chryst said. "Those things do (matter). It's important to him, and you need to have some good things happen to you. He's his own worst critic at times. There has been enough times where he gets down on himself, and it's good to kind of reward himself. That was good to see for Joey."
Giving snaps to the third-string, I was really impressed with the young linebackers Wisconsin has at its disposal. Jake Keefer looked comfortable calling plays from the mike linebacker position and Derek Landisch showed a considerable burst on the outside, tracking down the ball carrier and making a nice, physical tackle along the sideline. Talking to Huxtable after, you can tell his excited he is to work with this group.
Play of the Day
Although Cummins' catch was impressive, the play of the day came before the scrimmage started. With Wilson under center and Abbrederis in one-on-one coverage, Wilson unleashed a perfect deep, sideline pass to Abbrederis, who made a nifty over-the-shoulder catch for roughly a 45-yards game.
Extra Point: Fenelus was in one-on-one coverage with Doe when a dive along the sideline took out safeties coach DeMontie Cross. Cross appeared to be shaken up, but walked off … James White, Jeff Lewis, Jared Abbrederis, Kenzel Doe, Kyle Zuleger were among the players that caught kickoffs during special team drills … Wisconsin goes through another two-a-day practice tomorrow before taking Sunday off. Bielema is available following the morning practice.