From the Infirmary
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 practice, although Kelly did work with his position group.
Ethan Armstrong, who left yesterday's practice early with an unknown alignment, also did not practice, being replaced in the two-deep by Ontko. The only noticeable injury today was Jake Byrne appeared to get the wind knocked out of him late in practice during position work. He did not return.
Defensive linemen Tyler Dippel and Jordan Kohoutv and wide receiver Jeff Duckworth were held out of practice. Kohout had been limited with a hamstring injury but Dippel and Duckworth had been healthy.
One player that did return was Chris Borland, who got a couple days off to rest his shoulder. Borland certainly looked fresh, and fearless. One of play, he dove to the ground for a cut-block attempt on Groy and on a blitz, popped Pedersen on a route over the middle to jar the ball loose and blew up Konz and created a void for his defensive players to charge in and force a Wilson incompletion. Needless to say, Borland looked really good back on the field.
Limited by what the Badgers could do inside with space and a short field, the Badgers spent plenty of time working on routes. Wilson was unofficially 8 of 13 passing and was content with hitting the open running back or tight end for 7-yard chunks. It's obvious that he's developed a good connection with Pedersen, as the two hooked up on a number of passes.
Wilson was the victim of three drops and a great defensive play by Andrew Lukasko to break up a sure completion to Abbrederis by reaching over the receiver's right shoulder and knocking the ball out. Wilson was able to get the last laugh though in his plat of the day (see below).
Brennan didn't fare as well as Wilson in the drill, missing four of his first five passes. Like Wilson, Brennan also didn't get much help from his receivers (A.J. Jordan bobbled a pass that landed right in the arms of Marcus Cromartie for an interception) and couldn't beat Lukasko, as his extra two inches on Doe helped block the receiver's vision on his blanketed coverage.
More the Ball
In five move-the-ball segments, the defense made up for some of yesterday's missed tackles and big plays by keeping the UW offense out of the end zone and forcing two turnovers.
In the first series for Wilson, the senior completed a six-yard completion to Doe for six yards, had an incomplete pass on second down and saw the defense stop a run play up the middle that only went two yards on third-and-four, forcing a punt. On the second series, Ball lost three yards on first down, Smith provided great coverage and prevented Doe from hauling in a high pass on an inside slant route and Borland opening a gap for the defense on third down forced Wilson to throw the ball away. On the final series, two incompletions, a false start and a run for no gain punctuated a frustrating drill for the offense and some redemption for the defense.
In the first series for Brennan, a handoff to Lewis went for one yard but a nice catch in stride by Gordon on a crossing route got the Badgers roughly 13 yards. Brennan looked to be gaining momentum after A.J. Jordan caught a six-yard pass on a curl route, but a botched handoff led to an O'Neill fumble recovery and a turnover. The second-team offense continued to move the ball on the second series, as Gordon took a handoff for nine and Brennan, behind solid protection from his line, completed a 25-yard pass over the middle to Austin Traylor.
After Lewis rushed for two yards, a naked bootleg was foiled when Herring and Costigan showed good discipline on backside contain, stopping Brennan for a loss of five. On third down, Brennan made his poorest throw, underthrowing a receiving and allowing Josh Harrison to make an easy interception and a big return.
Being able to stand on the sidelines for the first time, you get a new appreciation for some of the players. For me, I became really impressed with Gordon's running ability. From the stands, you can see his power and his agility but up close, you really take notice with how smooth he runs. It's like he glides at points, which evidentially has come from his time working with the track team.
Wilson was again super impressive even when he doesn't make a wow play. He never seems to put himself in a bad situation and is always content taking the open receiver over the deep receiver. His throwing motion up close is incredible and his release point is impressive. The odds of him not being the starter on opening day increased to 99.8 percent.
Brennan continues to make impressive strides, although he still had a lot of work to do to get to the level where the coaching staff would be comfortable with him starting. It's evident that the big play he made in the scrimmage to Cummins gave him some confidence, as he made a number of throws that were right on the money. He made a perfect 15-yard throw to Cummins over the middle that was just out of the reach of O'Neill while his best play was a play-action throw on a slant route by Cummins that was thrown just out of the reach of cornerback Jameson Wright.
Speaking of Cummins, don't be shocked to see this guy on the field. With all the injuries mounting up in the receiving corps, Cummins has delivered the most big plays with the first and second-team offense. At 6-1 and 195 pounds, he's got good size and has good control of his body when he goes up in the air for a pass. He could follow in the lines of his position coach Luke Swan and fellow receiver Jared Abbrederis as solid Wisconsin walk-on receivers.
Maybe it's just because Wisconsin has a lack of bodies right now at receiver or something is in the works, but seeing Bradie Ewing split out in a one-back backfield was a little eye opening. At 245 pounds, Ewing looked like a behemoth matched up with Devin Smith, who he had 65 pounds on. Ewing was just there to pass block, and had no problem sealing off Smith on a couple of runs.
Play of the Day
For the second practice in a row, a connection between Wilson and Abbrederis opened some eyes. Wilson had Abbrederis matched up one-on-one to his right and unleashed a deep pass along the sideline on a go route. The pass was slightly underthrown, but Abbrederis never took his eyes off it, adjusted and made a leaping catch before falling to the turf for a 35-yard gain.
Extra Point: Wisconsin returns to the practice field tonight for a 7 p.m. practice and head coach Bret Bielema is expected to address the media after.