RT: Rob Havenstein
C: Peter Konz, Ryan Groy
From the Infirmary
Duckworth returned to practice after sitting out the morning session and made some big plays. After cramping up in this morning's practice, Byrne returned to the practice field. His night didn't start off too well, getting whistled for a false start penalty in the first team segment. Still, his progress has been noticeable. "He's got a better feel for things," UW coach Bret Bielema said Saturday night. "I think he understands where we need to be with routes (and) depths. With what we do, especially with Russell, might incorporate with him in the play-action game a little more. You always want your seniors to play well and what I've seen out of Jake so far is he's played as good as we've seen him play." It's the start of hopefully a positive injury trend for Wisconsin, as Bielema expects the team to get healthier at the beginning of next week. "We just get a slew of guys back on Monday," Bielema said. "We could get as many as 10 to 12 guys back." Of that group, the likely candidates appear to be Fred Willis (dislocated thumb), Tyler Dippel (concussion), Josh Ogleby (rest , Brian Wozniak (hamstring), Marcus Trotter (hamstring), Peniel Jean (mild MCL sprain) Austin Maly (concussion), Michael Trotter (hamstring), A.J. Fenton (hamstring), Brendan Kelly (foot) and Ethan Armstrong, who was diagnosed with a concussion after leaving yesterday's practice early.
"I would guess it would be the latter part of next week or the week after," Bielema said. "The good thing is that we know what Kevin can do and Ryan Groy is getting invaluable experience at that right guard. His first day was a little rough, this morning was really good and tonight was even better."
One player that is ready to go, but the UW coaches will hold off on is Nick Toon. After injuring his foot earlier this week, the doctors said Toon could be ready to go by Monday, but the coaches are going to hold in out until Thursday as a precaution to keep him fresh.
"From Thursday on, he should be involved all the way up to game day," Bielema said. "It'll give us some time. He kind of showed us he's back to where he was and performing at a pretty high level, (so) let's get a chance to look at some younger guys. We'll plug in him two weeks out for game day and shouldn't have any problems."
Bielema also rested all two of his three No.1 linebackers - Kevin Claxton (rib cage) and Mike Taylor and free safety Aaron Henry. He also said the Badgers are going to treat Chris Borland like they would treat somebody coming off a knee injury to help him get acclimated to the field.
"He's using muscles he hasn't used before," Bielema said. "This morning to me, he was the difference in our defense. Not just plays, but making calls and feeling comfortable. I thought Mike (Taylor) played faster with Chris in there. That's the case with all good players. Good players make players around them play better, and I think that showed up today."
Still, the injuries have gotten so bad that it appears DeMontie Cross is going to have MCL surgery after getting taken out inadvertently by Fenelus in a play before Friday's scrimmage. According to Bielema, ‘there's some bad things there unfortunately.'
Pinning his first-team offense at its own two-yard line, it was evident Bielema wanted to see what his new-look offense was made of. It was apparent he got what he was looking and hoping for.
After a two-yard run by Ball, the junior would have gone 96 yards had Bielema not blown the whistle. A huge gap on the left side of the line between Wagner and Frederick allowed Ball to get to the second level with ease and a missed tackle by O'Neill on the perimeter meant Ball would have had to outrun the safety, who was 15 yards away from him, for the score.
As it turned out, Ball was just getting started. He unleashed another solid run through the left side and juked his way to another impressive run on the right side, a run that prompted co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash to yell at his defense for, ‘too many (expletive) mistakes already.'
"Montee looks shifty, reads and reacts a little quicker to what he is seeing in front of him and I think he wants to prove to everybody that he still has that power," Bielema said. "Where I notice it is in pass protection. That's where I thought it would show up is in his one-on-ones against linebackers. He's even stronger than he was a year ago."
When Wilson eventually aired it out on third down, he hit Pedersen in stride to move the chains, as Southward was late on the coverage. When the first team got put in another third down, Wilson found Ball, who got the ball out to midfield and satisfied Bielema enough to put on the second-team offense.
Stave was put in charge of the second-team offense and made a solid throw on the run at his team's two-yard line. Rolling out to his right, Stave threw on the run and hit Williams in the chest for a 16-yard gain.
He followed that up with a bullet pass to Cummins, who barely caught the pass in front of a diving Cromartie, and then turned up field for what would have been a big gain.
"We noticed him last year in fall camp, he was a guy that jumped out to us right away," Bielema said of Cummins. "Connor turned down some MAC opportunities and he's from Chris Borland's high school. Walked on here, really excited for him to come into spring and show it and he had a hernia operation that took him out of all spring. Herb and those guys were excited about him coming into fall and he's got great hands. To me, he could be that kind of guy, very dependable, reliable, guy that is always going to be there and make the big play."
Team Red Zone
After miscommunication between Wilson and Abbrederis started off the drive on the 18-yard line, Wilson tried to hit Duckworth on a crossing route, but Smith got his right hand into the passing line to knock down the pass. Wilson didn't let that faze him, hitting Abbrederis as soon as the receiver was coming out of his break for an 18-yard touchdown throw.
The defense was better after that, forcing the second-team and first-team offenses to a combined three three-and-outs, the most impressive play being Cameron Ontko getting deep penetration into the backfield on a third-and-one play-action pass.
Two Minute Drill
Down by six with 1 minute, 52 seconds left and only one timeout, Wilson needed to take the Badgers 72 yards to victory. His first play took five seconds on a two-yard gain by Duckworth and his crossing route to Duckworth over the middle only gained three. With the clock ticking, Nzegwu overpowered Havenstein and got the sack on Wilson, as the Badgers burned their last timeout with 1 minute, 20 seconds remaining and facing fourth-and-10. It didn't help, as Cromartie came unblocked along the end to register a sack.
"In theory, he should be our best pass rusher of that group," Bielema said of Nzegwu. "I think him and (Gilbert) have a nice little competition. Lou really showed up in the scrimmage yesterday toward the end of it and got the guys going. Again today, he was playing with a higher motor in the morning and the evening. I think he wants to be that guy."
Bielema allowed the drive to keep going, giving the offense a first down at the 40 with 1:18 remaining. On the first down, Butrym got his hand in the passing lane for the incompletion and second-and-10 with 1:10 remaining. It was at that time that Borland decided his rest was over and tackled Ball on a screen. On third down, Cromartie broke up a 20-yard completion and Bielema let the clock run out on the first-team offense.
"I very seldom single out players after practice and he was one I just said … he made an educated decision last spring to get serious," Bielema said of Cromartie. "Nobody has competed harder, in my eyes, than Marcus Cromartie amongst the DBs. He's kind of put the heat on Devin and Antonio, especially Devin, who missed a couple sessions there. I told Devin, ‘Hey, you can sit out all you want. No.14 wants that spot,' and he's really going after it."
Resetting the drill, this time with the second team at the 32, Brennan completed an eight-yard out to Cummins, who couldn't stay out of bounds, and followed that with a short completion to A.J. Jordan to move the chains. Jordan made the mistake, however, of catching a wayward pass for no gain on first down, allowing the clock to keep moving. Brennan made it for it with a 25-yard completion to Cummins over the middle with 52 seconds left.
"I can't say enough about Joey Brennan," Bielema said. "His confidence, his language, his body demeanor, the way the kids listen to him now compared to last spring is night and day."
The defense responded to the breakdown. Beau Allen tackled Byrne on a screen for a one-yard loss and miscommunication on two straight passes led to a fourth-and-11 with 20 seconds left on the 37-yard line. Derek Watt didn't allow another chance for a completion, coming unblocked around the left side for the sack and the end of the game.
Giving the offense one more chance with the same time frame at the 34, White danced is way to a 5-yard gain and Wilson completed a pass to Doe in the flat for a first down with 1:20 left. On the play of the drill, Wilson went deep on a post pass intended for Doe. The pass bounds off Doe and Cromartie, falling into the hands of Duckworth for a 45-yard gain down to the 15.
After the defense registered a 5-yard sack, forced Wilson to throw a ball away and another sack, Wilson, on fourth-and-15 on the 20 with 33 seconds left, was intercepted by Southward to end practice.
Plays of the Night
During red zone skelly drills, Wilson attacked safety Shelton Johnson and, as has been the theme this week, succeeded. Wilson threw a pass high, putting it only where his receiver could catch it, and watched as Duckworth made an incredible athletic catch by turning around in mid air, catching the ball with his arms extended and getting one foot in bounds for the score. Duckworth made an another impressive catch on an out route, as Wilson led him perfectly and Duckworth, whose plant step gave him enough space against Smith, hauled in that pass with his arms extended a step before the sideline.
Extra Points: Hill (knee) was replaced on the 105-player roster by freshman defensive back Tyler Leonhard, a walk-on from Flambeau High School and the brother of former Badgers safety Jim Leonhard … Josh Peprah registered one of his bigger plays in camp when he intercepted an underthrown pass by Brennan … UW players will have the morning off, come in for a lifting and conditioning session, have a 90-minute meeting and then have the evening off.