Notes: Starting to Build

The defense didn't force any turnovers and struggled with their tackling but with all the fireworks being put up on offense, some of the solid work the Badgers did on defense, such as holding UNLV to 169 first-half yards and no first-half touchdowns, might go unnoticed.

MADISON - After its offense put up 51 points, senior defensive tackle Patrick Butrym recognized that his unit probably wasn't going to be receiving too many of the headlines.

"Maybe that's good," Butrym deadpanned, "seeing as we didn't play as well as we wanted to."

It's a tough critique from one of the captains on No.11 Wisconsin, which had little problem dispatching UNLV, 51-17, in the season opener Thursday, especially since it's hard to argue with the results. Wisconsin held UNLV to three points in the first half, twice coming up with big defensive stops that resulted in missed field goal attempts, and apply pressure on UNLV quarterback Caleb Herring during the game, particularly off the ends.

With Wisconsin looking to recoup some of the production lost with J.J. Watt heading to the NFL, the Badgers got solid performances from junior David Gilbert (four tackles, one sack, one forced fumble) and senior Louis Nzegwu (team-high two sacks).

"Lou has gotten the bigger picture about how he has to handle everything and his preparation has picked up. And thus his play picked up," said Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema, as the Badgers were able to rotate 10 guys on the line.

It also is going to help having a healthy Chris Borland back in the rotation. Not having played an entire college football game in a little over 15 minutes, Borland admitted that some rust needed to get knocked off. As it turns out, not too much was different from the 2010 season, as Borland led the Badgers with seven tackles, but admitted he is still rounding into game shape.

"It had been so long since I'd been out there (that) I was a little kid out there just having fun again," said Borland, who gave his return performance a C grade. "I was rusty. I was giving effort, but I got to get better."

Adjusting to the middle linebacker position this coming year, Borland admitted there was some hesitation on some of his calls and plays, a difference he said from practicing at the position and playing the position and that some of his steps caused him to be slower and miss some tackle opportunities.

"I need to continue to play in game environments in order to shake off the rust in order to get better," Borland said. "We're going to make an effort to work on (the tackling). We left a lot of yards out there because of bad tackling, myself included, so that's something we're going to work on in practice."

As important as it was for the Badgers to have Borland back, it was important for Borland to have Mike Taylor back, as the duo players their first complete game together. With Taylor notching six tackles and senior linebacker Kevin Claxton adding five, Borland's confidence in the group is only going to improve as the weeks go on.

"We should (get better) and I like to throw Claxton in there, too," Borland said. "Not a lot of people talk about Claxton because he's a great player. I think the three of us, Ethan Armstrong coming in as our fourth guy we're good trio, good quartet and I think we'll get better as the season goes on."

Bad Scheming

After spending the last two weeks working extensively on UNLV's offense, the Badgers' defense thought they had a pretty good grasp on what the Rebels were going to try to run. In true Vegas fashion, they gambled … and lost.

"That wasn't what we were expecting at all," said Aaron Henry, as UNLV spent time running the pistol offense. "We have been practicing for about two weeks now and they showed us something completely different. It took us a little while to really get into a groove and even though UNLV only scored three points initially in the first quarter, towards the end of the game they found a couple of gaps and got into the end zone."

Overall the defense looked fine with teaching points for the defense, but one of the glaring weaknesses was the missed tackles. One of the victims was junior safety Shelton Johnson, who got his second career start at strong safety.

"I know I gave up a touchdown on a busted coverage (but) besides that, I thought I played well," said Johnson, who split time with Dezmen Southward throughout the game with Southward seeing most of his reps in passing situations. "I think we both played well. I didn't see any major flaws between the two of us that need to be fixed. "But well see tomorrow when we watch the film cause as the coaches say film never lies." The secondary allowed only 146 passing yards, 56 of which came in the fourth quarter when the Rebels registered their two touchdowns.

Kicking Confidential

With Philip Welch out at least another week after having a procedure done on his kicking leg, the Badgers will get another opportunity to break in redshirt freshman kicker Kyle French. Making his college debut Thursday, French performance was as expected, hitting six of seven extra points and a 29-yard field goal as the first half expired.

"He missed the second PAT, could have went south on us but he did a nice job with every kick after that," Bielema said.

Although he didn't run one of his patented fakes, senior punter Brad Nortman, who Bielema said had a solid fall camp, was finally called upon to work in the third quarter. He punted twice and had a 45-yard average.

"Is there a better punter in the country, I would like to see him," Bielema said. "He really has done a nice job for us. He doesn't get a lot of work sometimes. The first punt was outstanding."

Sophomore walk-on Alec Lerner averaged 65.5 yards on his eight kickoffs with no touchbacks.

Other New Faces

After Montee Ball and James White did their damage, a pair of freshmen running backs got the first carries of their career, as true freshman Melvin Gordon rushed seven times for 38 yards and Jeff Lewis tallied 24 yards on five carries.

Wide receivers Isaiah Williams, Fred Willis and Kenzel Doe also made their UW debuts, along with offensive lineman Rob Havenstein and tight end Sherard Cadogan. Doe was the only one of the group to find his name on the stat sheet with one catch for three yards.

Additionally, linebackers Derek Landisch and Cameron Ontko and defensive tackle Kyle Costigan each assisted on a tackle. Other defensive players that participated were Peniel Jean, Frank Tamakloe, Michael Trotter, Marcus Trotter and Josh Harrison.

Injury Updates

Bielema said after that Wisconsin got out of the game fairly clean and that only sophomore left guard Travis Frederick suffered a minor knee injury late in the game and was going to go in for x-rays as a precaution.

Additionally, sophomore wide receiver Manasseh Garner (hernia surgery) was catching passes prior to kickoff and is expected back next week against Oregon State.

Quarterback Jon Budmayr (elbow) is scheduled to have surgery sometime Friday, according to Bielema. The surgery is not anticipated to be season-ending, though Bielema said it is unclear how long Budmayr will be out.

Reserve linebacker A.J. Fenton was not in uniform and defensive lineman Konrad Zagzebski (knee) was not available.

Extra Points: Bielema is 21-0 in regular-season, non-league games. That is the third-best start by a Big Ten Conference coach behind only Fielding Yost of Michigan (41-0 from 1901-'06) and Paterno (23-0 from 1993-'99) … Despite the 90-degree temperature at kickoff being the hottest home game in school history, Bielema wore his lucky windbreaker the entire game … Wisconsin has won its season-opener every year since 1998. Their run of 14 straight 1-0 starts is the third-longest active streak in the FBS. Only Nebraska (25) and Florida (21) have longer runs. USC also enters the 2011 season with 13 consecutive opening wins.

Badger Nation Top Stories