"I don't think it was a few big things, I think it was a lot of little things," said sophomore linebacker Chris Borland after Wisconsin registered a 35-0 shutout over Oregon State, its first shutout in almost two seasons. "Our defense played sound, every guy almost played and that's what we need. That's why we got the shutout.
"It feels good. You don't play for stats, but a shutout is something that the defense can hang their hat on and we are glad we got it today."
After rushing for 223 yards in the season opener against Sacramento State, Oregon State clearly missed freshman Malcolm Agnew, who injured his hamstring in practice Tuesday and didn't make the trip. As a result, the Badgers run defense held the Beavers to 23 yards rushing on 24 carries, an average of .96 yards per carry.
"I don't think you would ever find a defense that says anything other than you need to stop the run first off," said Borland, who tied with fellow linebacker Mike Taylor with a team-best nine tackles. "That's our goal every game: stop the run and go from there. And today we did that."
After starting slow last week and failing to convert on their opportunities against Sacramento State, Oregon State head coach Mike Riley was again disappointed in how his offense played today against Wisconsin defense.
"We had a chance early on to play better and make that a game," Riley said. "We could never really respond at all for a long time. We never did really offensively do anything. That was probably the difference."
The defense started out the game missing starting linebacker from a week ago Kevin Claxton, who suffered a broken wrist last week. Redshirt sophomore Ethan Armstrong got the start in place of Claxton and, according to head coach Bret Bielema, ‘did a nice job … popping in there.'
Even more impressive was Wisconsin shut out the Beavers with two more contributors going down with injuries. Senior cornerback Devin Smith suffered a left foot injury in the first quarter and returned to the sidelines later on crutches and his foot heavily bandaged.
"I don't know anything other than the fact the x-rays were negative to anything broken. Will get a lot more information in the next 24-48 hours," Bielema said.
With the injury to Smith, Cromartie became the starting defensive back opposite of Antonio Fenelus and finished with a career-high seven tackles.
"We came into this game with kind of a big role for the nickel and then Devin (Smith) went down and I had a next man mentality," Cromartie said. "He (Smith) coached me every day one-on-one, so I went in prepared."
Smith's injury forced the defensive coaches to shuffle their defensive packages. In passing situations, Wisconsin lined up Shelton Johnson at the third corner with Dezmen Southward playing the other safety spot. Even with the package being shuffled around, the defense didn't miss a beat. The secondary recorded 10 pass-break-ups, the most break-ups since recording 11 against Fresno State in August 2002.
Even with Johnson having to play two positions, the junior put in a solid performance, no matter where he was playing. Johnson recorded six tackles with three tackles for loss. Even though Johnson had to become the third cornerback in passing situations, he was prepared.
"I've been practicing at nickel a little," Johnson said. "I felt pretty comfortable out there. I could've done some things better at the nickel position when we were in zone coverage."
Missed tackles a week ago plagued the Badger's defense. This week, it was a non-issue, as Wisconsin limited the amount of yards after contact to hold the Beavers to just 4.4 yards per play.
"The coaches really stressed tackling," Johnson said. "That was a really big hole in our defense last week. I think we really stepped up this week. As far as I saw there really weren't a lot of missed tackles."
Wisconsin also was able to create a turnover, and a timely one at that. Oregon State's offense made their first trip in Wisconsin's red zone in the fourth quarter, but Wisconsin was able to force two fumbles on one play, as defensive linemen Jordan Kohout recovered the second one to effectively clinch the shutout.
"That was big," Borland said. "We've been talking about that you have to get turnovers. We're glad we got that and we hope to get more."
Groy Gets First Start
With left guard Travis Frederick out with a strained MCL, redshirt sophomore Ryan Groy got his first career start on the offensive line, giving only one sack for nine yards.
"I thought I did pretty well," Groy said. "The offensive lineman communicated well together. We switched a lot of guys in practice. A lot of guys know a lot of different positions."
There's a possibility that Groy may have to start again next week in the place of Frederick, but Groy's concern now is getting more consistent with his technique.
"I know I have to get a little more pad level. But I'll watch the game film a little more and see what I need to get better at," Groy said.
Nortman Continues Early Hot Streak
Bielema said last week that he thought senior punter Brad Nortman was one of the better punters in the country. Nortman again showed why his coach maybe right. Nortman had to punt the ball four times, finishing with an average of 45.8 with a long of 57. "It means a lot to me that (Bielema) has a lot of confidence in me and it increases my confidence," Nortman said. "Something like that makes me want to go and prove it."
Nortman was able to punt the Beavers inside their 20-yard line three times, including pinning the Beavers on the 1-yard line on his last punt.
"I can set it there, but I need the guys to stop it," said Nortman, referring to his gunners. "The ones that go inside the ten and inside the 20-yard line they're just as important as I am. To have some guys I trust to run down and make sure they stop them means a lot to me."
Extra Points: Wisconsin has won 30 straight regular-season games against non-conference foes. Under head coach Bret Bielema; UW is 22-0 against non-conference opponents during the regular season … RB Montee Ball has scored at least one touchdown in each of his last eight games. Over his last six games, he has scored 18 touchdowns. His 27 career rushing touchdowns (in 23 career games) ranks seventh in UW history … Sophomore defensive tackle Beau Allen recorded his first career sack Saturday … Wisconsin has not committed a turnover at home since the second quarter of the Ohio State game on October 16, 2010, a span of four-and-a-half games … Wisconsin claimed its 11th straight win at Camp Randall Stadium overall. That is tied for the fifth-longest streak in school history.