Notes: Bully in the Middle

He started the nonconference rusty, a step slow and trying to learn a new position. Saturday, Chris Borland closes the nonconference season confident, as his eight tackles, two tackles for loss, one quarterback hurry and one interception show that the old playmaker is back at full strength.

MADISON - After a year watching on the sidelines in a sling, sophomore linebacker Chris Borland is continuing to show that he's getting the hang of the middle linebacker spot. Over the last three weeks, the 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year was able to increase his total tackles until the 59-10 victory over South Dakota. Still, Borland still ended up having eight tackles along with two tackles for loss.

"I think it was pretty good," Borland said. "I had a couple of plays that I would like to have back but overall I thought it was a good performance."

His play of the day came when he was able to pick off South Dakota's quarterback Dante Warren in the first quarter, returning the interception 29 yards to the South Dakota's 36-yard line. It was Borland's second career interception, adding to the one he picked one off his true freshmen season against Indiana.

"I was the free man in that coverage, I was reading the quarterback and got a good jump on it," Borland said. "As far as the return, I should've stayed on the outside. If I get another one I'll stay outside."

Besides Borland interception, safety Shelton Johnson was also able to pick off a pass in the first quarter, doubling Wisconsin's turnover total on the season.

"We know we have to force more turnovers than we did in the first couple of games," Borland said. "It's part of being a good defense we weren't doing it so we got that this week and hopefully that'll continue throughout the season."

Borland and Mike Taylor have been a great combination so far this year and they've been playing at a great speed together. Taylor ended up leading the team with 10 tackles with one tackle for loss. Borland knows the defense still has work to do but he feels like this defense could possibly be special.

"We have a solid base and a lot of potential," Borland said. "Were not there yet but we've got the guys and the coaches that if we continue to work the way we have the last month, we could be something special."

With Borland missing the game against Ohio State last year due to his injury, he's excited that he's healthy to play against Nebraska this coming week. According to Borland, he shouldn't be distracted by the hype surrounding the Nebraska game.

"I'm glad I'm playing it's a blessing every time you can take the field," Borland said. "I'm really looking forward to it. We're busy enough during the week with our responsibilities its almost second nature you don't even hear the outside stuff going on."

Quite a Catch

It's not going to show up in the box score but Abbrederis had two key blocks that were instrumental in his teammates scoring touchdowns. The first block came on a 49-yard touchdown run by James White in the second quarter.

"Our receivers work hard each and every day blocking down field and they take it into the game," White said. "When I broke down the sidelines, I thought I was gone and I saw that one guy coming after me, but I knew Abbrederis was chasing right after him and let him push him to the sidelines and cut underneath it."

"Just trying to get those blocks downfield is really important for our offense," Abbrederis added. "They can get tackled at the 5-yard line but if we don't score it looks bad for us. I just really try and focus on those touchdown blocks and get down the field. I take pride in it."

The second block was on a Nick Toon receiving touchdown for 59 yards. Russell Wilson is also appreciative of the downfield blocking.

"Guys work hard on that every single day, really pushing themselves, making sure they're straining every single day; making sure they're doing the right thing at the right time," Wilson said. "When that happens, big plays can happen."

With Abbrederis great blocking in the first half, he was rewarded in the second half. He recorded his first receiving touchdown on the year, going 51 yards on the first play of the first possession in the second half. He ended the game with a career-high five receptions and a career-high 101 receiving yards.

"I had a lot of fun out there getting some balls thrown my way," Abbrederis said. "It was great to be able to contribute on the long runs. I had a lot of fun out there just flying around."

Through four games, the Badgers have shown the diversity the passing game can be with Nick Toon, Jacob Pedersen, Abbrederis or Wisconsin's running backs. "I think if we stay consistent like we have it'll be hard for defenses figuring out who to focus on," Abbrederis said. "Obviously, you have to keep making plays, but if they focus on (Nick) Toon or (Jacob) Pedersen, I should be open or the other way around. I think it will keep defenses on their toes."

A Confidence Boost

Melvin Gordon and Jeff Lewis each received reps in the fourth quarter and both recorded their first career touchdowns. Gordon was the first one to punch the ball in to the endzone from four yards out, and Lewis than scored on a 41 yard run. Gordon ended the game with eight carries for 32 yards. Lewis finished with five carries for 49 yards.

From the Infirmary

Junior safety Shelton Johnson got off to a good start against the Coyotes by recording his first interception in his career in the first quarter, suffered a leg injury later in the quarter and did not return. Sophomore safety Dezmen Southward replaced Johnson in the starting lineup.

"I just talked to the doctors afterwards and it wasn't as serious as they thought … maybe in the hospital overnight but he has a chance to play this week," UW coach Bret Bielema said.

That was the only injury sustained Saturday, but Bielema updated a number of other injuries of his inactive players. Defensive tackle Kyle Costigan was discovered to have a stress fracture and will out anywhere from 6-to-10 weeks. Senior Josh Oglesby went through pregame warm-ups and felt good, enhancing his chance to play next week.

"We'll see where Josh is at from a health standpoint," Bielema said. "I didn't want to put him in the game just because he hadn't practiced all week. The good thing is there is another good offensive lineman that is up and coming in our program."

Extra Points: Wisconsin is 9-0 when Nick Toon scores a touchdown … Saturday was the second-straight game and seventh time in the last two seasons both Ball and White have scored TDs in the same game. Wisconsin is 7-0 in these games … UW has won 23 straight non-conference home games … The Badgers have won their last 11 regular season games, their longest streak since winning 13 in a row in 2006-2007… The Badgers have won their last seven regular-season games by an average of 44.4 points.

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