Notes: 'Off the Charts' on Third Downs

No.4 Wisconsin has jumped up the national polls based on the fact that its offense is scoring points on a video-game pace. After studying film during the bye week, senior quarterback Russell Wilson said he can make the Badgers' offense even better, which is a scary thought.

MADISON – Notorious for studying film into the late hours of the evening, Wisconsin senior quarterback Russell Wilson admitted that he was unable to somewhat unplug over the weekend. He traveled down to Chicago to visit his brother and spent some time watching the world of college football.

Even so, Wilson put in his time in the film room to re-watch all five games the Badgers have played; games in which the Wisconsin offense has scored 242 points and converted 26 of its 29 trips to the red zone.

"I just tried to figure out what I did well, what I could have done better and try to grow from that," Wilson said. "In terms of our offense, how I can help our offense even better."

That comments creates a scary thought for the remaining seven Big Ten teams on Wisconsin's schedule. The Badgers' offense can get better? How?

Other than a missed throw here or there or an untimely penalty, the Badgers' offense has been a dominating force through the first third of the season. Wisconsin is the only team in the country averaging at least 240 yards rushing and receiving this season, has scored at least 40 points in four of their five games this season, is averaging 7.7 yards per play and is completing 62.1 percent on third downs.

Wilson is the main catalyst for that success, converting 26-for-30 passes (86.7 percent) for 321 yards, six touchdowns and one interception, a pass efficiency rating of 235.9. Wilson said it was a mindset of getting a first down every time, no matter the distance.

"That mindset of being great, excelling on a daily basis and striving for greatness is something that is instilled in every player in this offense," Wilson said.

It has helped with the mobility of Wilson in the pocket when a play breaks down, the one thing head coach Bret Bielema said was the reason his team's third-down numbers were ‘off the charts.'

"We may have the exact same route, the same protection called that we did last year with Scott (Tolzien), the answers are there, the route didn't happen the way we wanted it to, now Russell can improvise," Bielema said. "That's the part to me is the biggest challenge in defending us is the ability of Russell to make something out of nothing."

No Pats on the Back

Rising to No.4 in the coaches poll, debuting at four at the Harris Poll (another one-third of the BCS equation) and maintaining its No.4 ranking in the AP poll, Wisconsin faces an Indiana squad that's 1-5 overall and haven't beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent this season, a reason why the Badgers are an early 39-point favorite for Saturday's 104th Homecoming game.

Human nature wouldn't fault the Badgers from coasting this week, especially with back-to-back primetime road tests beginning with Michigan State and its top-ranked defense Oct.22. As his team went through workouts last week, Wilson has no worries of his teammates altering the preparation.

"In terms of the players that we have on this team, we have a lot of leaders on this team from seniors to juniors to some sophomores and freshmen," Wilson said. "The work ethic is there. Coach Bielema is not going to allow us to coast and the captains aren't going to allow us to coast."

The topic was also addressed Sunday by Bielema towards the players and the coaches, maintaining the importance of Wisconsin keeping its edge as it progresses through its schedule.

"Either by opposing coaches or people just saying things to me, they say are players are playing with an edge," Bielema said. "I am encouraging our guys to keep the faith. One of the roles we love to be is a humbler. We got after people pretty good last week and challenged them. I am sure they are feeling good, but not that good."

From the Infirmary

Right guard Kevin Zeitler (ankle) has returned to practice, tight end Brian Wozniak, who was apparently kicked during a kickoff return, is expected to return on Tuesday, strong safety Shelton Johnson returned Sunday from a calf injury that held him out of the Nebraska game.

Sophomore quarterback Jon Budmayr had a successful surgery on the nerve that irritated his right throwing arm since the start of fall. While he continues to make progress, Budmayr hasn't thrown yet and his timetable is still in flux, suggesting he probably won't return until the spring.

"He's been getting some sensations in his fingers and a little bit of movement in the two fingers," Bielema said. "They still can't give us a time frame for when those two things will come about but it seems to be progressing. Hopefully he'll continue to go down that road."

Senior kicker Philip Welch was cleared to make his season debut against Nebraska after a productive pregame warmup. He kicked seven extra points, making six and seeing one blocked. The Badgers will continue to use sophomore kicker Alec Lerner on kickoffs but will possibly phase in redshirt freshman kicker Kyle French to help with the workload if Lerner continues to struggle with the depth of his kickoff.

"From what I have witnessed, (Welch's) leg is very strong right now and accurate," Bielema said. "I don't know if he's missed a field goal (in practice). We do the rapid-fire field goals at the beginning of practice and he's been 100 percent on hits. I think he's excited to play."

Bielema has no plans to use Welch on kickoffs at this time.

Extra Points: In honor of October's Breast Cancer Awareness month, Bielema wore a pink shirt, pink tie and a pink breast cancer awareness pin … Wilson said he can't jump on the Milwaukee Brewers bandwagon because he is still affiliated with the Colorado Rockies, but he did watch the game over the weekend. ‘It's pretty fun to watch' … Wisconsin went through a heavier workload Sunday, but will have a normal schedule the rest of the week … Senior Kevin Claxton and sophomore Ethan Armstrong continue to split reps at the SLB and Bielema said it's an open competition for the starting spot this weekend.


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