Picking Himself Up

After falling flat against Michigan State, junior cornerback Marcus Cromartie and the Badgers are hoping to tighten up their coverage and rebound against Ohio State.

MADISON - Showing awareness and intuitiveness, Marcus Cromartie recovered his first career fumble in the first quarter against Michigan State, a recovery that led to a second Wisconsin touchdown three plays later and a 14-0 lead. Few people remember it.

The achievement was one of the few positives that came out of the game for Cromartie, as a strong Michigan State offense was able to get through the cornerback who has started the last six games since Devin Smith went down with a season-ending injury against Oregon State.

As a result, small plays became bigger plays, and ultimately was one of the factors that cost Wisconsin in the end.

"We learned that you got to bounce back from adversity," said Cromartie, who had plenty of opportunities to add to his four tackles. "I felt like we made some mistakes in the tackling game we allowed small plays turn into big plays. We just got to get better in that aspect."

Even when Cromartie made a tackle, the end results showed a break in coverage. On his first tackle in the first quarter, Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins completed an 18-yard pass to B.J. Cunningham for a first down. Cromartie's other three tackles stopped pass plays of 6, 8 and 5 yards but resulted in two more first downs, meaning the Michigan State offense converted 75 percent of the time to Cromartie's side when he made a tackle.

Throw in the bad angle he took on a third-and-11 curl route that resulted in a touchdown, the two missed tackles he had before that and the ensuing two-point conversion thrown to his receiver despite blanketed coverage, it was not a pretty sight.

"It's an accountability thing," Cromartie said. "Knowing that tackling is a big part of the game, I don't want to let my teammates down anymore."

With senior cornerback Antonio Fenelus playing at such a high level, offenses have started to emphasize the pressure on Cromartie. Despite being tied with Fenelus for fourth on the team with 26 tackles, Cromarite racked up most of those tackles in the nonconference season. He had three combined tackles in Big Ten play leading up to last weekend.

With his struggled well documented, there's little question that Ohio State is going to try and test the redshirt junior this Saturday in Columbus.

"There's no doubt," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "I made reference to the Northern Illinois game. Dave (Doeren) went at him right away. You've got a corner playing the way he does, as good as he does with Antonio, no matter who's over on that other side, is going to draw attention. But Michigan State went at him, and the challenge will be served, and, hopefully, he's going to come back this week and play better than he was last week."

Added Cromartie: "Whenever you have a returning All-Big Ten corner, there's always (going to) be Antonio and the other guy. Hopefully next year that will be the reverse. You just got to know every day you got to compete. As long as you compete then everything is going to be fine."

While their hopes of a national championship were left in East Lansing, Cromartie still recognizes that there is a lot left to play for. Four of the Badgers final five opponents are divisional opponents, meaning Wisconsin controls its own fate for getting to the inaugural Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis, where a rematch for Michigan State may reside.

While the winning streak has been broken, preparation has been the same for the Badgers and Cromartie, who is adamant that one bad game won't change how they work.

"You got to do what you do every week," Cromartie said. "Just because we lost against Michigan State we aren't going to change our preparation. There's going to be a few tweaks here and there but as a football team, we are going to keep the course. We are going to keep preparing like we're doing. We aren't going to let a bump in the road stop our progress."

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