Notes: Miller Sees Promise in OL Play

The effort was certainly there in the the eyes of offensive line coach Bart Miller, but there has a lot more needs to be done for Wisconsin to regain its dominance in the trenches. Also, co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge breaks down the defense and kicking game while offensive coordinator Matt Canada talks quarterbacks.

MADISON - For a place he considers to have the best offensive line program in the country, the opportunity Bart Miller received a week ago Sunday was a perfect opportunity for him.

Unhappy with the play through two games from his offensive line, UW coach Bret Bielema made the snap decision to fire first-year offensive line coach Mike Markuson and promote Miller, a graduate assistant, to what had been the most scrutinized position on the team.

"It was a very exciting week for me," said Miller. "It was a little overwhelming me on Sunday when everything happened, the transition. You never want to get the position like that … It was a situation I was thrust into and something I dreamed about for a long time."

The honeymoon is over for Miller, who had a lot of critiques for Wisconsin's offensive line after watching the game film from the Badgers' 16-14 victory over Utah State Saturday. For starters, the amount of penalties far exceeded the acceptable maximum, blame he puts on himself for not practicing Utah State's somewhat deceptive maneuvers more throughout the week.

"That's not something we want to be," said Miller. "I take responsibility for that."

Miller cited the need for the unit to work on third-and-short situations in preparation for Saturday's game against UTEP, but stated the physical play of the line started to return to where it needs to be.

"The effort was certainly there," said Miller. "We have to finish blocks a little bit better on the backside. We have to do a few things technique wise a little different to put ourselves in those situations to be successful."

Miller calls former offensive line coach Bob Bostad ‘a huge influence,' having played under him for three seasons and coaching for six years under Bostad's system and style of play.

"As a player, you get instilled with what you believe is right and what you have been taught," said Miller. "That's carried over to the coaching side of it … The more we go downhill as opposed to lateral, the more success we're going to have."

Like Bostad, Miller wants to have his best five players on the field. He feels he has that solidified with Ricky Wagner, Ryan Groy, Travis Frederick, Zac Matthias and Rob Havenstein, making this next about moving forward.

"The scheme is there," said Miller. "It works. The guys are on the right people. We just made physical mistakes at that point. That can be fixed.

"We're perfectly capable. The offense works. It's been proven. We just have to make some plays, get some big hits. We'll get this thing going."

Defense Improving

With the offense stuck between neutral and drive the past three weeks, Wisconsin's defense has been an overshadowed grew, hardly fair considering some of the work it is putting in.

Despite giving up over 300 yards of total offense, Wisconsin generally kept quarterback Chuckie Keeton contained, limited the Aggies' offense to only one scoring drive over 50 yards and no points in the second half.

"They played a full four quarters with their effort," co-defensive coordinator Charlie Partridge said. "I couldn't be happier with how hard they played from the start to the finish. There are few plays we need to get coached up, do better at, but the effort was really outstanding."

One of the issues Wisconsin will be addressing this week is the wheel route, a play that has burned the Badgers for four of their six allowed touchdowns this year. Even more surprising is those catches have gone to wide-open receivers. Although Mike Taylor has been assigned to that receiver, UW will adjust its formation to make sure it has coverage in the secondary.

"What hurts you on film is going to come back," said Partridge. "That's on us to continue to present every possible wheel route that could come … There are some things we can do based on situation."

Last year when the defense was struggling to keep the opponent off the board, the offense would often bail the group out by scoring an average of 44.1 points a game. It's evident now that this year's group that defense has become a premium and to not let games become shootouts.

"Last year we were lucky with Russell Wilson, we had a good offense last year," said Taylor. "This year it's going to be a little different and the defense is going to have to play a little better this year and if it comes down to the defense we have to be reliable and do our job out there."

Partridge also signaled out the defensive line improving its pressure and the secondary's effort, which was responsible for six of the team's nine pass breakups. Senior cornerback Marcus Cromartie broke up three passes while Devin Smith added two breakups, helping the Badgers lower their point per game to 15.0 through three games.

"You look at some of the plays the corners and safeties were making in run support and pass coverage, they really did a nice job," said Partridge. "(Cromartie) some plays and made the penalty in the end zone that you can look at either way in terms of that call."

Kicking Game Struggles

Kyle French probably would like to forget about his performance against the Aggies. French went 1-2 on extra points and went 1-2 on field goals, making a 19-yard try and badly hooking a 36-yard attempt in the second quarter. The missed kick came from the right hash, which is not an area of the field that's French's strong point, according to Partridge.

French second field goal attempt was blocked. French also kicked the ball out of bounds once in the game.

"We're going through some of the growing pains you go through with a kicker that is starting his career, even though he had a few games last year," said Partridge. "I am confident that Kyle will right the ship."

With French missing the extra point and having his field goal blocked, he was one of the reasons why the Aggies were able to stay in the game.

"When the Aggies kicker came on I knew we wouldn't be in that situation if I made the field goal and the extra point as well," French said. "It was definitely a tense moment at the end. I wish I had those kicks back."

Extra Points: Partridge said Pat Muldoon (hand fracture) will be out for the UTEP game and the defense hopes to get him back for Nebraska week … Partridge feels that starting defensive tackles Beau Allen and Ethan Hemer are doing a nice job limiting the push of opposing offensive lines … offensive coordinator Matt Canada had not addressed the players before meeting with the media and did not name a starter for this weekend.

Badger Nation staff writer Brian Becker contributed to this report

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