Wisconsin's Defense Provides the Lift

With Wisconsin's high-powered offense being grounded to a halt, the Badgers' defense picked up the slack, holding Iowa to only nine points in four red-zone trips, setting the tone for a 28-9 victory at Kinnick Stadium.

IOWA CITY, Iowa - When it comes to a Wisconsin football road game in the Gary Andersen era, a healthy heaping of road adversity is almost certain to follow.

The Badgers have become use to the struggles – an officiating crew's incompetence at Arizona State, a leaky secondary at Ohio State and losing its best defensive player at Illinois. So with the Badgers down two defensive starters and two reserves entering another pivotal road contest, not to mention three offensive starters going down during the game, the reaction on the Badgers' sideline was typical.

No big deal.

"One thing I'm going to remember this team for forever, regardless of what happens the rest of the season, is they're never fazed," said Andersen, as No.22 Wisconsin outscored Iowa, 21-3, in the second half to distance itself from the Hawkeyes, 28-9, Saturday afternoon at Kinnick Stadium.

"The next kid that has got to go in, whether it's on special teams, offense or defense, they seem to be prepared, they get in the moment and the most important part of that is they rally around each other. Nobody felt like we would go out there and play poorly today on defense."

Needing to try and keep pace with the Buckeyes in the race for the Leaders Division championship, Wisconsin (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten) was already shorthanded with senior defensive end Tyler Dippel not making the trip because of an undisclosed family issue and cornerbacks Terrance Floyd and Jakarrie Washington not dressing because of a team discipline issue.

Those failed in comparison to the loss of linebacker Chris Borland, who warmed up but couldn't overcome his right hamstring injury, or senior receiver Jared Abbrederis, who left midway through the third quarter following a hard fall to the turf that injured his chest.

The injuries continued to pile up, including starting center Dallas Lewallen and starting tight end Brian Wozniak going down in the fourth quarter. As Borland stood in uniform watching on the sidelines, it brought back memories of the last time the Badgers were in Iowa.

Three years ago, Wisconsin either held out or lost four offensive starters during the game (Lance Kendricks, Peter Konz, Nick Toon and James White), not to mention linebacker Mike Taylor playing with a banged-up leg and Borland already out for the season with a dislocated shoulder, and still found a way to escape with a one-point victory.

This time the injuries didn't matter considering how Wisconsin's defense played in front of 69,812 fans anxious to see the two border rivals square off for the first time since 2010, holding Iowa to only 4.1 yards per play and without a touchdown for the first time this season.

"We had a lot of guys go down today, but did a great job of stepping up," said Borland, who hopes to play at home against BYU next week. "I thought it was a great team win."

Wisconsin's defense was put in precarious situations by Wisconsin's surprisingly inept offense and a blistering wind during the first quarter. Iowa's first quarter drives started at the UW 49, UW 39, Iowa 33 and UW 41, but the Badgers only gave up two chip shot field goals after crucial third down stops.

The trend continued in the second half with another red zone stop that forced a field goal and two interceptions inside the Iowa 25 that the Badgers each turned into seven points in the second half.

"We couldn't finish the game," said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. "They did a heck of a job doing that."

After allowing three red-zone touchdowns and a field goal against Illinois, Wisconsin held Iowa to only three field goals in four red zone attempts despite the Hawkeyes running 15 plays from the 20-yard line in.

It was a credit to Wisconsin's eight tackles for loss and seven quarterback hurries from seven different players, limiting Iowa to just 4-for-18 on third down.

"The momentum that comes from those is huge," said senior Brendan Kelly. "You saw the offense respond right there, put the ball in the end zone and it's a good thing for the whole team … It was a game we battled through."

It was needed considering Wisconsin's offense – which ranked 11th nationally with 513.6 yards per game entering the weekend – was moving nowhere fast. The Badgers went three-and-out on their first four drives, gained only 47 yards on its first 19 plays and didn't get their first first down until the 14:10 mark of the second quarter, a stark contract from UW's last game when Wisconsin gained 127 yards and scored three touchdowns on its first four drives.

"We didn't have anything going, other than we were playing pretty salty defense in the first quarter for sure," said Andersen. "We couldn't run the ball … an inch, throw the ball and our punt game was a little bit all over the place with the wind. For our defense to hang in there and force them to kick those field goals was big."

With Wisconsin limiting Iowa to 3.9 yards per play in the first half, the Badgers' one big hit gave them the big lift, as senior tight end Jacob Pedersen's 44-yard touchdown catch got UW on the board with 1:49 left in the first half.

With that emotional lift heading into halftime carrying over into the second half, the Badgers scored a touchdown on three of their final five drives to become bowl eligible for the 12th straight season.

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