Sustained Drives Yield Success

No.21 Wisconsin's best defense against BYU's up-tempo offense was its own offense, as the Badgers wore down the Cougars with sustained scoring drives in a 27-17 nonconference win Saturday.

MADISON - With every Wisconsin run play that moved the down marker a couple yards closer to the end zone, senior linebacker Chris Borland could take a deep breath.

Make no mistake that Borland wanted to be on the field after missing the last seven quarters with a right hamstring injury, but nothing felt better than seeing Wisconsin's offense sustain drives, put points on the board and, most importantly, keep a high-octane offense off the field.

"From a team aspect, our offense did a great job of controlling the ball," said Borland. "That was fun to watch."

Members of Wisconsin's defense drew a heavy media audience following another impressive showing in the Badgers' 27-17 victory over BYU Saturday afternoon, the Badgers' 29th-straight nonconference victory at home, but those seniors threw a lot of credit in the direction of the offense.

Senior tailback James White rushed for 147 yards on 23 carries, had six catches for 47 yards and scored three times and quarterback Joel Stave methodically completed 23 of 32 passes for 196 yards. The duo helped Wisconsin (7-2) eat up 36 minutes, 2 seconds of game time; time BYU's offense was stuck standing on the sideline with its hands in their pockets.

"From everything I've heard, they are a good offense, they move the ball well, they move the ball quick," said Stave, as Wisconsin improved to 7-0 this season when it wins the time of possession battle, "so to be able to keep them off the field and keep our defense rested was really big."

BYU's high-octane offense had been putting up staggering numbers in some on its five game winning streak, averaging 38 points and 521.2 yards per game and 6.0 yards per play.

Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said BYU's tempo was a ‘non-factor' after UW held the Cougars (6-3) to 370 yards (174 of which came in the fourth quarter) on 81 plays (an average of 4.6 yards per play); more credit to an offense that tweaked its game plan early.

Originally wanting to spread out BYU's 3-4 defense with jet sweeps and runs outside the tackles, getting the Cougars' top-tier linebackers moving in space, the plan changed on the first drive when Wisconsin used a mix of run and pass to methodically move the ball down the field; a theme throughout the first half.

"We put together some good runs, put together a few nice plays, to keep us rolling," said Stave. "We figured why not? Take what they're giving you. If the outside run is not there, just run it inside, keep the clock moving and keep us moving the ball."

All three of Wisconsin's first-half scoring drives went 11 plays, chewed up a combined 13:09 and featured a critical play to keep the chains moving.

Jordan Fredrick had only one catch for 15 yards in the game, but it came on a third-and-13 with Wisconsin pinned deep in its own territory. The Badgers moved the chains twice on third down on their opening drive – going 7-for-17 for the game – and capped it with the first of White's three touchdowns.

"Everyone had, at some point, a big catch," said Fredrick. "Whether it was third down or just a scoring drive, we all contributed in a different way."

After both teams traded field goals, Wisconsin delivered a knockout blow before halftime when Stave hit tight end Jacob Pedersen down the left hash for a 24-yard gain on third-and-10, turning a 52-yard field goal with the wind to a White' five-yard touchdown catch two plays later.

"Our offense prides itself on playing a lot of plays," said Pedersen. "We knew we had to do drives like that to give our defense a break, keep them off the field. That's Wisconsin football. That's what we want to do every day. We want to be able to run the ball and control time of possession, and we were able to do that."

After failing to rush for 100 yards by himself in a game throughout his four year career, White has done it in back-to-back weeks, eclipsing the century mark on a 14-yard touchdown run in the early minutes of the fourth quarter to cap a 10-play, 92-yard drive that took another 4:43 off the clock.

In the last two weeks, White has accounted for 345 yards and six touchdowns, the best two-game stretch since November 2010.

"I only have a few games left here," said White, "so I am going to go out there and leave it all out there each and every week."

The same could be said for Wisconsin's experience defense. In the last two weeks, Wisconsin has registered 11 quarterback hurries, 15 tackles for loss and held opponents to just 11 of 37 on third downs (29.7 percent).

"It shows the versatility of our defense," said Borland of the last two weeks. "Coach Aranda has had a great plan on third down. That's kind of his wheel house. He's great at attacking protections."

Aranda apparently is also great at preparing Wisconsin's offense. Facing Wisconsin's 3-4 defense since the beginning of March and all the different pressures they could bring, UW's offensive players admitted after the fact that the different pressures brought by the Cougars were just like another day at the office.

"Last year when we came into the 3-4, it's a lot of work that first week going into the game," said guard Ryan Groy. "There was a lot more familiarity going into it and we really executed."

Since losing on the road at No.4 Ohio State, Wisconsin has outscored its four opponents 146-64 during its winning streak. It might not be enough to impress the national voters or the computer polls, but it's certainly represents a daunting task for the final four opponents the Badgers will face between now and January 1.

"This team has a great understanding of the process," said Borland. "You just don't roll out and play on Saturdays. Guys have approached the week the right way, practiced very hard and coaches have been great, too, taking care of guys' bodies and having a great plan.

"It's all coming together, and we're excited for it to continue."


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