Defense Meets Another Challenge

Possessing one of the top defensive units in the country, No.21 Wisconsin had no problem with the versatile, yet tricky, BYU offense, breaking the Cougars' five game winning streak with a decisive performance.

MADISON -Moving the ball downfield at breakneck speeds was BYU's M.O.; a high-powered, up-tempo offensive attack that relied on running plays at a rapid pace to confuses defenses and lead to breakdowns.

But considering Wisconsin's defense had already handled an up-tempo attack in the Arizona State heat and a talented, quarterback-drive offense at Ohio State, a Badgers' unit allowing only 15.0 points per game was adequately prepared for the pace of play in a 27-17 victory Saturday afternoon.

"We practiced about twice as fast as the game today," said senior linebacker Brendan Kelly. "In practice, it's probably much harder than the game."

With the defense retooled by the return of injured linebacker Chris Borland and defensive end Tyler Dippel, Wisconsin (7-2) stifled the BYU offense for 17 points and 370 yards (178 in the fourth quarter) on 81 offensive plays.

"I thought our pressure on the quarterback was good," head coach Gary Andersen said. "The adjustments were good. We were able to get Chris (Borland) freed up a little bit on some rushes.

"The pace was a nonfactor, and that was huge for us. So there wasn't confusion. There wasn't guys running around and looking to see what was going to happen and where we were going."

Borland had basically missed the last two games with the hamstring injury he sustained against Illinois on Oct. 19, but showed no lingering effects in a 13-tackle, two-sack performance that was full of creating pressure on the backfield against BYU quarterback Taysom Hill.

The dual-threat quarterback and the no-huddle spread offense was nothing Wisconsin hadn't seen before, so the keys in practice were to fix past mistakes. The results were evident, as Hill – who averaged 105.1 rushing yards per game – was limited to 53 yards and 3.1 yards per carry.

"We got some wrinkles ironed out over the course of the week, just learning from our past mistakes from those games," Kelly said. "Overall we went out there today and showed what we can do against an explosive offense."

The trouble for the Badgers had been stopping the quarterback runs. With four quarterback hurries and eight pass breakups, the defense made Hill uncomfortable from the start, evident by his air-mailed pass that fell into the arms of safety Tanner McEvoy on the Cougars' second drive.

"That was a big play," Andersen said. "I hope he would have got the pick because it was like it was lobbed up in a softball game, so hit it out of the park … I think he's getting more confident in breaking his angles and reading the quarterback's eyes, and he's getting more confident in his tackling ability."

"He's such a graceful and natural athlete that," added Borland of McEvoy. "He's made it look easy and it's not. It's amazing that just a few months ago he wasn't playing the position."

Hill only completed 19-for-41 with 207 yards and two touchdowns, but the Cougars averaged only 4.6 yards per play, the fewest since the season opener.

"As far as the scheme, I think coach Aranda and the staff did an awesome job," Borland said. "We really controlled the game for the majority of it. Slipped up a little bit late, but we contained the quarterback, which was huge."

After allowing only three field goals in four trips during last week's 28-9 win at Iowa, Wisconsin held BYU to only two trips in the red zone. While it allowed a touchdown on BYU's second-to-last drive, the Badgers' defense held late in the first quarter, as safety Michael Caputo hurried a third-down pass that forced a field goal to keep the lead at 7-3. The stop came on the 13th play of the 67 yard drive at Wisconsin's 13 yard-line.

Wisconsin has allowed just nine touchdowns on its opponents 23 red zone attempts this season (39.1 percent).

"We were confident with the red zone matchup," Borland said. "They struggled in that aspect of the game and that's one of our strengths as a defense. That's kind of a common thread with spread teams – when it gets compact they can't spread you out as much."


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