UW's Secondary Second to None

Facing an offense that averaged over 500 yards per game and scored at least 28 points per game, No.17 Wisconsin saw its secondary thrive, holding the Hoosiers to a season low in points, passing yards in total offense in a dominating 51-3 victory at Camp Randall Stadium.

MADISON - Facing a defense that had been leaking oil all season, a unit that was ranked third worst in the FBS in total defense, the talk all week was not if, but how many points could No.17 Wisconsin put up on an Indiana defense that hadn't been able to stop anybody all season.

Ironically, that played right into the hands of a secondary facing, arguably, its toughest test all season.

"We might have felt overlooked a little bit, but that's part of coming out and getting what we had planned done," said true freshman cornerback Sojourn Shelton. "We knew they were a team that (was) going to throw the ball. At times in other games we had struggled against the deep ball. I think that was an emphasis for us to be out there and to have fun."

The final results were expected for Wisconsin: the Badgers scored six rushing touchdowns and cruised to a 51-3 victory at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday – the ninth straight time UW (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten) has beaten the Hoosiers and the seventh such game that has been decided by at least 30 points.

The surprise, however, came not from Wisconsin putting up 676 total yards and 554 yards on the ground, but from the play of a secondary labeled ‘weak' at the start of the season that is starting to fortify itself on the defense.

The Hoosiers (4-6, 2-4) are a high-powered offense that relies mainly on a passing attack with five players each with over 1,000 receiving yards, resulting in an offense that had scored 28-or-more points in 10 straight games.

Indiana is an offensive attack that could best be described as a combination of BYU's up-tempo offense, anxious to run a play every six-to-eight seconds, and Illinois' passing attack to physical wide receivers. Those two offenses put up a combined 761 total yards on Wisconsin's defense and secondary, and the Illini's 32 points was a season high.

And with the visitors playing without tailback Tevin Coleman, their team's leading rusher and leader in most rushing touchdowns (12) in the Big Ten, because of an ankle injury, Wisconsin knew that the ball would be flying through the air.

"We'd seen on film that teams that set back and played base coverages that were too simple, they (Indiana) kind of picked apart," said linebacker Chris Borland. "Our goal was to get after the quarterback, and I think we did that today."

After scoring at least 28 points in every game this season and a week after gaining 650 yards on 71 plays (9.2 yards per carry) against Illinois, Indiana was limited by Wisconsin to a measly 224 yards on 60 plays (3.7 yards per play).

More importantly, the Badgers forced turnovers that turned into points. Shelton registered his team-leading fourth interception of the season on Indiana's first drive, which turned into a 93-yard James White touchdown on the next play.

With sloppy conditions, Indiana did itself no favors. Suffering three unforced fumbles in the first half, the first of those self-inflicted miscues – a bobbled exchange between quarterback Nate Sudfeld and backup tailback Stephen Houston - led to Wisconsin senior linebacker Brendan Kelly recovering a fumble on the IU 17.

Less than three minutes into the game, Wisconsin led 14-0 and never relented.

"The whole game plan was to get in (the quarterback's) face and show different coverages here and there, try to make them make some poor passes," said Shelton.

At halftime, the Hoosiers had only 84 total yards, three fumbles and two turnovers, as Wisconsin became the first team to hold Indiana scoreless in the first half this season.

Those were numbers that the praised Michigan State's defense couldn't even accomplish against Indiana. Hoosiers' previous season low for points (28) passing yards (259) and total yards (351) were all erased thanks to Wisconsin holding Indiana to only 122 yards through the air.

"This offense had me petrified walking into this game because they are very, very talented," said Andersen. "Our kids played lights out today."

Going against the conference's worst defense (Indiana came in allowing 519 yards and 37.4 points per game), Wisconsin ran ragged over the Hoosiers with 323 yards by halftime. At intermission, White had 174 yards, Melvin Gordon had 120 and both were averaging over 12 yards per carry.

When it was over, UW's three tailbacks – White, Gordon and Clement – were all over 100 yards. UW has now outscored its six visitors by a combined score of 247-to-36.

"It's very important for great football teams to win at home," said White, who finished with a career-high 205 yards. "To win on the road, as well, but especially at home. You play most of your games at home and we know we have a lot of great fans, and we want to take advantage of that, too."

Even when Indiana did manage to put points on the board, the Hoosiers walked away frustrated, as UW denied the Hoosiers on four tries inside the Badgers' 6-yard line, even drawing a delay of game penalty.

"That was a big stand down there," said Andersen. "That was one play where we definitely had a busted coverage on the wheel route … it was important for them to get the stop at that point. It matters to them. They took great pride in the three points that they gave up today against this offense. It's a tremendous accomplishment."

A week ago when defensive coordinator Dave Aranda put five defensive backs on the field, he utilized four safeties and only Darius Hillary as the cornerback. Citing earlier in the week that Hillary would be challenge against the Hoosiers, Aranda kept the sophomore cornerback on the field, despite Hillary having a team-high five pass interference penalties.

Shelton was the odd man out last week despite his team-high three interceptions. While the true freshman has worked well with smaller, shiftier guys, Shelton had fallen victim to the bigger receivers who can use their leverage on the true freshman cornerback.

Going against Indiana, Wisconsin mixed in man coverage, zone coverage and blitzes, and duo were licking his chops, as the duo didn't draw any penalties and allowed only one pass play over 15 yards.

"We've been playing pretty well," said Shelton. "If you look at how we played last week, to hold those guys (BYU), it was a great step forward. To come back and do this … it was another step."

Indiana entered the weekend with the third fewest three-and-outs in the country (20 times in 132 drives), but were held to three plays or less on six of its 13 drives.

Consider that plenty of generated momentum Wisconsin is taking into its final road test of the season at Minnesota next weekend to face a much improved Gophers team on a bye this week.

"It's an easy game to focus on," said Borland. "It's a rivalry. We have the axe in our locker room. We see it every day. On top of that, they're a must improved team. They'll be easy to get ready for."


Badger Nation Top Stories