MADISON- Kenzel Doe uses one work to describe his work as a punt returner: inconsistent. Either registering dynamic returns that can flip field position or having trouble simply fielding the football, Doe has talked openly about the work he puts in to try to become a consistent weapon on Wisconsin’s special teams.
During Wisconsin’s 68-17 victory over Bowling Green, Doe was more the former than the latter.
Striving for that consistency as a return man, Doe amassed 98 yards on seven punt returns, not to mention 67 kick return yards and 22 rushing yards to consistently help set up good field position for Wisconsin.
“Field position is a huge part of football,” quarterback Tanner McEvoy said. “For those returns to go our way, it was great to have Kenzel get those yards and for the defense to get those stops down in their end.”
Entering the game with three punt returns for minus-1 yard, Doe two first-half returns of 38 and 40 yards in the first half to set Wisconsin’s offense up inside Bowling Green’s 40-yard line.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster for me,” Doe said. “I went out there and I knew I would get a couple of returns today. I knew just get vertical. Last week I went side-to-side a little bit. This week I had to get vertical, catch it and go. It worked out for the best. I have to give it up to our punt return team it just wasn’t me it was those guys holding them up and giving me lanes to run through.”
As a result, Wisconsin needed a combined three plays to put 14 points on the board, the latter of which put Wisconsin ahead 21-10 in the second quarter.
“It makes me feel good because I’m contributing to the team,” Doe added on his returns. “I think on the second punt return, caught the punt, ran for 40 yards and the next play we score. That makes me glad (that) even though I didn’t score I put the team in position to score. It gives us the confidence boost.”
Despite Doe’s success, he did suffer a drop in the third quarter, causing him to quickly fall on the football to avoid a turnover.
“It was one of them end over end kicks and not spiral,” Doe said. “Those kind of are the hardest to catch because they’re not spiraling to where it’s going to fit in the pocket. I got under it a little too much and my chest was sticking out and it bounced off my chest.”
After denying Doe’s return job was in jeopardy following a muffed punt in the home opener, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen praised Doe for the work he continues to put it.
“He got a chance today to do special things and he truly did,” said Andersen. “I don't know how many games since he's been with us, it's the best game he's had. So proud of him.”
McEvoy looking for consistency
Wisconsin fans are still trying to figure out what kind of quarterback McEvoy will be this season for the offense: will he be the quarterback who went 8-for-24 against LSU or the quarterback that completed 17 straight passes against Western Illinois?
McEvoy’s 9-for-16 for 112-yards and a touchdown doesn’t jump off the page and his one interception wasn’t his finest throw of the day, but the junior did have his moments against the Falcons where his play resembled the season opener.
“I felt comfortable week one; obviously I’m getting more comfortable and that just happens with more starts,” said McEvoy. “I’m looking forward to learning from my mistakes this week and try and get them fixed.”
McEvoy’s legs were his strength for the third straight game, as he rushed for 158 yards – a long of 62 – and the game’s opening touchdown on a 22-yard designed scramble. McEvoy’s rushing yards were a school record by a quarterback, but he continued kicking himself for missing a handful of easy throws, one of which was a wide-open Austin Traylor in the end zone.
“I think I missed a few easy open passes at the beginning,” said McEvoy. “The interception its tough work and a tough position to play, but you just have to come out there, forget what happened last time and go out and make a play.”
Even though McEvoy took blame for the interception, he was particularly more upset with the quarterback-center exchange issue between him and Voltz that led to UW’s second turnover of the game.
“We just have to work on it,” said McEvoy, who also recovered his own fumble following a sack. “It’s one of the most fundamental things in football. You have to be cognizant of it and focus on it, and I think we lost focus a few times. That will happen. We had one turnover and luckily we got the other one back. It’s a stupid thing to happen and we have to clean that up.”
McEvoy was able to redeem himself by orchestrating a two-minute drive to end the first half that resulted in one of Melvin Gordon’s five touchdowns. On that drive, McEvoy went 3-for-3 for 34-yards and was able to pick up 23-yards also on the ground.
And while he was disappointed with his passing performance, he did acknowledge the importance of a quarterback who can run and what it could do to help the offense.
“It’s tough for defenses to play against us with as many weapons as we have,” McEvoy said. “It’s tough to stop a running quarterback, but I also have to be able to pass the ball.”
Extra Points: Wisconsin’s 68 points is the sixth-highest mark in school history, the most since scoring 70 against Nebraska in the 2012 Big Ten Championship game … UW has forced five turnovers on the season and scored four touchdowns off of those turnovers … Sophomore linebacker Vince Biegel forced his first career fumble, stripping Bowling Green QB James Knapke in the second quarter. Freshman DE Alec James recorded his first career fumble recovery on the play.