EVANSTON, Ill. - In much the same way his twin brother got his first opportunity in the middle of Wisconsin’s defense last season, senior linebacker Michael Trotter was pressed into duty when an injury caused him to play nearly an entire Big Ten road game.
It just so happened that the injury happened to Marcus Trotter.
“I wanted to play well for the team and for him,” said Michael Trotter, who finished with four tackles, one quarterback hurry and one sack in No.17 Wisconsin’s 20-14 loss at Northwestern Saturday. “From the outside, it may seem like I played pretty well, but I’m the hardest critic on myself.
Marcus Trotter delivered three solo tackles before he was ruled out with a groin injury before Northwestern’s third offensive series, a major setback considering the senior plays in virtually all of the Badgers’ defensive packages.
“Losing Marcus was a huge blow,” said UW coach Gary Andersen, admitting the injury limited some of UW’s play calls. “He’s played very, very well.”
Unlike his twin, Michael Trotter’s role at linebacker is still in the development phase. He played in 13 games with two starts at safety two years ago, but fell down the depth chart last season. He played in only five games, but felt invigorated by the position change in the offseason.
“It was a smooth transition because Marcus was able to help me out,” said Trotter. “I’m closer to the line, so I’m more comfortable. Looking back at it, I wish I would have stuck to linebacker but safety was a position I’ve played for so many years. I was 100 percent confident in it. I’m also confident in linebacker, but sometimes I feel like I’m always in a learning environment.”
Sophomore Leon Jacobs also rotated in on certain defensive packages. The duo got better as the game wore on, limiting the Wildcats (3-2, 2-0 Big Ten) to only 146 second-half yards, but Wisconsin (3-2, 0-1) was gashed in the running game, allowing Justin Jackson to run for 162 yards on 33 carries.
“I am always a really hard critic on myself so at the end of the day, I felt like I could have done better,” said Trotter. “Coming from a safety to a linebacker, getting off blocks is something I have to get used to. I did my assignment but I feel on some of those runs if I’d gotten off that block, like Marcus does so well, I could have helped out better.”
Missing the Big Plays
Wisconsin’s spurting offense has relied on its stellar defense to help generate opportunities through the first four games. Of the 20 touchdown Wisconsin’s offense has scored this season, five had come as a result of a turnover forced by the defense.
The Badgers’ defense was shutout in that turnover department against the Wildcats despite a handful of quality chances early, resulting in UW’s average field position being its own 21. Cornerback Devin Gaulden missed an interception opportunity on the second play of the game when a deflected pass hit him square in the chest.
Later in the quarter, Sojourn Shelton couldn’t hang on to an interception on third-and-goal from UW’s 5, leading to a Northwestern field goal.
“There’s some frustration,” said safety Michael Caputo. “There’s a lot of stuff we need to execute on. Stuff given to us like that, ball in our hands, we’ve got to make those interceptions. On the flip side, Northwestern’s defense executed a lot of things I wish we would have today.”
Caputo was talking about interception envy, as the Wildcats picked off four Wisconsin passes, two of which came in the red zone.
“We didn’t get the turnovers and they did,” said Andersen. “That’s a big part of it.”
From the Infirmary
In position to play meaningful snaps in UW’s peso package, Gaulden was injured on the play following his interception, appearing to injury his right hand/wrist on a tackle attempt. Andersen said he received an x-ray and didn’t give a diagnosis or a timetable.
That forced true freshmen Derrick Tindl into the rotation. That lasted until Tindl hurt his ankle and safety Leo Musso was inserted into the lineup and jumbled UW’s secondary.
“There was some musical chairs there,” said Andersen. “That’s college football. It happens.”
Extra Points: Melvin Gordon’s first run of the second half today was for 61 yards. He is now averaging 42.8 yards per carry on his first attempt of the second half … UW has scored a touchdown on its first drive of the second half in every game this season. The four prior drives were all 75 yards in length. Today’s drive was 76 yards in seven plays … senior receiver Kenzel Doe made his first career touchdown reception, hauling in a 19-yard pass in the fourth quarter. The TD came on Doe’s 30th career reception.