It wasn’t the prettiest of victories for Wisconsin Badgers, as Troy Trojans kept the Badgers on their heels throughout the game. Wisconsin found a way to win and can expect a similar challenge from Hawaii Warriors (2-1), as the Badgers welcome the Warriors to Madison for the first time 1987.
Hawaii has already faced two teams from a Power Five conference - beating Colorado in the season opener and losing 38-0 at Ohio State two weeks ago. Despite failing to score against Ohio State, Hawaii has firepower on offense with quarterback Max Wittek, running back Paul Harris and wide receiver Marcus Kemp all ranking in the top five in terms of yards at their positions in the Mountain West Conference
The rankings for the Front Seven are determined based on performance from last week, expectations this coming week and need. Here are our seven players most important in helping the Badgers to a win over Hawaii.
Last Week’s Rankings in Parentheses
Joel Stave QB (1): Stave continues to pick up the slack on offense and has delivered when the Badgers need a big play. Case and point, Stave’s 4-yard touchdown run against Troy to end the first half gaveWisconsin a 14-3 halftime advantage. With Hawaii’s run defense holding opponents to 188.7 yards on the ground, Stave again will be counted on to lift Wisconsin’s offense to success. The Warriors’ pass defense has been solid through three games, only allowing opponents 192.3 yards a game and just 5.7 yards per pass. Hawaii has registered one interception on the year but has been able to pressure the quarterback with six sacks. Throughout his career, Stave has done well of standing strong in the pocket and not making a mistake with the football.
Although Stave has done well of lifting the offense at times this season, he needs to be able to help the offense strike early in games. UW has yet to score a touchdown on its opening drive and went 3-for-10 on third down last week, dropping its percentage to 45 percent (18 of 40) on “money down.” Stave will need to improve in all areas – those two specifically – with conference play fast approaching.
Joe Schobert OLB (2): Schobert is going to have to continue to find a way to supply pressure to make Wittek feel uncomfortable in the pocket. Wittek, a USC transfer, ranks second in the Mountain West with 541 passing yards and is coming off a season-high 272 yards passing against UC Davis. Despite that impressive performance, Ohio State held Wittek to 67 yards on 7-for-24 passing, sacked him three times and intercepted him twice.
Leading UW with 2.5 tackles for loss against Troy, if Schobert can supply the same kind of pressure, Wisconsin’s pass defense could provide similar numbers to Ohio State. Schobert’s uncanny ability to apply pressure should benefit him against an offensive line that has allowed Wittek to be sacked seven times. Throw in the fact that Wittek is completing only 50 percent of his passes, Schobert’s pass rush should be able to disrupt Wittek’s rhythm and timing.
Sojourn Shelton CB (NR): Although Shelton was targeted often against Troy, the junior did do a good job of not allowing any big plays and was a sound tackler, finishing with seven. Shelton could have another busy day covering Kemp or Dylan Collie. Kemp has big play ability, evident by his 79 yard catch against Colorado, so Shelton will have to blanket him in coverage. Shelton has been steady through the first three games but is still looking for his first interception.
Hayden Biegel RT (NR): Although Jacob Maxwell rotated in at right tackle last week, Biegel should get a fourth start in a row. It will be interesting to see if the offense continues to rotate the right side of the line when they begin Big Ten play. Either way, this could be Biegel’s last chance to prove he can be an every-down player with conference play a week away. Not allowing any sacks against Troy, Biegel will be counted on to help open up the run game, as it was evident that the Badgers are trying to get the ground game where it needs to be. For UW to have success on the ground, Biegel will have to consistently win his matchup in the trenches. He’ll need to be careful of Luke Shawley, who is tied for the team lead with 1.5 sacks and registered nine quarterback hurries a season ago.
Michael Caputo S (4): Caputo’s biggest value to the defense Saturday could be how he helps slow down Hawaii’s passing attack. With starting nickel cornerback Derrick Tindal being suspended for the first half for targeting, Wittek will look to possibly pick on reserve nickel cornerback Natrell Jamerson. It will be good to have a player of Caputo’s caliber on the back end of the unit. Caputo had a relatively quiet game against Troy (four tackles and a fumble recovery) but will have a chance to be in on a lot more plays with Hawaii averaging 28.6 pass attempts a game.
Alex Erickson WR (NR): Stave continues to distribute the football well and it isn’t a surprise that Erickson is one of his favorite targets. Erickson had three receptions against the Trojans and the trust between him and Stave continues to be a big factor in the passing game. With Hawaii having a stout run defense, Erickson should see more passes come his way, as the Badgers will have to attack the intermediate routes to open up the field. Hawaii has only allowed two passing touchdowns this season, so there is a good test there for UW. Erickson has also been close to losing the football each of the last two games on punt return. For someone who has reliable hands, it’s been surprising to see Erickson struggle and something he needs to fix.
Dare Ogunbowale RB (7): Ogunbowale has continued to play well in the absence of starting running back Corey Clement, who could miss a third straight game with a sore left groin. Even if Clement plays, Ogunbowale will still see a bulk of the carries in the run game. Averaging 5.4 yards on 14 carries last week, the junior will have a stiffer test against a unit allowing only 3.8 yards per rush. Hawaii held Ohio State tailback, and Heisman Trophy hopeful, Ezekiel Elliott to an average of 3.7 yards on 27 carries. It is important that Ogunbowale shows patience on his runs and doesn’t take more then he should on each carry. If the Badgers’ line can get the better push up front, it should allow Ogunbowale to continue to develop as a runner.
Others to Note
Taiwan Deal RB: Deal looked a lot more comfortable against Troy then he did against Miami University, able to display a burst that was missing in week two. Deal’s patience paid off when he was able to pick up a first down on seven of his 16 carries against Troy. In short-yardage situations, Deal will continue to be relied on to help keep the offense moving, as he has shown that it is difficult for defenders to take him down.
Natrell Jamerson CB: With Tindal being suspended for the first half against Hawaii, Jamerson could see Wittek try and attack him early in the game. Jamerson held up well after he was inserted in at nickel late in the third quarter last week. With a full week to prepare, Jamerson should be ready when he takes the field.
Chikwe Obasih DE: Coming off one of his better games of the season, registering five tackles, Obasih will continue to have to play with a high motor to try and help disrupt timing on pass plays. Obasih may only have one tackle for loss on the season, but he has the ability to make plays for himself or others in the backfield if he can engage blockers off the edge.
Austin Traylor TE: With Hawaii doing well of taking the opposition’s passing attack away, Traylor, who has displayed consistent hands throughout the early season, could be a threat in Hawaii’s red zone if he can find the soft spot. Having registered a touchdown catch in each of the past two games, Traylor is developing into a valuable weapon for Stave, especially in the red zone.