MADISON - Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda called T.J. Edwards and Chris Orr out during the middle of the week about being ready for the Purdue’s inside rushing attack. A smart challenge by Aranda, especially after Edwards was partially responsible for allowing the 55-yard touchdown run last week to Nebraska’s fullback Andy Janovich.
It is safe to say that Edwards answered the challenge, as the redshirt freshman finished with a career-high 16 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss in Wisconsin’s 24-7 victory over Purdue. Edwards helped limit Purdue to only 55 rushing yards, the fourth game this year UW held a team below 100 rushing yards, and 191 total yards.
“He was flying around,” head coach Paul Chryst said of Edwards. “He looked like he was playing confident and was believing what he saw, and certainly has some talent. I just felt like he was playing fast and playing the game, and I found myself watching him.”
This was Edwards second week leading Wisconsin in tackles and his second game posting double digit stops. Helping take some pressure off of Vince Biegel and Joe Schobert, Edwards biggest play of the day was chasing down Purdue’s Markell Jones – his assignment on the play – and forcing a fumble in the fourth quarter after a 20-yard gain.
“The bad part about that play is that was actually my guy,” said Edwards, a smiling appearing on his face. “We were in man defense and I have to go with him. I knew if I didn’t make something happen I should probably just keep running to the locker because I was going to hear about it.”
Even though the play started out poorly by Edwards, it serves as a teaching tool for Chryst as he continues to preach about his 1/11th mentality for the defense, meaning if Edwards does his job correctly it will allow the players standing next to him to do his job correctly.
“I think it’s big for us,” Chryst said of having players step up on defense. “Talk all the time and guys believe this on defense, 1/11th, and that’s team defense and whoever gets that stat, so be it.”
Schobert finished the game tied for second in tackles with seven with Orr, a total team effort to help lock up the Boilermakers’ offense.
“The guys up front, especially Biegel and Schobert, are always in your ear saying watch this or that,” said Edwards. “You have those big d-lineman eating up everything, which allows you to run free, they really do a great job.”
With each game that passes, Edwards’ confidence continues to improve, especially playing on a unit chalked full of veterans.
“It helps a lot,” Edwards said. “I feel a good chemistry with the rest of the guys on defense. They’ve been really good at helping me ease into it, so I think we’re good right now.”
Offensive line shuffle
It is safe to say that it has been an unusual year for the starting offensive line. One word you can’t use to describe the group is consistency, as the Badgers started its fifth different combination on the line in seven games, including a different unit for a third straight week.
The consistent shakeups have resulted in uneven results on offense. Despite Purdue having the worst rush defense (215.2 yards) in the Big Ten, the youth of the line struggled winning the battles up and generate only 96 yards on the ground, the third game this year UW rushed for under 100 team yards.
“The beauty of this game, especially when you play on the offensive line; if you’re on a target, it’s one thing,” Chryst said. “When you’re just a little bit off or maybe your help you thought was going to be a little bit heavier on one side and it wasn’t, it can turn a play negative in a hurry.”
Strangely, Wisconsin looked like it was going to be a good day on the ground. Seven of UW’s first 11 plays were runs, including an Alec Ingold 4-yard touchdown for the game’s opening score.
“That first drive we were able to get after them but it just slowed down for us,” said right tackle Beau Benzschawel, who made his second straight start. “We know that our wide receivers and Joel (Stave) know what they are doing when it comes to passing. Once they took over we had great trust in them.”
Wisconsin finished the game with three rushing touchdowns, but on all three, Ingold (two touchdowns) and Dare Ogunbowale had to work to get into the end zone by keeping their legs churning to fight through defenders.
“I just think we need to finish as an offense, not just drives but blocking and plays,” said redshirt freshman Michael Deiter, who made the start at center in place of Dan Voltz (elbow). “We are blocking but we need to finish them off and not have people falling off late. (We) just have to be able to finish drives off, and we can’t come up short all the time.”
Wisconsin saw its streak of having at least one 100-yard rusher against Purdue end, but UW provided adequate pass protection (only two sacks allowed). Despite having started four different redshirt freshmen this season, Chryst isn’t making an excuse for the group’s inexperience on the offensive line, only that it will prove dividends down the road.
“I do appreciate the group, the way they work,” Chryst said. “And they don’t try to skirt it and make excuses for when it’s not going well. That’s where I think it gives them a chance to be good. We’ve got work to do but they are a fun group to work with, and they can get better. Guys are gaining a lot of experience. As long as we learn from those experiences, that can be encouraging.”
Corey Clement cleared
Originally given a 4-to-6 week timeline to recover from sports hernia surgery, putting his projected return in late October, Clement took a first step to returning by going through warmups prior to the game. He wasn’t ruled out but did not appear.
“We were kind of just seeing how warm ups went,” Chryst said. “Two weeks ago, he was working, kind of rehabbing on the side, and this week he was able to get some work with the offense. He was not ruled out. We could have played him today, but as it went on and doing what’s best for Corey, and after warmups and sitting, decided not to go with him.”
Clement hasn’t played since Wisconsin’s season-opening loss to Alabama.
Extra Points: Sophomore cornerback Derrick Tindal was injured covering Wisconsin’s kickoff to begin the fourth quarter. Tindal needed two trainers to assist him off the field, but Tindal reportedly told Chryst after the game that the injury was just a bruise … Joel Stave became the first quarterback in school history to post a 4-0 record against an opponent beating Purdue for the fourth time in his career... Wisconsin’s defense allowed Purdue to just 191 yards, its fewest allowed in a Big Ten since holding Nebraska to 180 yards on Nov. 15, 2014.