MADISON – Jack Cichywas on his way to Monday meetings in preparation for Wisconsin’s weekend matchup against Rutgers when he got a text message from outside linebackers coach Tim Tibesar that he was wanted in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s office. It was the furthest thing from being in the principal’s office.
Needing to step inside and step up to replace injured freshman Chris Orr, Cichy tied for the team lead with a career-high eight tackles in Wisconsin’s 48-10 victory over the Scarlet Knights.
"It felt very good. I was definitely a little bit nervous getting the first start, but after the first play all those jitters went away and then I just got to play football,” said Cichy. “Credit to my defensive line, they helped a lot for plays I was able to make. A lot of those were on them. They pretty much made those plays, I just tackled the guy."
It’s already been a memorable year for the 6-2, 223-pound redshirt sophomore from Somerset, WI, earning a scholarship over the summer. After playing four games in 2013 and redshirting last year, Cichy had played in all eight games of the season, mostly on special teams, and had registered 19 tackles. But there were still butterflies under his jersey on the first couple of plays.
“(The coaches) eased me into the game plan throughout the week,” said Cichy. “They didn't throw it at me all at once.”
Even with Cichy in a new spot, Wisconsin’s defense kept humming right along. The Badgers held quarterback Chris Laviano to 4-of-14 (28.6 percent) passing and 31 yards, and a 32.9 passer rating. The Scarlet Knights’ signal caller entered the game leading the Big Ten with a passing completion percentage of 67.2 and third with an efficiency mark of 148.9.
Holding Rutgers to a season-low 165 yards, Wisconsin forced Rutgers into eight three-and-outs in the game and gave up just two first downs in the second half.
“He did everything you could ask for in the middle,” said senior outside linebacker Joe Schobert of Cichy. “He made a lot of tackles, made a lot of plays. Obviously if you have a guy out there making plays, he’s doing his job well. I think the biggest thing you notice is them not making big long runs up the middle. Even if he’s not making tackles, he’s in the right spot.”
ERICKSON CLIMBING THE CHARTS
With his six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown, senior Alex Erickson went over 100 yards for the fifth time in his career.
In the last four weeks, Erickson has caught 32 passes for 398 yards.
“We battled through the conditions which we knew was going to be rainy all week,” said Erickson. “We had two days to practice in the rain so we were well prepared for that. We made some explosive plays which is always good for an offense, tales some pressure off the long drives and allows us to be more explosive."
UW delivered eight plays of at least 20 yards, including four in the passing game and three by Erickson. His biggest hit was a 31-yard touchdown catch on fourth-and-7, taking advantage of a slip by his defender and turning up field before others could react.
“They played man coverage and I've got a lot of faith in Alex to get open, beat one-on-one coverage,” said quarterback Joel Stave. “I just had a lot of confidence that he'd be there and he was.”
Erickson’s six catches give him 58 for the season, surpassing his 14 game total of 57 last season. He also moved into eight on UW’s career receptions list with 122.
"I think it's a combination of things,” said Erickson of his numbers. “The offense that we're running is more balanced so we're throwing the ball a little more and then obviously as a player you'd hope that over time you'd have time to improve and work on your craft and I feel like I've improved and I continue to try and improve every single day.”
McEvoy’s Big Day
Playing against his home-state school, Tanner McEvoy filled his stat sheet on both side of the ball. Notching his third career interception in the first half when an attempt bounced off Schobert’s helmet, McEvoy also notched his first-ever sack for a loss of 10 yards. He finished with four tackles, including three solo stops, and a tackle for loss.
He capped the Badgers’ scoring when he ran for a 20-yard rush in the fourth quarter, the fifth rushing touchdown of the day for Wisconsin.
"It was fun it's nice to just have the opportunity,” said McEvoy, who is the first FBS player with at least one sack, two receptions, two carries and two interceptions in a season since Charles Gordon of Kansas accomplished the feat in 2005.
“Coach believes in me. Obviously we had the injury with Rob (Wheelwright) last week and guys have to step up and we've shown that guys can step up all week so it was a great game overall I thought, special teams, offense, defense, we all looked great."
Extra Points: Tailback Taiwan Deal (ankle) missed his third straight game and defensive end Arthur Goldberg (leg) missed his second straight game … safety Joe Ferguson (five tackles), inside linebacker Ryan Connelly (four) and outside linebacker Garret Dooley (two) all registered a career-high in tackles … the Badgers have now allowed opponents to reach the red zone 15 times in nine games, giving up 10 scores (five TD, five FG).