MINNEAPOLIS - Wisconsin has seen firsthand how turnovers can affect an outcome of a game. It is a lesson they learned twice the hard way against Iowa (four turnovers) and Northwestern (five turnovers) in home setbacks this season.
So it should be no surprise that it was the seniors on Wisconsin’s defense who played a critical role in helping create five turnovers in the Badgers’ 31-21 victory over Minnesota.
“It helped being able to flip the momentum from their side to our side and the offense being able to drive the ball and run the football efficiently all day was big,” said senior linebacker Joe Schobert, who forced a fumble and registered an interception. “You could start to feel the tides turn a bit and we were able to continue to come up with more turnovers after that and being able to take advantage of those opportunities helped (momentum) stay in our favor.”
The five takeaways were the most by Wisconsin in a road game since 2008, but the pair of fumbles Wisconsin forced on consecutive possessions in the second quarter made the difference.
It started with Schobert striping Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner on a keeper on first-and-10 as the football popped into Darius Hillary’s lap at Minnesota’s 34-yard line. Wisconsin’s offense only needed four run plays to punch the ball in from 13-yards out on a Taiwan Deal carry, his second of the day, to break the tie at 14.
On the ensuing offensive position, Leidner connected with K.J. Maye for 15 yards on a third-and-10 but Michael Caputo was jarred the ball loose, once again the football landing in Hillary’s lap. This time starting at the Minnesota 48, Wisconsin used the same formula by rushing the football six times, resulting in an 18-yard touchdown run by Dare Ogunbowale.
“We knew coming into this game that we needed to cause turnovers, one way or another, as that is what we determined to be the difference last week,” said Caputo. “This week we made an emphasis on creating turnovers and we did it. We knew the schemes of things, knew how Minnesota played and how their players played; we knew we could have success.”
Wisconsin’s three other turnovers were all interceptions, as Schobert intercepted Leidner on the first drive of the second half to set up a 46-yard field goal. Safety Tanner McEvoy registered two fourth-quarter interceptions to seal the deal.
“I think we have been a great defense all year; we just haven’t gotten the turnovers,” said Schobert, as UW entered the finale was 15 turnovers on the season. “The ball bounced the wrong way sometimes and I think today for us we were just flying around and putting our hats on the ball and being able to come up with the opportunities when they were presented was big.”
Big enough for another senior class to avoid the stigma of being labeled the class that lost the Axe.
“Coming through Wisconsin in my career, every year it is such an emotional game, such a Wisconsin pride game between Wisconsin and Minnesota,” said Caputo. “When it comes time for this game it is the most important game of the season, just invest so much emotion into it and all this hard work, preparing for this game, I’m just proud, proud of the way the guys came out and how we won the axe.”
Clement’s Doesn’t Travel
It has become a common theme for Wisconsin to not have the services of Corey Clement but whether the junior tailback missed his ninth game of the season because of injury of suspension remains unclear.
Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst wouldn’t specifically comment why Clement didn’t travel with the team, only the decision was made Wednesday that he wasn’t going to play. It should be noted that the decision came the same day it was reported Clement was cited for two counts of disorderly conduct. Clement originally said in a statement that he was an incident bystander in the situation.
Without Clement, Wisconsin rushed for 257 yards on a season-high 62 carries.
“I think Corey cares about this team and appreciates what Dare and Taiwan did but I think even bigger than that,” said Chryst. “I think he’ll be proud of what the group did, I think he’ll be proud of them.”
Considering UW has become use to Clement not being available, the fact that the junior was not in the huddle wasn’t a distraction.
“Whoever we bring, we are rolling with,” said left tackle Tyler Marz. “I don’t look back to see who’s back there, I see them in the huddle but I don’t block any differently.”
Cichy ejected for targeting
Sophomore linebacker Jack Cichy’s quarterback hurry was a big reason Schobert recorded his third-quarter interception. He was also the reason Schobert had his touchdown wiped off the board.
Throwing a block behind the play on tight end Brandon Lingen, Cichy was flagged a 15-yard penalty for targeting. The penalty was upheld on review, meaning Cichy will miss the first half of the bowl game.
“I don’t think there was any intention by (Cichy) to hurt someone (but) there is no need to be blocking behind the ball carrier,” said Chryst.
Cichy is the third player for Wisconsin this year to be ejected: linebacker Leon Jacobs and cornerback Derrick Tindal were both ejected Sept.19. The targeting rule has received a lot of criticism this year due to the gray area of the call, which Chryst believes has made the officials jobs more difficult.
“I think everyone who plays the game, every coach, every player, and every official wants player safety,” said Chryst. “I think what we are asking the officials to do is really hard, I thought it was easier when it was helmet-to-helmet and you understood that...it is just harder and harder for these guys to officiate because at some point there’s always the grey, it looks like on some plays but not on others, and that’s where I think it’s hard on the officials.”
True freshman Chris Orr, who has missed the previous three games with a left leg infection, made his return in the second half and finished with one tackle.
Extra Point: Schobert matched the Badgers’ single-season record with his fifth forced fumble of the season (Chris Borland, 2009 and 2011)...Schobert matched Erasmus James for second on UW’s all-time forced fumbles list with seven in his career...McEvoy’s two interceptions gives him six on the year, the most by a UW player since 2007 (Shane Carter, 7).