GREEN BAY - All it took was one play for Wisconsin’s inside linebacker depth to take another hit.
Already without the services of sophomore All-American T.J. Edwards, who was ruled out Monday as he recovers from a broken left foot, the Badgers had to dip further into their reserve after sophomore Chris Orr injured his right leg on the first defensive play.
Listed as the backup at both inside linebacker spots, Ryan Connelly did more than just fill in.
The redshirt sophomore delivered for Wisconsin with seven tackles (second most on the team) and a number of other timely plays against LSU’s rushing attack in the Badgers’ 16-14 win over No.5 LSU at Lambeau Field Saturday.
“Give Ryan Connelly extreme amount of credit for being prepared to be able to fill in to a big time role like that and go out there and execute like that,” senior linebacker Vince Biegel said. “Ryan made plays all over the field, he made tackles, he made great pass coverage, great pass blocks. I think that gives credit to our coaching staff to prepare our starters but also our second man in.”
Wisconsin’s defense was going to need all hands on deck in order to stop a rushing offense that averaged 256.8 yards a game last season and running back Leonard Fournette, who led the country in rushing yards per game (162.8 yards).
Although primarily working with the second-team defense in fall camp, Connelly helped Wisconsin not miss a beat. Not only were the Tigers held to 126 yards on 29 carries, Fournette was mostly contained. The junior Heisman Trophy hopeful finished with 138 yards on 23 carries (103 coming after halftime) and no touchdowns. Thirty-one of those yards came on one play, but the Badgers’ defense didn’t give up any points on the drive.
Connelly played in 12 games last season (mostly on special teams) but jumped right into the mix. He registered a tackle on Fournette on his first defensive play and sniffed out a third-down screen, evading center Ethan Pocic to stop Fournette in his tracks and short of the first down marker.
“That was nice,” head coach Paul Chryst said, with a smile.
Dietzen Steps in for Kapoi
A total of 11 players for Wisconsin made their debuts but it was redshirt freshman Jon Dietzen who received the most extensive playing action at left guard. Expected to rotate in with redshirt sophomore Micah Kapoi, Dietzen played the entire second half when Kapoi was ruled out with a left leg injury at the beginning of the third quarter.
Working with the first-team offense was nothing new for the former four-star prospect from nearby Seymour; he did it throughout spring ball. But there’s a big difference between practice and the fifth-ranked team in the country.
“Everybody has to play with confidence but when you haven’t played a snap of live college football it’s hard to be confident in yourself,” said Dietzen. “But after that first series I was feeling pretty confident in myself.”
Dietzen will have a lot of good memories from his first collegiate game but the atmosphere that he played in inside Lambeau is something he won’t forget anytime soon.
“It was unreal,” Dietzen said. “The atmosphere here is pretty much what I expected it to be. As I was coming in, I was like you know it’s not going to hit me, I’m not really going to feel it until I come out of the game and that’s exactly how it was. It was indescribable, so loud and so much red by us. It was great.”
Rosowski Delivers on his Kicks
It’s the first game of the season and Chryst successfully pulled a fake punt.
Although true freshman Anthony Lotti was listed as the starting punter on the team’s depth chart, the staff made the decision Thursday to go with redshirt sophomore P.J. Rosowski, a walk-on from Stoughton.
It turned out to be a good move, as Rosowski overcame a 22-yard first punt to put three of his final four punts inside the 20.
“Obviously, that is not the one I wanted to hit,” Rosowski said of the 22-yard boot. “But I think having all my teammates behind me really helped me. They just all said: ‘Relax, take a step back. Deep breath.’ That’s kind of what I did, just refocused. That is what you have to do whenever you have a mistake. You’re going to mess up once in a while but how you respond to it is the big thing.”
Rosowski also delivered with his kickoff duties, averaging 65 yards on his four kicks with three touchbacks
Extra Points: The Badgers rallied from a 14-13 fourth-quarter deficit to pull out the win, marking the third fourth-quarter comeback win in the Paul Chryst era. UW also erased 21-20 deficits last season against Nebraska (10/10/2015) and USC (12/30/15) ... UW surrendered just 257 total yards of offense to LSU, the Badgers' fewest allowed away from home since holding Purdue to 230 yards on Nov. 8, 2014 in West Lafayette, Ind. … Junior TE Troy Fumagalli recorded a career-high 100 receiving yards on seven receptions, averaging 14.3 yards per catch. Fumagalli is the first Badger tight end to eclipse the 100-yard mark since Lance Kendricks had 103 yards against Austin Peay on Sept. 25, 2010 ... Senior OLB Vince Biegel finished four tackles and recorded a sack, giving him 18.5 in his career.