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Get the inside scoop on Western Michigan in advance of Monday's matchup against Wisconsin

Before No.8 Wisconsin takes on No.12 Western Michigan at AT&T Stadium Monday in the 81st Cotton Bowl, we get the inside scoop from Scout.com's Allen Trieu.

BadgerNation: Define the origin of the “Row the Boat” slogan. How have the players embraced it as the rallying cry this season?

Allen Trieu: Head coach P.J. Fleck came up with it after losing his son shortly after birth. It represents continuing to keep going or "rowing" through whatever life throws at you. It has not only been a rallying cry this season, that mantra really is part of the foundation of their program ever since Fleck got there.

BN: Without any big star recruits, how has P.J. Fleck built this roster into the top-12 team that they are?

Trieu: I do think they've recruited really well. They've evaluated guys under the radar, which you have to do to have success in the MAC, but there are lots of guys who are playing for them who they beat power-five teams on or they were kids who received power-five offers after they committed to WMU and they kept them on board. I think it's about as talented a roster as you'd find at the "group-five" level.

BN: Senior wide receiver Corey Davis is one of the best in college football at his position. How have teams tried to defend him and why have most failed?

Trieu: He obviously draws a lot of attention, but I think Western Michigan does a good job of getting him 1-1 matchups. They have other weapons and they spread the field out, so it's hard to double him. I think a mistake teams have made is, because he's such a deep threat, giving him too much cushion. He has taken a good amount of short passes and turned them into long gains, so the "give him space, let him catch it short and make a tackle" approach has not always worked. I think limiting his YAC will be important for Wisconsin.

BN: What are the strengths of quarterback Zach Terrell that he has a 32-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio?

Trieu: He's a senior who is very accurate and very smart. He is experienced. He's solid in the mobility department. But mostly, as those stats show, he won't beat himself and he gets the ball to his playmakers.

BN: Other than linebacker Robert Spillane, who are some playmakers to watch for on Western Michigan’s defense?

Trieu: Cornerback Darius Phillips has returned three of his four interceptions for touchdowns. He's a big play guy. Linebackers Caleb Bailey and Asantay Brown are good players. Justin Tranquill is another defensive back who has been an important piece of their defense. He's a former four-star recruit.

BN: Western Michigan ranks 73rd in the country in sacks and 95th in tackles for loss. Why have the Broncos struggled getting to the quarterback?

Trieu: Lots of quick passing in the MAC. They're 73rd in the country in sacks, but they're third in the MAC in sacks. Most of the conference struggles to generate big sack stats and I think it's the nature of the offenses in the conference. Also, their best players on defense, in my opinion, are in the back seven.

BN: Who is the X-factor in the Cotton Bowl for Western Michigan?

Trieu: Darius Phillips. He is a great return man and he can change field position and can also score any time he touches the ball on interceptions or returns. Wisconsin must contain him.

BN: What areas of Wisconsin do you expect will give Western Michigan trouble? Where do you think the Broncos have the edge over the Badgers?

Trieu: I think Wisconsin's big offensive line and running game will be tough for WMU to deal with. I think the pace of Western's offense will be a challenge for the Badger defense.

BN: What is the one thing Western Michigan needs to do well in order to win?

Trieu: They must play well up front on both sides. That is, protecting Zach Terrell and then not allowing Wisconsin to run the ball consistently on them. I think the more they can get Wisconsin into passing situations on third down, the better for the Broncos. Coach Fleck will have them ready to play and ready for the big opportunity this is.

 


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