Secondary makes, gives up big plays

For the most part, Badgers' defense played well Saturday, but there were some glaring mistakes

MADISON — Put gently, Wisconsin's secondary was a mixed bag in the Badgers' 41-24 win over Indiana University here Saturday.

For the most part, the Badgers' defensive backs, and their defense in general, played pretty well. On 16 possessions, IU went three-and-out and punted four times, turned it over four times and gained 20 or fewer yards 11 times.

IU quarterback Blake Powers entered the game completing 57 percent of his passes, but connected on 20 of 41 throws Saturday and was picked off twice. He was frequently forced to scramble as he looked around for an open receiver, and was often ineffective.

That leads off the good news.

The bad news occurred largely in the first half, when the Badgers gave up three pass plays of more than 30 yards, all of which translated into points.

The Badgers expected Indiana to feature three- and four-receiver sets, but the Hoosiers still caught them off guard at times.

"Teams are starting to come at us a lot more," cornerback Allen Langford said. "I guess they look at film and… they figure we're kind of weak on the secondary. So a lot of teams are starting to come at us more. And I expect to have the same thing when Northwestern and Purdue…There's going to be a lot of teams come at us this year."

With UW leading 7-0 midway through the first quarter, Indiana had a third-and-13 at its 17-yard line. Freshman receiver James Hardy ran a skinny post, and UW senior corner Brett Bell tripped and fell as he tried to break on the pass.

With Bell on the turf, Hardy caught the ball and raced upfield, with nary a Badger in the vicinity until free safety Roderick Rogers approached in the last few yards of Hardy's 83-yard touchdown.

"I just slipped," Bell said. "It happens. It's football."

The Hoosiers fooled UW on their second touchdown of the game, late in the second quarter. With first-and-10 at the UW 46, Badger corners Langford and Levonne Rowan bit on a fake bubble screen, leaving Rogers to cover two receivers deep downfield.

Powers threw the pass to freshman James Bailey and Hardy blocked Rogers, giving Bailey a free run into the end zone.

"That's an example of a corner biting on trying to stop the bubble screen instead of playing his responsibility," UW head coach Barry Alvarez said, though he refrained from saying which cornerback had missed his responsibility.

UW defensive coordinator Bret Bielema said the Badgers had expected IU to run the bubble screen on long yardage situations. The Hoosiers, though, reacted to their own tendency.

"I'm sure they did a self analysis, just like we do, and figured out they'd had a strong tendency on this down-and-distance situation," Bielema said. "Our guys overreacted to the play and obviously you saw the results."

"Everybody just came up because we had a safety over the top," Rowan said. "But usually they only send one (receiver downfield). But they sent two, so we left (Rogers), we left him in kind of a bind. That's why we have to just stay with our man."

Finally, just before halftime Powers connected with Hardy for 33 yards, setting up a 34-yard field goal that made it 31-17.

For the fifth consecutive game, however, the Badgers shut out their opponent in the third quarter. Indiana had just 140 yards total offense in the second half, and just 67 prior to its final possession, a 7-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown toss to Hardy, after Bell fell down in the end zone.

Hardy finished with seven receptions for 157 yards and the two scores.

"It was a couple plays here, a couple plays there," Bell said. "Other than that, we really shut them down. They ran a screen-and-go, they ran a couple trick plays. The got us on a couple plays. Other than that I think we played pretty well."

In five games, the Badgers have now allowed just 23 points in the second half.

Ikegwuonu, Langford step up

Redshirt freshman Jack Ikegwuonu moved up the depth chart this week, serving as the Badgers' No. 3 cornerback ahead of senior Levonne Rowan.

Late in the first quarter, Ikegwuonu secured his first career interception. UW scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession to take a 24-7 lead.

On IU's next drive, redshirt freshman cornerback Allen Langford intercepted the first pass of his career.

"That picked our guys up in the first half. I thought really helped our secondary," Alvarez said. "We were playing a lot of press man, and it's hard to get picks when you are playing press man-to-man coverage."

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