Nightmare in Evanston

Basanez, Sutton run Badger defense ragged in 51-48 loss

EVANSTON, Ill. — Prior to Saturday's college football game here, the University of Wisconsin defense had plenty to hang its hat on, despite its blemishes.

After Northwestern was through with it, the Badgers' defense looked like a pockmarked wreck.

The Wildcats amassed 674 yards total offense and 51 points, including 458 yards and 41 points after halftime in a three-point victory.

"We didn't play well defensively," UW coach Barry Alvarez said. "There isn't any phase (of the defense) that looked like they played well, when you give up that many points. And in the second half none of them played well. You can talk about pressure, you can talk about coverage, you can talk about tackling. It was not very good."

Wisconsin's defense has taken its lumps from time to time this year, with a predilection for giving up the big play in the passing game.

Saturday, the Badgers yielded plays large and small, rush and pass, left, right, middle and everything in between.

Far more often than not, whatever the Wildcats wanted to do, they did.

The primary catalysts for NU's attack were true freshman tailback Tyrell Sutton and fourth-year starting quarterback Brett Basanez.

Those Wildcat stars were exceptional. Sutton ran for 244 yards and scored four second-half touchdowns. Basanez threw for 361 yards and three touchdowns.

They were helped along the way by a porous Badger defense.

"That was a classic example of not the right way to react," defensive coordinator Bret Bielema said. "There was a couple series there in a row where it was just like you go out there and we were servicing what they were trying to accomplish."

For the first five games of this season, all wins, the Badgers were reacting defensively in an overwhelmingly positive fashion. Prior to Saturday, UW had allowed zero points in the third quarter and just 23 points after halftime all season.

NU flipped the Badgers' third-quarter excellence on its head, dashing into the end zone just two minutes and 17 seconds after halftime, when Basanez flipped a four-yard touchdown pass to Mark Philmore.

Less than seven minutes later, Sutton had his first score, a one-yard touchdown.

With 2:22 left in the third quarter Kim Thompson caught a 52-yard touchdown pass from Basanez.

Sutton's second touchdown came with 47 seconds left in the period. His third and fourth would follow on NU's first two possessions of the fourth frame.

The Wildcats scored 10 points in the first half and their first six second-half possessions resulted in touchdowns.

"It's kind of shocking," linebacker Mark Zalewski said. "That's not the way our defense is or the way we should play. I don't think that we will play like that again."

Saturday, though, the Badgers relived the nightmare over and over again.

"There was just a little bit of an over-urgency to panic in that situation, which we can't have," Bielema said.

"I don't know per se whether or not we lost confidence, but we definitely have to do a better job of going out there and knowing we can stop them," cornerback Allen Langford said.

NU started slow, with punts on its first two drives. The Badgers' best defense was its offense, which dominated time of possession in the first half (19:46 – 10:14), limiting NU to five possessions. One drive that looked promising was foiled when a shotgun snap bounced off Basanez's foot, resulting in a turnover.

"I didn't feel like they stopped us in the first half either," NU coach Randy Walker said. "If anything, I feel like we stopped ourselves."

UW was 10th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 77.4 yards per game. Sutton, however, moved the pile seemingly at will. He ran for 98 yards in both the third and fourth quarters.

"Obviously we didn't tackle very well," Alvarez said. "He ran through a lot of tackles, but there were a lot of missed tackles. But he's a strong, strong runner."

The Badgers were tied for the Big Ten lead with 16 sacks. They had zero Saturday. Basanez's aptitude at running the spread offense makes it difficult to blitz him and UW's defensive line, which was so strong in the first five games, was manhandled. As a result, UW's linebackers and secondary were left at Basanez's mercy.

"The bottom line was we didn't get any pressure on Basanez the whole day," Bielema said.

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