Notebook: defense pieces it together

Badgers play well despite battling injury troubles

On Monday, the status of the University of Wisconsin football team's defensive line looked very bleak. Justin Ostrowski (knee), Jamal Cooper (knee) and Mark Gorman (free) and Joe Monty (knee) were all out and Jason Chapman (ankle) and Kurt Ware (ankle) were questionable.

Saturday, however, Ostrowski, Monty and Ware all played, and gave the Badgers solid reps in their 31-20 win over Purdue.

Ostrowski, considered UW's best defensive tackle prior to the season, injured his knee early in fall training camp and did not practice again until Tuesday.

With eight minutes, seven seconds left in the first quarter, Ostrowski made his first appearance of the season and promptly recorded his first tackle of the season, assisting on a stop of Jerod Void along with linebacker Mark Zalewski.

Ostrowski was given a 10-20-snap limit for Saturday's game. His knee was adorned with a thick ice pack after the game.

"After a four-quarter game, being out there for three-and-a-half hours it's obviously going to be sore," Ostrowski said. "It's sore right now but I've just got to ice it and do what I need to do to keep it healthy."

Nick Hayden and Mike Newkirk started at defensive tackle and played the bulk of the snaps, with Ostrowski and Gino Cruse rotating into the game. Chapman suited up and took part in warm-ups but did not play at tackle.

Newkirk led the defensive linemen with six tackles. He also forced and recovered a fumble at the UW 6-yard-line to help preserve a 24-13 lead

Ware did not practice until Friday and Monty only practiced Wednesday. Yet, those defensive ends rotated opposite freshman Matt Shaughnessy. Monty had four tackles and Ware had two.

One week after playing every snap against Minnesota, Shaughnessy took the lion's share of snaps at one defensive end slot again this week and played very well, with six tackles, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.

"92 just keeps showing up to me," Alvarez said, referring to Shaughnessy's jersey number. "I think 92's going to be a great player some day. But man, does he play hard, and he's athletic enough. He can play the option. He can make the quarterback pitch and then chase the running back down. I saw him come up on the quarterback a couple times. I think he's going to be a big-time player. He's playing particularly well right now."

The Badgers also received some work at defensive end from true freshman Travis Beckum and sophomore Brandon Kelly. Beckum, who was converted to end from linebacker about a month ago, played end for the first time in his UW career Saturday, taking a handful of snaps as a designated pass rusher.

"I'm starting to get it a lot more," Beckum said. "At first when I came (over to play defensive end) I wasn't too sure about it. I wasn't up to where everybody else was. I'm coming along."

"The ‘30' package was something we knew he was going to be able to do," defensive coordinator Bret Bielema said. "We knew he could get up after the passer and was able to put himself up in that position. He's a guy, Travis…. He's doing a good job for us on special teams. His potential is unlimited."

Ikegwuonu steps in, steps up

Freshman cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu was listed as a starter on the Badgers' official depth chart this week, ahead of senior Brett Bell. However, Saturday, Bell and freshman Allen Langford were again in the starting lineup.

Ikegwuonu, though, took over for Langford at the beginning of the second quarter and had a huge impact on the game, with a pair of interceptions, including one he returned for a 62-yard touchdown to give UW a 31-13 lead. Ikegwuonu had six tackles, with one tackle for loss.

"Jack is a guy that's been right there all fall," Bielema said. "Just been right there. Maybe he hasn't done everything right 100 percent but has the ability. He always gets his hands on balls and he was able to put it into the end zone today just because he reads and reacts to what he's supposed to see."

Adjustment makes a difference

After struggling to contend with Purdue's spread option running game in the first half, the Badgers adjusted their defensive front at halftime. In the first half, Wisconsin employed a "squeeze" front, with its defensive tackles lining up in the center-guard gaps. In the second half, the Badgers switched primarily to a "tilt" call for the defensive line, with one defensive tackle in that gap and another spread further wide. That helped limit the off-guard dive plays that set the stage for what Purdue accomplished with the option.

"It made a lot more clear our responsibilities too because our tilt defense is a base defense basically," linebacker Andy Crooks said. "With a little twist, but we've been playing that since camp and even before."

Purdue, however, was still largely effective running the football throughout the game. But the Boilers were not as consistent after halftime and did not make as big of plays in the running game. They ran for 136 yards on 23 carries before halftime, and 80 yards on 17 carries in the second half.

Zalewski injured

Starting mike linebacker Mark Zalewski appeared to injure his left knee in the first quarter Saturday and did not return. Sophomore Andy Crooks played most of the rest of the game at middle linebacker in Zalewski's absence, with redshirt freshman Josh Neal also taking some snaps.

"(The trainers) didn't want to put him back in because they told me they thought they could get him back relatively soon and didn't want to take any chances going back in the game today," Alvarez said of Zalewski.

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