Mehlhaff perfect in defeat of Leathernecks

Head coach Bret Bielema praised kicker Taylor Mehlhaff after the junior connected on both of his field goal attempts, including a 46-yard boot near the end of the first half.

After Wisconsin's 34-10 victory over Western Illinois Saturday afternoon, most Badger players on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball focused their post-game discussions on how they needed to improve.

While the UW defense gave up just three points and freshman running back P.J. Hill rumbled for another 100-yard effort, the Badgers showed they still have plenty of work to do to get ready for the Big Ten season.

But there was one group—Wisconsin's field goal unit—which showed that it is confident and ready.

Taylor Mehlhaff did not even get a chance to showcase his leg last weekend at Bowling Green, but he went a perfect 2-for-2 in Saturday's win over the Leathernecks.

"Taylor Mehlhaff … he didn't have any field goal attempts last week. He went out there and executed and put points on the board for us," head coach Bret Bielema said. "I was very happy with his performance and all of the operation of that.

"Certain things were good in this game and I don't want to lose sight of that."

Watching the junior go 2-for-2 was particularly satisfying to those waiting to see how he would respond after converting just one of three field goal attempts in the Badgers' victory over Auburn in the Capital One Bowl Jan. 2.

Mehlhaff connected from 28 yards out to tie the game at 3-3 in the first quarter and then booted a 46-yard field goal through the uprights in the waning seconds of the first half.

"I was kind of anxious. We didn't get a whole lot of chances last week," he said. "This week we got our chances and we've just got to feel confident and capitalize on every one."

Mehlhaff credited the gelling of the unit to a meeting that was added this year. He is included in a meeting for the point-after-touchdown and field goal units.

"I'm in on that and I see what the blocking scheme's doing and everything," he said. "Last year we didn't really do a whole lot with that, so I feel a little more involved."

One thing that meeting failed to prepare him for, however, was Saturday's weather. At kickoff, the temperature was 60 degrees with winds from 10-20 miles per hour.

"Staying warm is normally not an issue in early September, but I was definitely having to go around and take a lot of kicks in the net," Mehlhaff said.

Mehlhaff is just as confident in his kickoffs as he is in his field goal kicking.

Kickers around the country have had to adapt to the new one-inch tee for kickoffs, but it has not affected the junior as much as it has other players. Mehlhaff booted four kickoffs for touchbacks, giving him seven total through two games.

"I feel pretty good, I'm hitting the ball really well," Mehlhaff said. "It's going to take a little bit off the hangtime, but I don't think it's going to affect me much."

The one thing that Mehlhaff did not do is catch a 20-yard pass from John Stocco.

Some websites listing play-by-play for Saturday's game had the kicker making a reception; however, that pass was actually completed to freshman wide receiver Isaac Anderson. Both Anderson and Mehlhaff wear the number 10.

Nonetheless, Mehlhaff and his kicking units were one of Saturday's bright spots. He is now 2-for-2 on the year in the field goal department and 16-of-22 for his career.

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