Centering the Ball - with Derek Engler

In our first installment of "Centering the Ball with Derek Engler", the former college and pro offensive lineman talks defensive dominance. He also takes you inside the Badger huddle to breakdown why running the ball is so important.

What are your overall impressions of the Badger performance on Saturday?

-- It reminded me a lot of my senior year in '96. Mike Samuel was our QB and although nobody could question his toughness, our passing attack was pretty much non-existent. It was not because of our receivers, Donald Hayes and Tony Simmons, who both played in the NFL. Mike just was not blessed with a Peyton Manning arm. We averaged 45-50 rushing attempts a game and threw the ball 10-15 times a game. We did not care if they knew every time we were going to run the ball and they put 9 in the box. We would move the line of scrimmage so far back that the 9th guy would get lost in the mass of bodies or our RB would make a move on him. All we cared about as an offense was movement at the line of scrimmage, covering guys up and receivers blocking down field. This philosophy gave Ron Dayne the NCAA freshman rushing record breaking Hershcel Walker's old record. He did this and had not even seen the field until the 2nd half of the 5th game of the season against PSU. We had one of the top rush offenses in the country that year. We were in a very similar game which was our third non-conference game in '96 against Stanford which ended up in a 14-0 victory for us. It was an ugly bloody nose kind of contest very similar to the SDSU game on Saturday.. As a former OL I love these kind of games. As a fan sitting in the hot sun I find myself yawning a bit. I was very impressed with the play of the defensive and offensive fronts. They dominated both sides of the ball. Badgers had 287 net rushing yards gave up no sacks, and defensively only gave up 115 total yards and had 5 sacks. I would say that is domination up front. Offensively we may have missed some opportunities and obviously we did pass the ball well. I know that some pass happy Badger fans may not want to hear this but if we continue to run the ball like we did Saturday, regardless of the passing game, and play defense like we did, we will be in every ball game at the end.

The defensive performance has to make the team feel pretty good about entering the Big Ten…right?

-- Tarek Saleh and I had talked about the importance of the play of the defensive line on our radio show on Fox Sports 100.5 FM Friday night. They had not played up to expectations in their first two games. They had played better last year with less guys and they were not getting the job done up front. That being said, they answered the bell on Saturday. They constantly were putting pressure on the QB and they stuffed the run all day long. Shaughnessy, Monty, Hayden, Chapman and even undersized but scrappy Newkirk did some good things up front. With the absence of Ostrowski and Cooper they needed guys to step up and make some plays and that is exactly what happened on Saturday. It seems when the pressure is put on the front four either by poor performance or lack of depth due to injury, the unit as a whole turns it up a noch and gets after it up front. I cannot say enough about the play of the LB unit. I love the fact that I got to know Mark Zalewski personally this summer due to the fact that he interned with me at Morgan Stanley. He is an energetic, respectful, polite, hard working young man that will do very well in life.

Outside of PJ Hill, the offense is playing well below expectations. Even though the team is 3-0, is that something we should be worried about?

-- There is no question that we do not have the talent at the WR position right now. They are young and we lack experience and depth. I would put more of the blame of the lack of passing game on Saturday on Stocco. He did not have a good game and he admitted that in the post-game interviews. He did not look comfortable and had happy feet in the pocket. It was a different #7 out there then the one that has won the Badgers so many games in the past. He needs to get his mojo back against the Wolverines because we will need to throw the ball this Saturday. Badger fans will have to be patient in this phase of the game due to our lack of depth and experience at the WR position. We do not have Williams, Orr, Daniels and Calhoun to catch the ball. We need to set up the pass with the hogs up front getting down and dirty and teeing off on the defensive fronts and punching them in the mouth with the running game. Our big bruising back then delivers a blow to an opposing tackler 4, 6, 9 yards down the field. This allows our OL to set a tone for the game, slows down opposing pass rushes and sucks the second level (LB's) up to create some holes over the middle for our receivers. This also takes the pressure off # 7 and when he is comfortable he can be dangerous.

Were you impressed with the defense's play yesterday? It seemed like everyone was in the right place on nearly each play.

-- Coach Bielema knows how luck he is to have Z in the middle of that Defense. He is the field general out there and he plays like it. He is a ball hawk that has great awareness and sideline to sideline speed to the ball. He is constantly making plays and is always around the ball. He had a team high 8 tackles and two sacks on Saturday. Need I say more? It is really fun to watch the OLB's run! They run like the LB's do down in Florida. Casillas and Levy are freakish athletes. I watched one play where SDSU threw out to the flat and Casillas fought off a chop block bounced up and exploded with quickness to the ball and made a great open field tackle for a gain of maybe one or two yards. If he does not make that play it is a big gain for SDSU. In the back end it is all about our Safeties. Stellmacher carries on a great tradition at UW of intelligent, tough and overall great football players at that position. Jack I. also had a very good game and was in the receiver's face all day long. I truly believe that this defensive squad will only get better as the season progresses and they get more snaps together as a unit.

Does the dominating performance by Michigan AT Notre Dame elevate preparation before next week - or is it business as usual for the coaching staff?

-- I am glad that Michigan pounded ND in their place. I am sure it took a lot out of them to come up with a big win like that on the road. Michigan is not a tough place to play on the road. We beat them in '95 in the "Big House" when nobody gave us a shot to win the game. The stadium is a bowl and lays flat and is not loud. The fans all sit on their hands and crowd noise will not be a factor in this game. The Badgers have always got up for this game. They have taken it to us in years past and have stolen a couple of games that we should have won. The Wolverines have not forgotten last year and I am sure their coaching staff will harp on that all week. There is something special about playing against that helmet. You have a little more in you when you take the field knowing you are taking on one of the more storied programs in college football.

Initial thoughts on how the Badgers will fare in Ann Arbor next Saturday.

-- It is Michigan week! If you don't get up for this one you should not be in that locker room. I again believe that this game is going to be won up front. We need to get to Henne fast and often. We need to shut down Manningham and the passing game and we can do that by rattling Henne and putting him on his back. The Badgers have their work cut out for them offensively. The Wolverines have a very good defensive front seven. This is not SDSU and the rushing yards will be harder to come by. We have to control the clock and keep our defense off the field. If we only get 3-4 yards a carry that is okay as long as we keep moving those chains. The Badgers will have to be patient in the passing game and take only what they give us so we avoid turnovers. The turnover margin and special teams are going to be vital for the Badgers to pull out an upset in Ann Arbor. I expect this to be much closer than the "experts" predict and do not be surprise if Bucky sneaks one out in the so called "Big House".

Former Badger offensive lineman/center Derek Engler will be joining us each week for "Centering the Ball" for the remainder of the football season. He will give us a look at the previous week's game from the field. Currently, Engler works for Morgan Stanley as a financial advisor. If you have any questions regarding investments, reach him by email . Or reach him by phone (800) 776-7797.

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