Fall Practice: Day Nine

Vast offensive improvement in the red zone and massive disaster in the two-minute drill highlight Wisconsin's Wednesday morning practice.

MADISON – Just as the skies opened up outside the Dave McClain Practice Center, the Badger red zone offense was raining scores down on their top-notched defense.

A week after the Wisconsin's offense worked on its red zone package for the first time, scoring only three touchdowns in 29 attempts, the Badger offense finally clicked into gear, consistently advancing the ball and finding the end zone with great throws and even better catches.

Senior quarterback Tyler Donovan and junior quarterback Allan Evridge both seem to have settled into a comfort zone behind their offensive line, relying less on scrambling and improvising and relying more on their arms to do the damage.

"I feel like I'm doing alright and I'm getting better everyday," Evridge said. "I know what I'm capable of and just go out there and continue to improve … You just have to take what the defense gives you."

As prolific as the Wisconsin offense was making quality plays in the red zone, they were the polar opposite in the two-minute drill. Running the drill for the first time, Wisconsin was unable to muster any kind of rhythm with the clock running down.

In nearly 10 minutes running the drill with different amounts of time on the clock, Wisconsin was able to move the chains only once. Rushed throws, miscommunication between receivers and a couple dropped passes forced the Badger offense to look out of sorts. As comfortable and impressive as the two competing quarterbacks looked in the red zone, they looked just as confused running the drill.

"Some days things click and some days things don't," Donovan said. "That's why we practice. We have plenty of practices left to iron out the kinks."

It wasn't all the offense's fault, however, as the Badger defense atoned for its poor red zone coverage. After Wisconsin made its only first down, Jonathan Casillas stepped in front of a pass to return it for a defensive score. Aaron Henry made an interception in traffic, Brandon Kelly recovered a fumble and Jay Valai ended the drill by deflecting a Donovan pass to himself for the pick.

The most impressive of the drill was the young secondary of Shane Carter, Aubrey Pleasant, Kim Royston and Jay Valai, as the four of them compete for the starting positions at free and strong safety.

"They're coming along day by day," junior Allan Langford said. "We're starting to improve on that communication we had last year. We still have a long way to go though, but we're headed in the right direction."

Josh Nettles and Niles Brinkley cemented themselves as heavy hitters during red zone play, jarring the ball loose of opposing wire receivers, much to the delight of their defensive teammates.

Injury Notes

CB Jack Ikegwuonu and DL Matt Shaughnessy were held out of practice again for precautionary reasons. They are still day-to-day.

DL Jamal Cooper injured his right knee during more practice and had to go in early for ice. He returned later in practice, but did not participate.

DL Kurt Ware (knee surgery) appeared to be walking much better Wednesday morning. The fifth-year senior was in half pads for the first time, but only worked with strength coaches.

WR Kyle Jefferson got the wind knocked out of him during the red zone drill and had to be helped off the field. Jefferson appeared later and did some light running before the end of practice.

QB Dustin Sherer rode the bike but did not participate after spraining his ankle Tuesday morning. He's not expected to play until late this week or early next week.

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