Wisconsin's Defense Gets its Swagger Back

Combined with four rushing touchdowns from its running backs and its defense holding NIU to minus 13 yards rushing, Wisconsin dominates in a 44-3 victory.

MADISON - Having lost the past two games, University of Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema knew his team had to come out and be the aggressor.

That's why Bielema chose to receive the ball after winning the coin toss instead of deferring to the second half as he usually does.

"We emphasized all week to our guys to play with some passion when you play football," Bielema said. "Some of the things that I think we lost over the last couple weeks was just our overall intensity and the way that we went about our business."

Wisconsin certainly upped its intensity right away, scoring on the first possession and pouring the points on in a 44-3 against Northern Illinois Saturday.

Anchored by P.J. Hill's 184 yards and two touchdowns, the Badgers' running game got back on track. Hill had been slowed by a strained groin in the two losses, but there wasn't any injury holding him back Saturday.

After Taylor Mehlhaff chipped in a 32-yard field goal late in the second quarter to put Wisconsin up 31-0, Hill left the sidelines to get some treatment before halftime. On the drive, Hill was hit by an opposing player's helmet on the knee, causing an injury that required him to have three stitches.

But there was no stopping him from playing, as he returned in the second half — even though Wisconsin was already up by 31 points.

"I just had to finish off my game," Hill said.

But it was more so the defense that got back on track than the running game, and Hill said that's what helped him and the offense be so efficient Saturday.

After giving up 30-plus points in the past three games, Wisconsin's defense had its best performance of the season. Not only did the Badgers hold the Huskies to only three points and 99 total yards of offense, but NIU was only able to make it past midfield two times throughout the entire game.

Like Bielema stressed, it was bringing back the intensity that was lacking in the last two games.

"You notice the level of intensity that we're playing with today," linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. "I think all our guys brought that passion that I don't think we've seen, especially in the last two games that we lost."

Wisconsin's defense brought the intensity in nearly every way possible, including two interceptions by sophomore strong safety Shane Carter.

"(Takeaways) is something that we definitely wanted to capitalize on and change," fellow safety Aubrey Pleasant said. "For the first half of the season, we weren't creating enough turnovers. With Shane doing that today, it definitely helped us out."

As Wisconsin cruised to the 44-3 victory, it regained the confidence it had prior to the two-game losing streak.

"It builds our confidence and lets us know what kind of defense we can be," cornerback Allen Langford said. "We realize that we have a lot of great players and are capable of doing a lot of great things, it's just a matter of us executing every week."

Notes: Senior wide receiver Paul Hubbard (knee) made his return, catching one pass for 14 yards

Langford and Pleasant were in jeopardy of losing their starting spots to Aaron Henry and Kim Royston, respectively. Henry and Royston were actually listed as starters, but Langford and Pleasants remained in the line-up.

John Moffitt started at left guard, replacing Andy Kemp. In the loss to Penn State, Kemp broke a small bone in his hand, but Bielema said he expects him to play next week.

Linebacker Jaevery McFadden spent the second-half on the sidelines in an arm sling, but Bielema said he expects him to be back, too. McFadden suffered a burst bursa sac in his elbow.

Badger Nation Top Stories