Game Notes: DeCremer's Career Likely Over

After having off-season back surgery, sophomore end Kirk DeCremer and the Wisconsin coaching staff were hopeful that he would be able to contribute in 2008. After suffering a serious setback this week, Bielema announced that DeCremer has likely played his last down.

MADISON — It's one thing to lose a player to injury for a couple of weeks. It's also one thing to lose a player for the year, as long as the player can rehabilitate and prepare for the next season.

It's an entirely different situation – a heartbreaker, really – when a player is so stricken with a particular injury that he can no longer play football.

University of Wisconsin defensive end Kirk DeCremer, a sophomore from Verona, faces that awful possibility, head coach Bret Bielema announced after Saturday's game.

In fact, Bielema wasn't even prodded by the question of DeCremer's whereabouts, as he was not in uniform or on the sidelines. Reporters assumed that his healing back injury had simply kept him out of action for the Badgers' opener, but Bielema was visibly upset when revealing this wasn't the case.

"He suffered a little bit more of a setback … and we haven't finalized everything down," Bielema said. "But it looks as though he probably won't be with us as a football player again."

DeCremer expected to be the first man off the bench on the defensive line, specializing in third-down plays. He played in all 13 games in 2007, including two starts, and was actually UW's sack leader last year with 5.5 sacks.

"He's a tremendous young man that has done a lot of good things here," Bielema said. "The hardest thing you're going to have to do as a coach, I guarantee, is … when a player, who you know would give anything to play football, can't play anymore."

Though DeCremer's plight is unofficial, several players acknowledged that they've already began making their peace with moving forward without the freshman All-American.

"We had special things for Kirk DeCremer," McFadden said. "It's a terrible loss. I just saw Kirk in the locker room, told him ‘good luck' and everything. It's a terrible situation."

Evridge, Clay make big debuts

In his first start as a Badger, quarterback Allan Evridge simply got his feet wet – well, he dipped his toes in the pool – during a 7-for-10, 75-yard performance.

The fifth-year senior was mostly efficient – completing his first five passes for 61 yards and a 3-yard touchdown to tight end Garrett Graham – but also made a costly mistake at the end of the first half.

With the Badgers on the doorstep, trying to haul a 24-7 lead into the locker room, Evridge underthrew a floating pass to wide receiver David Gilreath in the end zone. Akron safety Bryan Williams made him pay, bullying the shorter Gilreath and picking the ball off, returning it 62 yards and setting up a Zips field goal at the gun.

"He's going to learn a lot off that situation before the end of the half, throwing that ball," said Bielema, who felt that Evridge was "ill-advised" to force the throw. "There's going to be a lot of things he can carry forward."

In his long-awaited introduction to the Wisconsin offense, redshirt freshman John Clay struggled to find his groove early on, but reeled off some big second-half runs and finished with 12 yards on 71 carries. He capped the performance with a 9-yard touchdown run to make it 38-10 in the fourth quarter.

"After running the ball so much, I could feel that their bodies were wearing down," Clay said. "Our offensive line was just pushing them farther and farther away. It makes my job easier, just ride the wave."

Clay, one of the top running back prospects in the country when he entered college, seemed to get an extra boost from the sellout crowd that had waited so long to see him play.

"He's definitely a crowd favorite," Bielema said. "Everybody's been hearing about him for a couple years here in Wisconsin. I'm excited about what he brings to the table."

Gilreath's growing pains

With such a young corps group at wide receiver – and with star tight end Travis Beckum hobbling to start this season – a lot of responsibility has fallen on Gilreath's 5-foot-11 shoulders.

Perhaps that pressure got to the normally calm customer on Saturday. Gilreath dropped a perfect pass in the end zone from Evridge, and then was the intended receiver on Evridge's floating interception at the end of the half.

"It was a little underthrown, but I've got to fight for the ball a lot more for Allan," Gilreath said. "When he throws it up there, he expects us to make a play."

To make matters worse, Gilreath botched a couple of first-half punt returns, in a position that is nothing new to him. He nearly caused a fumble on a rolling punt early on, and got pounded upon hauling in a ball he should have fair caught.

There was a bright spot, however: Gilreath's 63-yard kick return in the second quarter is a career best.

"I thought I had one," said Gilreath, the dynamic returner who is yet to bring one back to the end zone. "When I got to the outside, I thought I was going to outrun that guy, but he was a little faster than I thought."

Welch sturdy in debut

It took all of fall camp to decide, but freshman Philip Welch finally won the placekicking job over junior Matt Fischer.

There was some concern over who would replace All-American booter Taylor Mehlhaff, as neither Welch or Fischer was consistent in August practices.

But Welch came on late, and had a satisfying first game. He connected on all five extra point attempts, as well as a 32-yard field goal in the first half.

Most kickoffs – save for one that had to be held down due to high winds – landed between the goal line and the 10-yard mark.

"I'm glad the first game's over, the pressure's off now," Welch said. "The hang times were good, so the kickoffs I think I can keep the same."

Quick hits

The announced attendance for Saturday's contest was 80,910. The UW Athletic Department was disappointed with late-showing spectators in 2007, but Camp Randall was mostly filled with six minutes remaining in the first quarter

Members of UW's 1998 Big Ten championship team, along with 2008 inductees to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame, were honored during the game

Former UW basketball player and current New Jersey Net Devin Harris was in attendance.

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