The Wisconsin Badgers know better, as success from the running game starts with the massive wall up front.
The veteran quintet of Gabe Carimi, Andy Kemp, John Moffitt, Kraig Urbik and Eric Vanden Heuvel were all the rage by the Badger running backs and the coaching staff Saturday, as they were the driving force in Wisconsin's 38-17 season-opening victory.
"What they were able to do up front," said head coach Bret Bielema in his Monday news conference, "I believe brought energy to our sideline after every series was contagious to the whole team."
With over 100 starts and 17 seasons combined in the trenches, the offensive line not only opened the holes for the running backs, but gave quarterback Allan Evridge plenty of time in the pocket, as Akron did not register a sack on Saturday.
"Those guys don't want to come out of there. They've got something special going right now," Bielema said. "I think the best play was Eric Vanden Heuvel running down that safety on the interception. If we don't pull him down, that's seven points and an entirely different ball game. Gabe Carimi had 13 knockdowns and John Moffitt had 15. Those are some impressive numbers … and we don't want to affect the chemistry."
In fact, the line is so deep and the first team so tight and persistent to playing every play together that Bielema is having trouble getting his reserves into the game, particularly sophomore Jake Bscherer. Playing in all 13 games primarily on special teams and listed as the No.2 left tackle in the depth chart, the coaching staff is giving the majority of reps to Josh Oglesby, who redshirted last year and was going to lose a year of eligibility anyway.
Citing that they didn't want Oglesby's sheer size to be left on the sideline, Oglesby has taken Bscherer's spot in Wisconsin's ‘jumbo' package and since Bscherer received roughly 25 snaps from an offensive point of view, a redshirt could be the solution.
"We basically told him he's a backup unless something would happen," Bielema said. "We're going to take these first two or three games and understand that if anything happens from a tackle depth standpoint, he would be in. If we could, we would redshirt but on the same account, if anything happens he'd be in there right away."
Although Wisconsin's victory Saturday wasn't the most exciting or riveting game to watch, you wouldn't know it by the atmosphere the players on the sideline were creating for one another. Bielema received multiple comments about how everyone on the sideline was into the game and cheering one another on, something that gives the head coach a good pulse of where his team is at.
"When John Clay was getting those rushes, everybody was into it," Bielema said. "When Zach Brown was getting carries, when Lance Kendricks caught his first pass, when Bradie Ewing got in there, all those little things. If we had that type of chemistry as a team, it shows our guys are into it and gives me the indication of the chemistry and make up of the team."
While their were plenty of negatives to work on in the film, Bielema indicated that one of the big positives from the Akron game was the way the Badgers went about their business and didn't let a lackadaisical second quarter send the team into a tailspin.
"Some of the positives, individually and collectively, that we saw from camp, just the way our guys went and go about there business," he said. "The thing that probably impressed me more than anything … the resiliency of the way (all phases) played from the third quarter on gave me an indication of the way they think and go about their business."
Quick Marshall Notes
Bielema commented that he liked a couple players from the Marshall-Illinois State film he viewed (a Marshall 35-10 home victory) and pointed out that Darius Marshall, who ran 20 times for 115 yards and a touchdown, stood out to him from an offensive standpoint.
"He's extremely talented," Bielema said. "A guy going into his second year, he's seasoned and really has a good feel for the game."
Another player Bielema commented on was another Darius. Wide receiver Darius Passmore caught four passes for 111 yards and two scores, including one that went for 88 yards.
"If you watch clips or film of him, he's extremely fast," Bielema said.
Redshirt freshman Mark Cann started at quarterback, completing 11-of-22 passes for 161 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, prompting Bielema to say that ‘he got better as the game progressed.'
Travis Beckum practiced all day Sunday, the first team he has been involved in team drills, and, according to Bielema, practiced ‘fairly hard than what we normally do.' Jonathan Casillas ran and did things with the trainers but did not work with the defense during their minimal work. Chris Pressley had the pin removed from his thumb this morning and will be cleared for Tuesday's practice and be full go for Saturday's game. Aaron Henry is not quite at the same level as Casillas but is doing straight-ahead running and will get involved in cutting sometime this week.
Players of the Week
MVP Offensive - Five Offensive Linemen
MVP Defense - DeAndre Levy
MVP Special Teams - Phil Welch
Offensive Scout - Erik Smith
Defensive Scout - J.J. Watt