Turning the Tide

With Wisconsin's offense sputtering in the first half, the Badgers were looking for a second-half spark. For the second-straight week, UW's defense came to the rescue, registering three second-half interceptions that cushioned the Wisconsin lead.

MADISON — Wisconsin defensive backs Shane Carter and Niles Brinkley came to the Badgers hoping to line up as wide receivers, catching touchdown passes to the roar of the Camp Randall Stadium crowd.

Neither got their wish. But they're both making just as big an impact, using those ball-hawking skills to grab interceptions, which change ball possession and, in Saturday's case, change the entire makeup of a game.

Carter, who led the Badgers with seven interceptions a year ago, grabbed his first pick of the season and returned it 43 yards.

The bigger contribution may actually have come from Brinkley, a breath of fresh air who's currently listed as the No. 3 cornerback (and might move down to No. 4, with Aaron Henry's return next week).

Five different UW corners had interceptions in 2007, but no defensive player (besides Carter) had more than one pick. Brinkley doubled up, grabbing two interceptions early in the third quarter and showing he belongs on the field.

"I thought it was real big, all I wanted to do was get the offense the ball back, so they can be in position to go and score," Brinkley said. "It helped the team, it boosted the crowd. All big plays give a team a boost of morale like that."

All three interceptions came in Marshall's first 13 offensive plays of the third quarter – Carter's big play was sandwiched between Brinkley's pair. All three led to Badger touchdowns, turning a 17-14 lead into a 38-14 cushion in a matter of 12 minutes and effectively ending Marshall's upset bid.

"That's something (UW defensive coordinator) Coach Doeren always stresses, it's like that snowball effect," Carter said. "You make one big play, and then the next one … you make three interceptions in a half, that will put an offense down."

UW head coach Bret Bielema has told the same story a few times before, the story of how disappointed Brinkley was when UW's coaches decided to make him a cornerback.

"When I asked him to move to corner, it was like I shot his dog," Bielema said. "He was depressed, he was in the tank, his dad was upset, his brother was upset. The reason we did it was because we thought he could turn into what he did today … he's a good corner in the making."

Brinkley downplayed Bielema's initial depiction, but admitted he's still getting used to a new position.

"It's a whole different game, playing DB," Brinkley said. "You've got to backpedal, you've got to break. Receivers, they run and catch.

"(Catching) helped me a lot today."

Carter, always the perfectionist when it comes to turnovers, was upset after the game for two reasons; that he didn't score on that runback, and he missed a chance for a second interception just two drives later.

"It leaves a very sick taste in my mouth, on a serious note," said Carter, who did not score on any of his seven interceptions last year. "It's nothing to joke about, any time you have a chance to get your hands on the ball, you've got to come up with it."

As it turned out, the three picks were more than enough for Wisconsin to pull away. And perhaps more importantly than the defense helping UW get a 37-point victory, Brinkley looks to add another dimension to the Badgers' core group of cornerbacks.

"Niles has (great) ball skills, he's shown me that since he got here," Carter said. "I think he's ultimately starting to play complete, and I hope that him making big plays will give him confidence for these next couple weeks and play hard and make plays."


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