MADISON - Although he has been on campus more barely 17 months, senior defensive tackle Dan Moore is getting ready for the final games of his college career.
It's hard to believe, something Moore has admitted to on a number of occasions, but the road he's taken to Wisconsin and the Big Ten has been anything but a short one.
Receiving only one scholarship offer out of high school, Moore attended Eastern Illinois, but left after his freshman season when he realized he wanted something bigger. Having dreams of playing in the Big Ten, Moore attended Joliet Junior College and waited for the opportunity.
"Dan was a guy that we monitored very closely for six months and we laid it out in front of him – if you do this, this is what is at the end of the rainbow," UW coach Bret Bielema said Thursday.
A guy that played with high intensity, an outstanding motor and great quickness for a defensive tackle during his brief stint at Joliet, Moore became a natural fit for a Wisconsin defensive line that sorely needed depth at the position.
"I remember giving him a phone call telling him we were going to offer him a scholarship and he literally screamed on the phone," Bielema recalled of their 2007 conversation. "We got Dan Moore where we needed (him) to be."
Even at Wisconsin, the road has been far from smooth. In an one-on-one blocking drill, offensive lineman Brad Thorson and Moore were engaged and at the end of the play Moore crumpled to the turf.
It appeared that Thorson could have pulled off the block before Moore was hurt, causing Bielema to be visibly angry, Moore to be sidelines for the remainder of spring and Thorson transferring to Kansas.
But just like the time he left Eastern Illinois, Moore rebounded from the adversity. Making 12 tackles and a sack in his first seven games, Moore, who was asked by Bielema to address the team later this week, played the best game of his career, registering three tackles and a 13-yard sack, proving that even some JUCO kids can fit the mold of a Wisconsin football player.
"It has to be the right kid," Bielema said of recruiting junior college kids. "If you get the right kid, just like in high school recruiting, that fits the mold of what Wisconsin does, you're going to have success."
Up and Over
Choosing to attack teams with a three-man wedge by jumping over the pile, UW got a minor scare when Gilbert jumped over the pile, blocked the kick and landed squarely on his head. Gilbert was fine, but Bielema admitted that there definitely is some risk-reward when going for the big block.
"The thing we saw was when they had shorter shields and we had enough height to get over it," Bielema said about choosing to jump over the pile. "You can't really rep it … and some teams will try to cut the legs out from underneath you. There's a risk factor and that's why we don't do it all the time."
Hiding the Laundry
A year after Wisconsin committed 69 penalties for 616 yards (an average of 47.4 per game), it was evident during spring and fall conditioning that penalties, especially those of the pre-snap variety weren't going to be tolerated anymore by the Wisconsin coaching staff.
It started with team up-downs the length of the field for careless mistakes, individual up-downs, running, ball handling, anything the coaching staff could think of to drive the point home. Through eight games, the point has come across.
After being penalized three times for only 20 yards against Purdue, the Badgers are 21st in the nation in fewest penalty yards. The Badgers lead the Big Ten in fewest penalty yards in conference games, as UW is averaging just 34.0 yards per game.
"It's something we emphasize everyday," Bielema said. "I've got to admit, I saw we were leading in a good way with not being penalized. I think guys are being more conscious with what we are doing. I know we eliminated a lot of pre-snap penalties, which was the one that really got frustrating."
"The guy my hat goes off to is Blake (Sorensen) because he's been a man of many hats. He's played all three linebacker positions, plays on all four special teams and a guy that continues to buy into what we are doing and has been a key guy for us."
Extra Points: Bielema doesn't know if sophomore Kevin Claxton will be able to play on Saturday after suffering a concussion against Purdue. Claxton will be a game-time decision … Bielema saw a confidence boost in kicker Philip Welch this week after the sophomore went 3-of-3 in field goals .. David Gilreath will start on kickoff return, followed by Isaac Anderson and possibly Nick Toon.