Spring practice report No. 11

The Badgers held their 11th practice of the spring on Saturday and while the official spring dress rehearsal is one week away, most of Saturday's scrimmage was made up of a scrimmage that included the No. 1 offense going against the No. 1 defense.

Practice No. 11 Photo Gallery

Quick start for the offense
The scrimmage started with the offense running first- and second-down plays. Every series started first-and-10 and the offense would play second down from where the ball was spotted after the first down play. The goal of the drill was to emphasize the importance of execution on first down. The offense wants to gain four or more yards while the defense wants to give up three or less.

The No. 1 units went head-to-head for eight series and the offense got a first down on all eight. UW's multiple offensive weapons were on display. RB Montee Ball did the bulk of the damage on the ground. WR Nick Toon came up with another highlight-reel catch, leaping over CB Devin Smith to haul in about a 30-yard grab down the sideline. WR David Gilreath ran for about 35 yards on a reverse. Finally, TE Lance Kendricks ended the drill with consecutive catches, including one on the final play for more than 40 yards.

Watch highlights from practice and head coach Bret Bielema's post-practice interview

The No. 2 defense had better luck, holding the No. 2 defense to three first downs on seven tries. QB Jon Budmayr and TE Jacob Pederson hooked up for about a 20-yard gain and WR Kyle Jefferson came up with a circus grab on a slant pass that DE David Gilbert tipped. On defense, LB Ethan Armstrong came up with a big hit to drop RB Zach Brown in the backfield.

Addressing the team after practice, head coach Bret Bielema applauded the offense for the excellent start but stressed to the defense that they need to be ready to play right from the beginning.

The defense strikes back
The defense got the momentum back right at the start of the third down drills. The offense faced various third-down situations, starting with third-and-1 and ending with third-and-10.

On the first play, a third-and-one, LB Culmer St. Jean attacked the hole and flattened Ball, causing a fumble. The defense also held on the next four third-down plays, as DE J.J. Watt stopped Brown, DL Patrick Butrym knocked down a pass, the offense threw an incompletion and Watt recorded a sack. The offense's lone conversion was on a third-and-10 play when QB Scott Tolzien hooked up with Toon, just floating a pass over Smith's outstretched arms on the sideline.

LB A.J. Fenton came up with an interception during the twos vs. twos.

When the No. 1s squared off again, the offense had a little better luck. On the first play, SS Jay Valai and Ball had a big collision in the hole that would have been close to a first down. Ball picked up a first down on a third-and-two but was then stopped by LB Blake Sorensen on a sweep play. Watt batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage before the offense picked up two first downs on completions from Tolzien to Toon and WR Jared Abbrederis.

The scrimmage then shifted to the goal line as the offense started from its own 2-yard line. The No. 1 offense got one first down before CB Antonio Fenelus came up with an interception on a pass that Tolzien looked to be throwing away. The No. 2 defense also got into the act as CB Marcus Cromartie picked off Budmayr.

Bielema made a point to the offense that they had the momentum after the first part of the scrimmage but gave it away with turnovers. He also gave kudos to the defense for turning around their fortunes.

Practice11_10.jpgBack on track
The No. 1 offense started to get it going again with a touchdown reception by Gilreath on a crossing route during red zone drills. The next portion of practice was "move-the-ball" and the offense started on the 20-yard line. Thanks to two big plays by Ball (30-yard run) and Kendricks (20-yard reception), Ball was able to score on a 1-yard run, getting in on his second effort.

The No. 2 defense was able to hold the No. 2 offense twice, first on Cromartie's second INT of the day then on a third-down sack by DB Shelton Johnson.

The No. 1 defense exacted some revenge as they held on their next drive. The offense started at their own 45-yard line and got a 25-yard run from Tolzien on a designed rollout pass on the first play. Tolzien later picked up a third-and-10 by rolling right to avoid the blitz and hitting Toon on the sideline.  The defense stiffened after that, ending the drive with a sack on third down by Watt. That forced a 50-yard FG attempt by Phillip Welch into the wind that came up short. Welch did make a 47-yarder in the same direction after the No. 2 offense drive stalled as well.

The Badgers will being the final week of spring practice on Tuesday, the first of three practices before Saturday's spring game.
ON WISCONSIN