Tolzien gets the 'look,' Toon gets the receptions

Quarterback Scott Tolzien and wide receiver Nick Toon have been "looking" to get on the same page of the playbook since the season opener when Toon came down with turf toe. Toon was subsequently on the sidelines for three games before returning for the Big Ten opener.

Going into Saturday's matchup against Minnesota, there were certain looks that Tolzien and Toon anticipated getting from the defense.  Whenever the Badgers went "Twins" - splitting Toon and wide receiver Isaac Anderson  to one side of the formation - Tolzien had some automatics, or options.

Especially when the Gophers were playing ''soft" on the corner. That separation occurs when the defensive back is lining up off the ball by five or more yards and giving a cushion to the receiver.

"It's an option call meaning that we can run it or throw it," Tolzien explained. "It's completely based on the look that we're getting. And each week that look changes. But we thought we were going to get a lot of opportunities for the quick bubble throw (against the Gophers).

"Sometimes the game plan works out like that, where you get those looks you've seen all week in practice. Sometimes you think you're going to throw them a lot, and you end up running the ball."

The quick ''bubble" throw is all about timing with Tolzien hitting Toon in full stride towards the line of scrimmage  after Toon "bubbles'' or bends back. Meanwhile, Anderson is responsible for engaging or tying up the outside defender downfield.

Former Purdue coach Joe Tiller popularized the "bubble" screen in the Big Ten.

"I know we had an incompletion today," Tolzien said, "but really it's pitch-and-catch in the truest sense. It's a nice way to compliment our run game in the normal down-and-distance."

Toon heartily endorsed the concept.

"It's a great little adjustment and it really depends on what the defense does," said Toon. "It's a quick throw, so you have to be ready to catch the ball. But I like that play.

"There's no question I would not be able to do what I do if it wasn't for Isaac, who did a great job of getting the block on that play. Can't stress enough how much I appreciate his blocking."

Toon, who  wound up as Wisconsin's leading receiver with six catches (one shy of his career high), was asked if he felt like he was more into the "rhythm'' of the offense against Minnesota.

"A little bit," said Toon who had four catches last season against the Gophers. "I'm still not where I want to be. Obviously when you get content (he paused before continuing with this thoughts ...) well, you should never really get content because you can never stop getting better."

Tolzien got some other "looks" from the Gophers that he was able to exploit. That included an alignment in which a 275-pound defensive end (Kendall Gregory-McGhee) found himself in "coverage" against UW tight end Lance Kendricks, who turned the mismatch into a 32-yard pass completion.

Earlier in the game, Jared Abbrederis caught his first career touchdown pass on a three-yard slant route that took advantage of a soft corner, Minnesota's Kyle Henderson. "It's a choice play," Tolzien said of the run or pass options. "We got the look we wanted and Jared made a nice play."

Because the Badgers were having so much success running the ball, the Gophers were forced at times to "load up" the tackle box with an extra defender. Tolzien saw that look coming, too. And while the defense is attempting to outnumber the offense at the point of attack, he welcomes the challenge.

"That's a good thing," Tolzien said, "when they're loading up the box because it shows that we're able to run the ball and they need to keep bringing more guys into the box because we're getting a hat on a hat (in the zone blocking scheme). When we see that, in my opinion, it's advantageous because it opens up more things for our offense."

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Two of Wisconsin's greatest cornerbacks, Troy Vincent and Jamar Fletcher, attended Saturday's Homecoming game. Vincent was the honorary team captain. What was his message to the players?

"Seize the moment," said Vincent, who's now working for the NFL  as a vice-president of Player Development. "It's all about the moment. You can't look ahead. And you can't think about last week (the loss at Michigan State). Lay it on the line, and make people proud of your performance."
ON WISCONSIN