Sept. 2, 2011
BY KARL ANDERSON
UW Athletic Communications
MADISON, Wis. -- The offense that UNLV put out on the field at Camp Randall Stadium on Thursday night wasn’t exactly what the Badgers’ defense had seen on film.
“That wasn’t what we were expecting at all,” senior safety Aaron Henry said. “We have been practicing for about two weeks now and they showed us something completely different. It took us a little while to really get into a groove and even though UNLV only scored three points initially in the first quarter, towards the end of the game they found a couple of gaps and got into the end zone.”
Credit Rebels’ head coach Bobby Hauck for his strategy, but also credit the Badgers for rising to the in-game challenge. The stats and the scoreboard show that UW handled it fairly well.
UNLV gained only 161 yards in the first half, which was likely when the Rebels had their best chance to capitalize on the new scheme. However, they only put up three points and struggled to put together consistent drives.
The Rebels’ first drive took three plays and resulted in a loss of 1 yard. The second drive was one of their better ones in the game, covering 59 yards in nine plays. However, a missed field goal made it all for naught.
The third drive was lengthy in terms of time and plays, but only 27 yards were gained on 11 players in 4:46, an average of 2.5 plays per game.
UNLV’s lone scoring drive of the first half came on their fourth possession and it was an efficient 64 yards in 13 plays. However, the Badgers then forced three straight three-and-outs as the Rebels actually lost 16 yards in total on the three series.
By the time UNLV scored their lone touchdowns on the night, the game was already well out of hand.
Offense the model of efficiency
Eight possessions, eight scores.
That was what Wisconsin’s No. 1 offense did against UNLV. It was an impressive showing, especially considering the fact that the team had a new quarterback, a new tight end and a new grouping along the offensive line.
The numbers speak for themselves, though. On the ground, the Badgers rushed for 241 yards on 38 carries, an average of 6.3 yards per attempt. Through the air, Russell Wilson and Joe Brennan combined to go 11-of-15 for 258 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The No. 1 offense, which stayed on the field until midway through the third quarter, moved the ball at will and did so with striking precision. Five of the eight scoring drives took four plays or less and six of the eight came in under 1:56.
The Badgers normally grind out the clock by running the ball and typically find themselves with a strong advantage in time of possession. For example, last season the Badgers owned the clock in 10 of 13 games. Thursday night, however, the Rebels held the ball for 34 minutes and 20 seconds, while the Badgers had it for 25:40.
In fact, the No. 1 offense had the ball for only 14:08, meaning its average drive took 4.6 plays over 1:45.
Obviously the newcomer most fans were most familiar with was transfer quarterback Russell Wilson. However, he was just one of 18 players that made their Badger debut on Thursday night.
In the third quarter, redshirt freshman Joe Brennan took over under center. He finished the night by completing one of two passes for three yards. That one pass was completed to true freshman Kenzel Doe, who added a 24-yard kickoff return to his name.
Staying on offense, a pair of freshmen running backs got the first carries of their career. True freshman Melvin Gordon rushed seven times for 38 yards, while Jeffrey Lewis tallied 24 yards on five carries.
Wide receivers Isaiah Williams and Fred Willis, Jr. also made their UW debuts, along with offensive lineman Rob Havenstein and tight end Sherard Cadogan.
Eight members of the Badger defense saw their first game action and three got their names in the stat sheet.
Linebackers Derek Landisch and Cameron Ontko each assisted on a tackle, as did defensive tackle Kyle Costigan.
Defensive backs Peniel Jean, Frank Tamakloe and Michael Trotter also played, as did linebackers Marcus Trotter and Josh Harrison.
On special teams, kicker Kyle French got to take his first snaps due to an injury to starter Philip Welch. French made the first field goal of his career, a 29-yarder, and he went four-for-five on extra points.