Sept. 2, 2013
BY MIKE LUCAS
MADISON, Wis. -- Brendan Kelly is a sixth-year senior. Sojourn Shelton is a true freshman. Despite their differences in age and experience, they can both learn from the video of Wisconsin's 45-0 win over UMass.
"The best practice is a game," said Kelly, who was planning on breaking down the clips within an hour of leaving Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday. "I like to see how I did and critique myself."
As a defensive end, Kelly had appeared in 36 previous games, including 14 starts. But he now has a different assignment as an outside, boundary linebacker in Wisconsin's new 3-4 alignment.
For the first time in his career, the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Kelly has coverage responsibilities.
"My role is a lot of fun," Kelly said. "A lot of times I'm chasing (the ball) from behind, a lot of times I'm covering running backs on wheel routes and out of the backfield.
"It's good stuff and it was great to be out there and see those (spread) looks. It's always a learning experience and it's going to be fun to see it evolve over the course of the season."
Inside linebacker Chris Borland led UW with nine tackles; Kelly and field linebacker Ethan Armstrong had five each. Kelly also had a strip and forced fumble that was recovered by Armstrong.
"We're going to face some power teams," said Kelly, looking down the road and anticipating a noticeable upgrade in the competition, "and it (his position) can be real physical for me."
There was little or no suspense in the second half of Saturday's game beyond finding out whether the defense could hold on to its shutout in the fourth quarter. That kept Kelly amped up.
At halftime, seniors Kelly, Borland, Armstrong and Dezmen Southward made their feelings known.
"We grabbed the defense and said, `Don't take this lightly -- no matter if you're a one (first team), a two or a three -- we want that shutout,"' Kelly recounted.
"When you saw them (the Minutemen) driving a little bit in the fourth quarter, you saw all the starters yelling, `Hey, twos, don't let them score because we want that goose egg."'
On its final possession, UMass drove to the UW 35 but turned the ball over on downs to the Badgers who recorded their first shutout since a 35-0 skunking of Oregon State in 2011.
Shelton said the younger players fed off the veterans in the locker room, and on the field.
"When I see Borland and I see Dez, I realize that I'm not out there by myself," he said. "So I just have to play up to my potential and do my best."
In his first collegiate start, Shelton had four tackles, an interception and a quarterback hurry.
"I know a lot of people were kind of concerned how I was going to handle playing in the starting lineup, but I think I handled it well," he said. "I enjoyed it a lot, I had a lot of fun."
Shelton definitely brings energy and excitement to whatever he does.
"I love it, too," Kelly said of Shelton's swagger. "It's fun turning around and seeing a young guy make a play. You have to get on him and say, `That's how it has to be every single game."
"Obviously, this was huge for him from a confidence level."
Not that Shelton has ever lacked confidence.
"My first varsity game in high school, I had an interception," said Shelton, a three-year starter at Plantation (Fla.) High School. "That was my goal today, I wanted to come up with one."
|In his college debut, Shelton got in-game advice from an outstanding source in Hall of Famer Jamar Fletcher.
Shelton sounded even more excited about his pass rush. Blitzing off the edge of the defense, he was able to put some pressure on Minutemen quarterback Mike Wegzyn.
"I've been working on my J.J. Watt," Shelton said of a spin move popularized by former Badgers defensive end J.J. Watt, now an All-Pro in the NFL with the Houston Texans.
"My main goal is to get a little bigger and stronger because I know now, as we move on into the season and we play some of the bigger teams, it's going to be a lot more physical."
Shelton has already put on more than 10 pounds since arriving on campus last January. At 5-9, 172, he's heavier than Scott Starks, who weighed between 155 and 165 as a true freshman in 2001.
Starks took over as the starter in the third game of the season -- by beating out the incumbent at the position -- and held on to the job for four years.
Donte King and Michael Broussard were the only other true freshman to start at corner -- they replaced injured players -- under former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez.
Mike Echols and Jamar Fletcher were redshirt freshmen when they broke into the lineup. As it turned out, Fletcher was on the UW sideline Saturday to greet Shelton after his pick.
On Friday night, Fletcher was inducted into the UW Athletic Hall of Fame.
"The whole week, I wasn't nervous," Shelton said. "But a couple of minutes before game time, it started to hit me and it was like, `Wow, it's about to happen."'
Shelton then went out and made things happen.
"I just wanted to show people that I could play," he said.
On first-and-10 from the UW 30, quarterback Joel Stave put a pass on the hands of tight end Jacob Pedersen along the Wisconsin sideline. Pedersen turned his shoulders and headed up field.
There was one catch -- he didn't catch the ball.
"I was a little upset with myself," said the normally sure-handed Pedersen. "I tried to do too much. I was basically running up field without the ball. I'm surprised the ball didn't hit me in the back."
Pedersen put his anger to good use on the very next play, a Power run. Moving from left to right across the formation, he wiped out UMass defensive back Joe Colton.
"I knew what I had to look for and I knew the running back was going to make the right cut," Pedersen said. "As long as I can keep making the right blocks, I'll block every single play if I have to."
The running back was Melvin Gordon, who took advantage of blocks thrown by Pedersen, fullback Derek Watt and left guard Ryan Groy, who pulled and hooked linebacker Stanley Andre.
Gordon's 70-yard touchdown run staked the Badgers to a 17-0 lead in the second quarter.
"Melvin made the right read and the right cut and he took it to the house," Pedersen said. "I don't think anyone is going to catch him when he's in the open field by himself.
"That sparked the offense."
The Badgers struggled in the first half to throw and catch the ball. It was very uncharacteristic of Stave, who had enjoyed a solid training camp, especially throwing the deep ball to his receivers.
"We kind of just took it upon ourselves to start making some plays to help Stave," said Pedersen. "We just kind of said, `Hey, we have to make some plays.' That's what it comes down to."
Executing the play-action pass is integral to Wisconsin's potent running attack.
When the safeties creep into the tackle box to stop the run, it opens the center of the field for post routes and other combination patterns and it creates one-on-one matchups for Jared Abbrederis.
|"Our No. 1 goal is to run the ball, being a Wisconsin offensive line," Groy said. "Whether it's three backs with 100, or one back with 300, we're happy either way."
"Safeties can't be flying down at 110 miles an hour," Pedersen said. "When the safeties are down in the hole, it's a lot harder for the running backs to make a cut off them.
"We have to be able to keep that balance and keep the safeties guessing."
Stave and Abbrederis twice exploited UMass cornerback Trey Dudley-Giles, who had no safety help and got burned for two long touchdowns of 65 and 57 yards. Stave had all day to throw, too.
"The O-line blocked phenomenally the whole game," said Pedersen, one of three receivers with two catches each Saturday. "There was hardly any pressure on Stave at all."
Groy felt the offensive line had a good week of practice and game plan for the protection against UMass. "We schemed them to where we knew where the slide was going all week," he said.
For the second time in three games, the Badgers had three tailbacks rush for over 100 yards. In the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game against Nebraska, it was Montee Ball, James White and Gordon.
Saturday, it was Gordon (144 yards), White (143) and freshman Corey Clement (101).
"We take a lot of pride in that," Groy said. "Our No. 1 goal is to run the ball, being a Wisconsin offensive line. Whether it's three backs with 100, or one back with 300, we're happy either way."
Groy, who started the game at left guard, should have been happy with the way he played, particularly when he was pulling and leading interference for the running backs.
"I felt like I played well, I didn't play great; there were a couple of plays where I could have been more physical," said Groy, a fifth-year senior from Middleton. "But overall we played well as a unit."
Groy has been working to refine his pulling techniques at guard with O-line coach T.J. Woods. It can be challenging since Groy is also taking snaps at left tackle.
"I've definitely gotten more comfortable in pulling," he said. "I fixed a couple of things; Coach Woods has helped me a lot. I was always stuttering and doing some different things with my pull.
"But we fit it up a lot in practice this week and we knew where they would be playing (on defense versus formations). We have to keep pounding the ball and everything else will open up."
UMass wasn't much of a test, but Groy still sensed a buzz in the air. "You could tell people were excited," he said, "to come out and see the new coach and the new team we have this year."
Kelly noted that UW head coach Gary Andersen stayed in character before the game and at halftime. "Coach Andersen is not a big guy for speeches," he said. "It's our day; a day for the players."
There was one light moment when Andersen began jumping around during "Jump Around." While he was encouraging the players to participate, they were prodding him to jump, too.
"We were trying to get him to experience it, if you know what I mean," Kelly said. "I wouldn't be surprised if you see that happening every week."
Said Pedersen, "He (Andersen) likes to have fun out there. Why not let guys have fun? It provides energy and you play this game to have fun."
Kelly appreciates the freedom of expression.
"It's a serious game," Kelly said, "but when it's time to enjoy something, let's enjoy it. Jump Around is a time to enjoy it. Let's have fun; let's whoop and holler louder than anyone in the stadium.
"But come the next step (when the game resumes), let's player harder than anyone else."