Oct. 19, 2013
BY MIKE LUCAS
After turning off the microphone from his work with the Badger Sports Network, UWBadgers.com Insider Mike Lucas offers his take on the Badgers’ 56-32 win over Illinois.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda talked about the importance of playing “principled” defense against an Illinois offense which has relied heavily on deception and trickery.
Aranda’s point was that the Badgers had to stick to the principles that they had practiced during two-a-days because it was virtually impossible to prepare for every trick play the Illini might come up with.
Compounding UW’s preparation was the fact that Illinois’ first-year offensive coordinator Bill Cubit had a bye week to “create” a look or a play that their offense hadn’t shown on tape yet this season.
Preparing for the potential of some smoke-and-mirror football is not unlike preparing for an option-heavy team that forces a defense to play assignment-sound football.
On Illinois’ first offensive play, quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase lined up as a wide receiver and freshman Aaron Bailey took the snap out of shotgun formation.
Scheelhaase is a terrific athlete and poses a threat wherever he’s positioned. In addition to passing for over 6,500 yards and rushing for over 1,900, he also has caught a couple of passes during his career.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bailey is considered to be a more polished runner than thrower. Through the first five games, he had thrown just three passes but had rushed 14 times for 77 yards and three TDs.
Bailey has a link to the Badgers in that his uncle is former Wisconsin basketball star Trent Jackson, the sixth-leading scorer in school history. Jackson was twice named the team’s most valuable player.
As it turned out, Cubit was using Bailey on that first snap Saturday night to set up another snap.
Rolling to his left, Bailey was chased to the boundary by Brendan Kelly and tackled by Dezmen Southward for a 4-yard loss. But Conor O’Neill was guilty of a late hit and penalized 15 yards for a personal foul.
Bailey did not take another snap until Illinois’ third possession of the first quarter. By then, the Badgers led 14-0. Again, he lined up in the shotgun with Scheelhaase split wide to the left side of the formation.
As he did on the first play of the game, Bailey rolled left with Scheelhaase reversing back into the pocket for an apparent pass attempt. Except the exchange was fumbled between Bailey and Scheelhaase.
UW defensive end Ethan Hemer got an explosive jump off the line of scrimmage and penetration into the backfield, which might have allowed Hemer to pick up the fumble with visions of a Scoop and Score.
But he pounced on the ball.
Nonetheless, the Badgers had a first-and-goal on the Illinois 8 and three plays later, they had another touchdown on a 2-yard pass from Joel Stave to tight end Brian Wozniak, who’s 2-for-2 on the season. Wozniak has two receptions, two scores.
The 21-0 deficit was too much for the Illini to overcome.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, who had missed most of the Northwestern game with a head injury, didn’t waste any time proving to Illinois that he was healthy and ready to do some damage.
On the UW’s first offensive series, Abbrederis caught back-to-back passes for 6 and 17 yards; the later set up a 28-yard run by Melvin Gordon on a fly sweep that gave the Badgers a first down on the 2.
On the second offensive series, Abbrederis was thrown for a 2-yard loss on a quick receiver screen to the Illinois sideline. Linebacker Mike Svetina did a super job playing through a block to make the stop.
On the very next play, UW offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig called for the same play to the opposite side of the formation, the Wisconsin sideline, and Abbrederis picked up 15 yards.
Wide receiver Jordan Fredrick, who couldn’t cut off Svetina on the previous play, came right back and threw the Downfield Block of the Game when he upended Illinois cornerback Darius Mosely.
One play after the successful Abbrederis catch-and-run, Gordon slashed to a 26-yard touchdown.
A year ago, Abbrederis had seven catches for 117 yards against Illinois. Saturday night, he finished with eight receptions for 106 yards. He could have had much more, too, including a blow-by TD.
On a perfectly executed play-action pass, Abbrederis was running behind the defense -- by at least seven yards -- but Stave’s deep throw got hung up in the wind and never came close to its intended target.
Stave wound up 16-of-21 and it’s not far-fetched to think he might have had an even higher pass completion percentage if it were not for the gusty wind and some off-target throws.
Abbrederis, by the way, was the only wide receiver to catch a pass.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
It was so typical of UW linebacker Chris Borland to get injured while hustling down field to down a punt. In straining to reach the ball before it broke the plane of the end zone, he injured his leg.
The Badgers were leading 21-0 and had just squandered outstanding field position -- a first down on the Illinois 44 -- when Borland left the game late in the first quarter and didn’t return.
Marcus Trotter took Borland’s place at inside linebacker and factored into a number of plays with positive results with one lone exception late in the third quarter.
Illinois was faced with a second-and-30 from its own 40 when Scheelhaase completed a 6-yard pass to tailback Josh Ferguson who was driven out of bounds by Trotter. He should have stopped there.
Instead, he flung Ferguson to the ground and drew a personal foul penalty. Even though the Illini were flagged for holding on the same play, the Trotter foul give Illinois a first down on the 45.
Trotter made up for it, though, on what would be the 13th play of the drive; a fourth-and-goal from the UW 1. Trotter, Michael Caputo and Hemer stopped Bailey short of the goal line (after further review).
Ready when his number was called, Trotter led the Badgers with nine tackles. He also had a fumble recovery when Tyler Dippel punched the ball from tailback Donovan Young’s grasp.
Head coach Gary Andersen got his players’ attention by merely noting how many teams had fallen by the wayside Saturday for taking things for granted or assuming that victory was automatic.
There was a staggering list of upsets including Minnesota over Northwestern, Tennessee over South Carolina, and Vanderbilt over Georgia. Some of these teams looked like they were sleep-walking.
Andersen stressed getting off to a fast start against Illinois and his players responded with arguably their best football of the season at the start of the first and third quarters.
In winning a road night game, the Badgers will take an abundance of momentum into their second bye while keeping alive their hopes to get into the BCS bowl discussion by going 10-2.
Not that anything should be taken for granted, especially since Iowa and Minnesota look much tougher today than they did in September. There are no automatics, particularly in rivalry games.