Nov. 11, 2013
BY MIKE LUCAS
MADISON, Wis. -- When some of the players got back into the Wisconsin locker room following Saturday’s 27-17 win over BYU, they were already looking ahead to their next opponent.
“We came in and saw the highlights,” said UW tight end Brian Wozniak said. “It was 35-35 and, all of a sudden, they were up 52-35. That’s just how Indiana is.”
With 12:41 left in the fourth quarter, Illinois had forged into a 35-35 tie in Bloomington, Ind. Ten seconds later, the Hoosiers had the lead after tailback Tevin Coleman’s 75-yard touchdown run.
Coleman has more runs of 40 or more yards (8) than anyone in the nation, including Melvin Gordon. Coleman, who left with an ankle injury late in the fourth quarter, ran for 215 yards on just 15 carries. Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson said Monday that Coleman is doubtful for Saturday’s contest in Madison.
Despite Coleman’s breakout game -- the most rushing yards by an Indiana running back in 10 years -- he had to share the spotlight with wide receiver Cody Latimer, who had 11 catches for 189 yards.
Both were career highs for Latimer as the Hoosiers (4-5) snapped a three-game losing streak and kept their bowl hopes alive with the 52-35 win over Illinois, which has lost 19 straight Big Ten games.
Indiana is averaging 43.1 points per game, the ninth highest average in college football.
“But we have kind of a high-powered offense ourselves,” Wozniak pointed out.
Wisconsin is averaging 37.1 points per game, 26th nationally. The Badgers also have a top shelf defense to go along with that offense.
Wisconsin is giving up only 15.2 points per game. Only Louisville (10.6), Alabama (10.6), Michigan State (11.6) and Florida State (12.0) have been stingier.
By comparison, Indiana is giving up 37.4 points per game.
“Indiana is a good offensive team and we’ll be focused on them,” said UW linebacker Chris Borland, who signaled his return to active duty with 13 tackles and two sacks against BYU.
“I felt good and I just kind of let it loose. I thought our whole defense played a good game. We believed that we could get after their (offensive) line and I think we did.”
The Badgers never allowed Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill to feel comfortable. He completed just 19 of 41 passes for 207 yards and he was held to 53 net rushing yards on 17 carries.
“You can’t let him hurt you with his feet,” Borland said of the game plan. “I thought the wind (14 mph at kickoff) worked to our advantage. He’s definitely a better runner than a thrower.”
While praising the open-field tackling of UW safety Michael Caputo -- “He’s very physical and tenacious” -- Borland insisted that he wasn’t motivated by playing opposite BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
“You want to perform well regardless,” Borland said. “I understand that’s kind of been a conversation that people (in the media) have had, and I have a lot of respect for him (Van Noy).”
If there’s ever a good time for a defense to face the Indiana offense, it’s after facing BYU’s attack. “It’s good to have these two teams back-to-back since they run a similar tempo,” Borland said.
The Cougars came into Saturday’s intersectional matchup averaging 32.4 points, 511 total yards and nearly 90 plays per game. They had 17 points, 370 yards and 81 plays against Wisconsin.
The threat of what BYU could do offensively still impacted everyone’s thinking. That was the case on the UW’s 11-play, touchdown drive at the end of the first half, which made it 17-3.
“We had to go in with some more points to be honest,” said UW guard Ryan Groy.
Everybody was on the same page of the playbook.
|“It was a good measuring stick for people outside of the Big Ten to see that it’s not just Big Ten teams we’re beating,” Wozniak said. “It’s everybody that we’re beating.”
“It put a little dagger in them just before halftime,” said Dan Voltz, who got his second career start at center in the absence of the injured Dallas Lewallen. Voltz’s first start was at Ohio State.
“I was a little more comfortable going into the game today (Saturday) just because I had already started. But my first start in Camp Randall was definitely just as exciting as it was for me at Ohio State.
“But that was huge (putting more points on the board against BYU). If we don’t score, they get a little more confident. We scored and put the momentum back in our hands.”
UW tailback James White was a central figure in that scoring march at the end of the half. No one should be surprised. None of his teammates were. Here’s what they were saying afterward:
“He’s a quiet guy, he doesn’t say much, he’s not real outspoken,” Voltz said. “He just goes about his business; he talks on the field. It’s not just the runs he makes, but pass pro is huge for our backs.”
“He’s a super trustworthy guy, a dependable guy,” Groy said. “You can trust him on any down. He’s always making plays. He’s always learning. He’s always taking notes and he’s never satisfied.”
“James White doesn’t play outside of himself,” Wozniak said. “He just does what he does. He doesn’t come in thinking he’s Superman. He just comes in and does his work every day.
“There’s nobody who pays greater attention to detail than James,” continued Wozniak. “He can catch, he can run, he can pass block. And it’s starting to show up in these tougher games.”
Voltz made reference to White’s pass protection, his pass pro. There was no better illustration of White’s execution and instincts than on the late scoring drive in the second quarter.
On third-and-4 from the BYU 45, White’s anticipation skills were put to the test.
“They brought a corner, No. 32 (Mike Hague) and I don’t think technically it was my responsibility,” White said. “But I just happened to feel him blitzing.”
White was zeroing in on BYU linebacker Manoa Pikula.
“When he (Pikula) moved over to the left just a little bit,” he said, “I followed him for that one split second and when I did that out of my periphery I could feel someone else (Hague) coming.
“That comes with experience,” White acknowledged. “Guys on defense are going to tell you where they’re blitzing from with the way they’re moving.”
By picking up Hague, White gave quarterback Joel Stave the necessary time to complete a pass to Jared Abbrederis that kept the chains moving with less than a minute remaining in the first half.
With 14 seconds left, White caught a 5-yard touchdown pass to punctuate the drive. “We just wanted to give our defense a little more room so they could go out there and fly around,” he said.
His instincts came into play again. On the snap, White stayed in the backfield to block.
“Once I heard the crowd yelling and it sounded like Stave was scrambling, I felt like I didn’t have any more blocking to do,” he said, “so I just tried to give him an option to throw the ball.
“I faked in and turned out (on the goal line). I guess over the past two years, he (Stave) has gotten a feel for what I like to do when I get out of the backfield.
“It wasn’t by design at all and it just so happened to work out. Right when I was spinning back around, the ball was coming to me. It was a great play on his part.”
It was a dagger. The final score was not reflective of UW’s dominance, either. “We deserve some credit,” Groy said. “We’re playing really well and I think we’re better than where we’re ranked.”
The Badgers are No. 22 in the BCS standings.
“BYU is a good team,” Wozniak said. “It was a good measuring stick for people outside of the Big Ten to see that it’s not just Big Ten teams we’re beating. It’s everybody that we’re beating.”
After assisting on five tackles against BYU, Borland got another assist for perspective.
“We’d be lying if we said we didn’t look towards the finish line,” he said. “But you’re never going to get there unless you take care of business.”
Indiana is waiting in the on-deck circle.