Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Badgers off to a slow start
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and for Wisconsin football (2-1 overall) it took all the luck under the lights of Camp Randall Stadium to come up with a heart-stopping 16-14 win over Utah State (2-1 overall) Saturday.
Special teams sparked the Badgers’ win when an 82-yard fourth quarter punt return touchdown by sophomore wide receiver Kenzel Doe ignited a quiet Camp Randall crowd and cut Wisconsin’s deficit to four points.
The return, Doe’s first of the season and first touchdown of his collegiate career, was even more remarkable considering Doe was stepping in for All American redshirt junior punt returner Jared Abbrederis, who was out for the game because of concussion symptoms.
Saturday’s explosive play won’t be the last time that Badger fans see the shifty Doe moving down the sidelines, as the speedster was named the top punt returner on this week’s depth chart to help ease Abbrederis’ return.
“Kenzel has been intriguing to me since I first laid eyes on him during film to watch him in high school camp,” head coach Bret Bielema said at his Monday press conference. “He’s exciting, he’s got a burst, I think he’s fast. But I think he’s really fast when people are chasing him.”
An offense instability has been the theme through three games this season, as each position unit has been handicapped at some point by some unusual circumstance. With coaching turnover on the offensive line and key injuries at the tailback and wide receiver positions, quarterback became the newest source of uncertainty when redshirt junior Danny O’Brien was benched at the end of the first half against Utah State in favor of redshirt freshman Joel Stave. Although Stave did not wow the crowd with his play—completing a pedestrian two-of-six passes for 15 yards—Bielema stressed that it was the young signal caller’s ability to avoid turnovers that won him the job for the rest of the game.
“The decision to go with Joel in the second half took about five seconds when I finally was with my coaches face to face on Saturday and went with it,” Bielema said. “Now did we play well in all phases? No, but there’s definitely some indication that things were moving in the right direction from where we were a week ago to this past Saturday.”
With all the headaches that Badger fans have had to deal with this season watching the offense, it has been the defense that has kept Wisconsin in ball games. The defense enters this week fourth in the Big Ten—giving up 15 points per game—and third in run defense, surrendering just 82 yards per game. Through three games the Badgers have yet to allow a rushing touchdown.
“In the past there’s a saying that defense wins championships,” Bielema said. “I think if we can continue to play good and put our guys in a position… we’ve got a chance to be good and we have a chance to win this coming weekend.”
Let's hope they have a easier time this Saturday.