Badgers kick off October homestand

first_imgBRYAN FAUST/Herald photoWith thoughts of last year’s disappointing 51-48 loss to Northwestern in the distant past, the Wisconsin Badgers look to earn their second straight Big Ten victory this Saturday against the Wildcats.After two road games in as many weekends, Wisconsin (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) returns to Camp Randall for Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against visiting Northwestern (2-3, 0-1), hoping for its first home conference win of the season.”It’s our house, and our fans,” UW wide receiver Luke Swan said. “It’s definitely something that we look forward to, coming back here.””It’s always nice to come back home to the friendly confines of Camp Randall,” safety Joe Stellmacher added.Friendly confines? The Wildcats may soon beg to differ.As Northwestern’s record indicates, things have hardly been easy sledding for the team so far this season. The Wildcats’ biggest setback, however, happened earlier this year, with the untimely death of head coach Randy Walker, who suffered a heart attack in June.”It’s always sad for that to happen to anybody,” UW safety Roderick Rogers said. “I know that’s very emotional for that team. That’s a sad situation.””He went at too young of an age,” Stellmacher added. “Very tragic, but you have the new coach coming in. He’s doing a heck of a job right now.”Walker’s replacement, Pat Fitzgerald, is the youngest coach in Division I-A, at just 31 years old.Northwestern’s game against Penn State last weekend saw Fitzgerald face off against the nation’s oldest coach, the 79-year-old, seemingly ageless wonder, Joe Paterno.The opposite will be true Saturday. Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, 36, is the second-youngest after Fitzgerald.The Badgers hope to launch a solid running game on offense against a Wildcats defense that has given up an average of more than 130 yards per game on the ground.Northwestern will have its hands full with P.J. Hill, who has rushed for 598 yards and eight touchdowns so far and is the Big Ten’s second-highest rusher behind Michigan’s Mike Hart.”I think we just have the same game plan every week,” offensive lineman Kraig Urbik said. “Come out and be physical, try to run the ball, establish the running game.”Swan feels that getting the running game going will help open up the pass, which proved very successful last Saturday as the Badgers attacked the Indiana defense for 52 points.”Definitely being physical is a first,” he said. “We look to be physical all the time, and then just really stretch the field and get the passing game going like we did last weekend to continue the success we’ve had.”Defensively, Wisconsin’s main focus will be on running back Tyrell Sutton. Last year as a freshman, Sutton lit up the Badger defense for 244 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. One of those carries, a 62-yard touchdown, eventually proved to be the game winner.The defensive unit has certainly learned its lesson from a year ago and goes into Saturday’s game prepared for the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Sutton.”Everyone has to know their assignment, be in their gaps,” Stellmacher said. “He’s a very strong and fast running back, and if guys are out of their gaps and not knowing their assignments, he’s going to exploit that. He’s going to hit the seam, and he’s certainly got the speed to go the distance.”With a much-improved defensive secondary from a year ago, Wisconsin hopes to continue its strong play at cornerback and safety, which has resulted in the top-ranked pass defense in the Big Ten.”I think guys are playing with more confidence,” Stellmacher said. “Pass defense is a total team effort. Our front seven, our D-line and linebackers, have really been getting some pressure on the quarterback. The more pressure you can get on the quarterback, the harder it is for him to make throws.”Slated to line up behind center for Northwestern will be redshirt freshman quarterback Andrew Brewer. Brewer is filling in for the injured Mike Kafka, who is also a redshirt freshman. Kafka is listed as questionable after sustaining a leg injury two weeks ago and sitting out last week’s contest at Penn State.While the young quarterbacking duo may lack experience, they make up for it in athletic ability and speed.”They’re good quarterbacks,” defensive lineman Nick Hayden said. “They both like to run the ball.””They’ve got a lot of ability,” Rogers added. “We don’t take their [inexperience] as a weakness. We just need to be prepared to stop whoever’s out on the field.”Stellmacher also sees Brewer and Kafka as young quarterbacks able to make an impact.”They’ll pull it down, and they’re not sliding when they’re out there,” he said. “They’ll try to run you over, and they’re fast. We gotta try to contain the quarterback and running game as best we can.”With the home crowd on their side this weekend, Wisconsin looks to build off last week’s thumping of the Hoosiers with another win at Camp Randall.The keys to another victory? Simple, says Rogers.”Stop big plays and tackle,” Rogers said. “When we do that, things go well for us.”last_img read more