Wisconsin defense review: Team effort thwarts Indiana offense

Mike McGinnis

The Badgers prepared for a high-octane, up-tempo Hoosiers offense averaging over 500 yards a game, and it showed Saturday.

Indiana came into Camp Randall Stadium boasting a feared passing offense and a receiving corps that many said would give Wisconsin's secondary fits.

60 minutes later on a gloomy Saturday afternoon, the Badgers' top-10 defense shut down Indiana while limiting the eighth-ranked offense to less than half of its normal total yardage, en route to an impressive 51-3 victory.

Numbers to notice

6th: National ranking for Wisconsin in total defense, giving up 287.8 yards per game (second in the Big Ten behind Michigan State)

5th: National ranking for Wisconsin in scoring defense, giving up 14.0 points per game (second in the Big Ten behind Michigan State)

7th: National ranking for Wisconsin in rush defense, giving up 98.8 yards per game (third in the Big Ten)

11th: National ranking for Wisconsin in pass defense, allowing 189.0 yards per game (third in the Big Ten)

+4: Turnover margin for Wisconsin on the season (six fumble recoveries + nine interceptions - 11 turnovers)

3-of-11: Indiana's third-down efficiency

122: Passing yards given up by Wisconsin's defense

102: Rushing yards given up by Wisconsin's defense

1: Sack by Wisconsin's defense

4: Tackles for loss by Wisconsin's defense

2: Quarterback hits by Wisconsin's defense

5: Three-and-outs by Indiana's offense (five vs. BYU last week)

1: Red-zone opportunities for Indiana

0: Red-zone touchdowns for Indiana

What went right

1. Early turnovers leading to points. The first-quarter interception by cornerback Sojourn Shelton translated to seven points on running back James White's 93-yard touchdown run, and a fumble recovery by Brendan Kelly led to Melvin Gordon's touchdown and a 14-0 lead early in the game.

2. No rhythm established by Indiana's offense. To counter the Hoosiers' pistol and spread looks, the Badgers countered mostly with a nickel look, at times using three defensive linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs (a 3-3-5 scheme). UW also utilized a look with two linemen, four backers and five defensive backs, with the two of the linebackers, like Kelly or Joe Schobert, lining up as the end rushers on the line (a 4-2-5 or 2-4-5 look).

The weather conditions didn't help one of the country's best offenses get going as some bad snaps and fumbles stunted drives, but Chris Borland and company kept them at bay with some pressure and sound defense. As BadgerNation.com's Ben Worgull pointed out on our Kielbasa Kings Sports Extravaganza's show Sunday night, Wisconsin mixed different coverages and schemes. The only scoring drive the Badgers allowed was a 14-play, 70-yard drive in the third, and no other drive went longer than 30 yards. There were some open receivers at times, but the lack of rhythm and continuity within the offense prevented quarterback Nate Sudfeld from completing those throws with accuracy.

3. Penalties forced. Four of Indiana's seven penalties were by the Hoosiers' offense, excluding a holding penalty that was declined. The Hoosiers were out of sorts Saturday, and it showed on a delay-of-game penalty on 3rd-and-goal from Wisconsin's 1-yard line.

4. Inside linebacker play. Chris Borland, Conor O'Neill and Derek Landisch combined for 20 tackles, 2 1/2 tackles for loss, and two quarterback hits. Borland has put together an outstanding season, but O'Neill and Landisch -- who were competing for the second inside spot next to Borland in camp -- have put together solid seasons in between injuries. The entire linebacking crew has been solid at the very least this season.

What went wrong

1. Missed tackles. There were a few missed tackles that extended the 14-play, 70-yard drive put together by the Hoosiers in the third quarter that resulted in Indiana's only points of the game. Safety Tanner McEvoy missed a tackle on the 38-yard completion to wide receiver Kofi Hughes, and even Borland and O'Neill whiffed on the 3rd-and-4 from the Wisconsin 22-yard line.

2. The 38-yard completion. Safety Dezmen Southward and the secondary appeared to bite on a Sudfeld pump fake on a screen pass to the left, which left Hughes open on the left sideline. It was one of the only real blown coverages seen Saturday.

Final thoughts

A top-10 defense will get another challenge against No. 25 Minnesota this Saturday on the road. It's Minnesota-Wisconsin. It's Axe Week, and the rivalry will add a new level of energy and drive. Quarterback Philip Nelson leads the Gophers' offense that averages over 218 rushing yards per game (fourth in the Big Ten) and scores over 30 points per game. It will be an interesting challenge as the Badgers fight to continue to climb up the BCS rankings.

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