MADISON, Wis. -- As good as the offense was Thursday night in Wisconsin's 51-17 win over UNLV, the defense showed it can still use some work.
Missed tackles were a problem and that's something that the players will have to correct themselves, but the coaches aren't off the hook either.
Thursday night was the first game as co-defensive coordinators for Chris Ash and Charlie Partridge and they were caught off guard by the offense UNLV ran.
Rebels head coach Bobby Hauck is supposedly bringing back a pro-style offense similar to what he ran at Montana, but the Badgers were still prepared for some spread looks. What they got, however, was zero pro-style looks and a ton of unbalanced, pistol offense looks that safety Aaron Henry said they hadn't seen on any film anywhere.
"That wasn't what we were expecting at all," Henry said. "We have been practicing (UNLV) for about two weeks now and they showed us something completely different."
Bielema also admitted they were caught off-guard by the pistol offense. The coordinators are not available for comment following games.
So did Henry expect more pro-style looks?
"Yeah I did, (but) most of the defense thought they were going to come out in a spread and do some of the things they did last year," he said. "Maybe here and there they would give us an unbalanced formation, but most of the game was unbalanced. I mean they were just trying to catch us off-guard and they were doing a lot of what Nevada does in their offense: a little pistol, bring the wide receiver to the backfield, a lot of things we hadn’t really seen."
Henry thinks it was just a problem for one game and not something that will be a problem against other opponents this year.
"We got one game under our belt," he said. "We didn’t expect it, but it’s all about adjusting. That’s what football is all about. We came in at halftime, we made some adjustments and we found a way to win at the end of the day."
Thursday night marked Chris Borland's first game in nearly a year. Unfortunately, it showed.
Recovering from surgeries to both shoulders, the sophomore running back didn't make any glaring mistakes, but he also didn't make any big plays -- although he led the team with seven tackles (four solo) and was credited with half of a tackle for loss.
"I'd give myself a C," he said after the game. "I was rusty. I was giving effort, but I got to get better."
So was the rust a result of not playing for nearly a year or because he moved to middle linebacker and needs more reps at the position?
"A little bit of both," he said. "More so the fact that I haven’t played in a year – my first game in almost a year. So just having the pads on, being in a game environment, just gotta shake off the rust. But I think I did all right tonight and I’ll get better next week."
As for those still worried about Borland being limited, he insists he's 100 percent, despite sporting some heavy protection on his shoulders during the game.
"The harness is just precautionary. I can do it all. No restrictions," he said.
Penalties a problem
The Badgers led the nation in fewest penalties last season with just 3.15 per game. Thursday night they committed six penalties and Bielema was not happy.
"I’m not going to be the head coach of a team that commits that many penalties. "This, this and this isn’t an excuse. We gotta clean that up. In tight ballgames that will cost us."
The Badgers committed six penalties just once last season -- against TCU in the Rose Bowl.
Left guard Travis Frederick left the game in the second half with a knee injury. He was wearing ice on the knee on the sideline and Bielema said he was having x-rays done after the game.
Kicker Philip Welch missed the game as expected, but was surprisingly wearing crutches after the game. Bielema explained:
"They do this thing that started a couple years ago where they take your own blood and swirl it around in a machine -- that I can’t tell you what it is called -- and they inject right where the tissues is sore and it heals quickly but you have to stay off of it for 10 days."
Bielema said the hope is that Welch will be ready for the NIU game.
Finally, Konrad Zagzebski has been out with a "meniscal tear", according to Bielema. That's not really a word, but the head coach is hoping he can play next week and if not, he should be ready for the NIU game.