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After handling Maryland, Wisconsin's defense is rolling

With Maryland scoring just one touchdown in garbage time, Wisconsin flat out decimated the Terrapins' offense.

Mike McGinnis

Everyone expected a closer game last Saturday. Maryland boasted an NFL-caliber wide receiver in Stefon Diggs and a potent attack that featured possible mismatches at more than one skill position. Though the Wisconsin Badgers were coming off their second bye week, would this be a trap game on Homecoming weekend?

Nope.

Holding the Terrapins to a season-low seven points and under 200 yards total for the afternoon, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and his defense -- led by senior linebackers Derek Landisch and Marcus Trotter -- dominated the field.

By the numbers

7: Points scored by Maryland

175: Total yards by Maryland

7th: Rank nationally for Wisconsin in scoring defense (16.1 points per game) -- leads Big Ten

4th: Rank nationally for Wisconsin in total defense (270.1 yards per game given up) -- leads Big Ten

5th: Rank nationally for Wisconsin in passing defense (163.4 yards per game given up) -- leads Big Ten

3-of-15: Maryland on third-down conversions

7: Tackles for loss by Wisconsin's defense

6.5: TFLs by Wisconsin's linebackers

2: Sacks by Wisconsin -- both by linebackers

1: Reception by Diggs

Personnel

You saw Maryland in its typical spread, mostly shotgun look. You saw 10 and 11 personnel out of the Terps for most of the afternoon. Wisconsin countered all game mostly with a nickel look with two defensive linemen and four linebackers. At times, outside linebacker Vince Biegel lined up with his hands in the ground.

What went right?

1. The linebackers. Landisch led the team in tackles with eight and had two TFLs. Trotter returned from his groin injury to have six tackles, one sack and two TFLs of his own. Schobert sacked C.J. Brown once and forced a fumble, while Biegel had 1.5 TFLs and a fumble recovery. It was a great example of what this defense can be when at full strength and lead by its linebackers.

"I envision this defense to just be that type of defense -- just have swag all the time, just make offenses quit in the first quarter -- that's how I envision this defense in," Trotter said after the game.

"We're getting there, and if we keep on working hard and not get complacent, we're going to be there"

2. Defense at full strength. Along with Trotter, senior defensive lineman Warren Herring came back from his knee injury. Though he didn't register any stats, Herring solidified the defensive line that was at times very thin early this season. Sophomore linebacker Leon Jacobs played well against Illinois (12 tackles), but Trotter's leadership and sure tackling helped hold Maryland to 3.1 yards per play.

"Me and Marcus like to consider ourselves the emotional leaders, kind of the outspoken guys." -Vince Biegel

"Me and Marcus like to consider ourselves the emotional leaders, kind of the outspoken guys," Biegel said Saturday. "I'm really excited to have those guys back and really excited to see what they can do for us the rest of the season."

3. Third-down conversions. Wisconsin has held opposing offenses to 27.8 percent on third-down conversions. That's fifth in the nation. Maryland was 3-of-15 on the afternoon.

4. Key fourth-down stop. The Terps went 40 yards in 10 plays to start the game, but junior safety Michael Caputo had a nice pass break-up to switch the momentum back into the hands of Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, and the Badgers never looked back.

5. Three-and-outs. Wisconsin forced nine on Saturday, an impressive display by Aranda's crew.

6. Holding Diggs at bay. Coming in with 45 receptions on the year, Diggs caught only one ball on the afternoon. Credit cornerbacks Sojourn Shelton, Darius Hillary and Derrick Tindal for not allowing Diggs or the other wide receivers to get free on many screens or short routes.

7. Keeping it simple. Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen noted post-game the Badgers didn't call many different schemes against the Terrapins. They kept the game plan relatively simple, and it paid off.

"I think we were aggressive by nature," Andersen said. "We were aggressive by play call, and when I say that, I mean by our base play calls. We stayed aggressive with them the whole game. We weren't overly crazy on zero blitzes or what have you. We ran four or five of them throughout the game.

"But the kids were settled, and sitting at the hotel last night, I felt very comfortable with the way that they had prepared and kind of just how they were going about their business. So it would be great if we could do that every week. That would be fantastic."

What went wrong?

1. Maryland's final scoring drive. This is being very, very nit-picky, but in garbage time with reserve players in, Maryland drove 73 yards in eight plays for its only score, when Diggs beat junior cornerback Devin Gaulden for a 21-yard touchdown reception. Everyone loves a shutout, and it appears Aranda's not any different: