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Wisconsin football: Leo Musso, Badgers defense perform well in Saturday's scrimmage

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The defense forced five turnovers, but the offense punched back as well during the scrimmage.

MADISON -- On a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon, the Wisconsin Badgers scrimmaged inside Camp Randall Stadium.

Redshirt junior safety Leo Musso continued his hot summer, intercepting two passes, while the defense as a whole performed better than the offense -- though redshirt senior quarterback Joel Stave did throw three touchdown passes on the offensive side of the ball.

Other big news included redshirt freshman Micah Kapoi working most of the afternoon with the first-team offense at left guard, with redshirt senior Ray Ball delegated with the No. 2 offense.

The format for the scrimmage was mostly the first-team and immediate back-ups/subpackage specialists taking on the second-team players. Towards the end, there was some mix and matching between the two, there wasn't much

Here are some quick notes on both sides of the ball:

Defense

Along with Musso's interceptions -- including a beauty in the red zone where he bated redshirted junior Bart Houston to throw over the middle of the field -- two other Badgers defenders picked off passes Saturday. It continues a solid performance through the summer for the safety and the confidence he's a more-than-capable complement to senior Michael Caputo in the secondary with redshirt senior Tanner McEvoy playing wide receiver.

"The thing I appreciate from Musso is he's taking advantage, and you saw it today," Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said in his post scrimmage talk with the media.

Stave didn't see sophomore safety D'Cota Dixon over the middle during red zone drills when trying to hit senior wide receiver Alex Erickson. Dixon caught it easily and ended that red zone possession for the first-team offense. True freshman Tyler Johnson also had an interception for the defense.

The first-team defense as a whole played well, not allowing a score by the second-team offense and not much outside of a nice catch by redshirt sophomore Troy Fumagalli against senior safety Michael Caputo on the first series of the scrimmage, and some moderate runs by redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal. The only other blemish was when junior cornerback Sojourn Shelton missed an interception opportunity on a pass to redshirt sophomore fullback Austin Ramesh. Ramesh made a big gain, but the defense stalled thereafter.

Offense

Stave threw three touchdown passes on the afternoon -- one each to junior running back Corey Clement, Erickson and redshirt senior Austin Traylor. Out of the shotgun, Stave hit Clement on a nice 36-yard strike on the first-team offense's first series, while placing the ball nicely on the left side of the field for the former walk-on in Erickson to make the catch and walk into the end zone.

Traylor's touchdown reception was a nice 20-yard pitch-and-catch in red zone scenarios.

Chryst noted after the scrimmage that Stave's interception was also one of the newer players the Badgers installed into their offense.

Aside from the Stave interception, the other first-team turnover was a fumble by redshirt junior running back Dare Ogunbowale on a great pass from Stave. It may have gone for a touchdown, but it was stripped inside the 10-yard line and recovered by the defense.

Regarding first-team wide receivers, McEvoy, Erickson and redshirt junior Reggie Love received many reps -- along with Jordan Fredrick. Stave appeared to target McEvoy and Erickson the most in this offense, and at times was off on a few throws. He also wasn't helped by some drops by his intended targets.

As noted before, Kapoi received the majority of the reps with the first-team offense at left guard. From left tackle to right tackle were the following: Tyler Marz, Kapoi, Dan Voltz, Michael Dieter, Walker Williams. There were a couple of decent runs here and there, but the line still needs significant refining two weeks out from the big match-up against Alabama on Sept. 5.

Senior fullback Derek Watt could be a pivotal aspect of the Badgers' passing game. Watt caught a pass in the right flat from Stave during a goal line scenario and took it about 30-plus yards. Aside from the number on his jersey, Watt reminds me of another Badgers fullback, Bradie Ewing, who could put a helmet on a defender in the run game and also make the receptions out of the backfield.

Injuries

Among those held out of today's scrimmage included inside linebacker Leon Jacobs, guard Jon Dietzen, wide receiver Robert Wheelwright, running back Caleb Kinlaw, and tight end Eric Steffes. Redshirt freshman Beau Benzschawel was seen with crutches and a brace on his injured knee. Chryst said he doesn't expect Benzschawel to be back for the rest of fall camp.

Those injured during today's practice included Fumagalli (ankle), Reggie Love (head injury) and Ryan Ramczyk (ankle).

Observations

  • The back-up quarterback spot seems to be between Houston and redshirt freshman D.J. Gillins. Gillins performed better on Saturday, including hitting a near 80-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver George Rushing after Rushing caught and pass and broke down the right side of the field for the score. He also hit redshirt freshman receiver Henry Houden for a score towards the end of the practice. Houston, Gillins and true freshman Alex Hornibrook played with the second-team offense
  • Even though they were scored upon three times through the air, really like the second-team defense. There were times where blitzing linebackers came through the stuff runs or "sack" the quarterback. That's Dave Aranda's defense for you.
  • Sophomore kicker Rafael Gaglianone missed a 47-yard field goal on the second series for the first-team offense.
  • Redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal runs with power. Though it appears Ogunbowale has secured the No. 2 spot, Deal runs with an emphasis. Good to see him come back from an injury.