A week after the Wisconsin Badgers gave up 502 total yards in a 35-17 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's squad rebounded Saturday afternoon against an inferior Miami (Ohio) offense, shutting down the RedHawks' offense to the tune of 157 total yards and a 58-0 victory at Camp Randall Stadium.
In forcing three interceptions and tallying nine tackles for loss with three sacks, the effort helped re-establish Wisconsin's defense in its priorities.
"One of the things that we said coming in was that we wanted to find an identity, that's what coach [Dave] Aranda really stressed and we kind of took that to heart," said redshirt junior safety Leo Musso, who had two of those three interceptions. "The defense rallied up and came out and made sure we performed today."
By the numbers
More on the game
UW defense thrives with interceptions, Caputo back
Welcomed sights for the Wisconsin defense: their senior captain returning and some interceptions by the secondary.
More on the game
Total yards allowed vs. Alabama: 502
Total yards allowed vs. Miami (Ohio): 157
Total rushing yards allowed vs. Alabama: 238
Total rushing yards allowed vs. Miami (Ohio): -3
Longest play allowed vs. Alabama: 56 yards
Longest play allowed vs. Miami (Ohio): 26 yards
Number of turnovers forced vs. Alabama: 0
Number of turnovers forced vs. Miami (Ohio): 4 (3 by defense)
Third-down conversions: 3-of-15
Number of sacks vs. Miami (Ohio): 3
Number of sacks on the season for senior outside linebacker Joe Schobert: 3
1. Turnovers. If the Badgers could have forced turnovers against the Tide, they would have stood a better chance of keeping up and making the game closer. Credit Alabama for securing the ball and making the plays when Wisconsin made mistakes. This week, the Badgers recorded three interceptions and a fumble recovery on special teams. Musso had two picks on the afternoon for a solid rebound game from a rough game against Alabama.
McEvoy made a nice read in the second quarter when he picked off a Billy Bahl pass and returned it to the Miami 4-yard line. That led to a Taiwan Deal touchdown and 27-0 lead for Wisconsin.
"It's great when the ball is up there and I thought actually we missed on a couple more," Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst said. "When they have a chance to give you something you've got to be able to seize that opportunity and I thought we did. I thought like I said earlier, the special teams did and that was good. I think we've still got to force -- it's got to be a point of emphasis forcing the takeaways."
2. Rush defense. The Badgers didn't face Derrick Henry this week, but holding any opponent to negative yardage is an accomplishment.
3. Tanner McEvoy. The return to safety for the redshirt senior paid dividends this week for Wisconsin. The Badgers limited the up-tempo, spread offense of Miami (Ohio) to 160 yards through the air, and McEvoy flew around in the defensive backfield. Aside from the interception return, McEvoy also broke up a nice pass when Miami (Ohio) was threatening in Wisconsin territory.
4. Outside linebackers. The duo of Schobert and redshirt junior Vince Biegel combined for 3.5 tackles for loss, with a sack apiece for the two dynamic 'backers. In two games, Schobert and Biegel run first and second in tackles for loss with five and 3.5, respectively. Schobert has three sacks on the season and, along with Caputo, is among the leaders on this defense.
1. Redhawks offense picking on Derrick Tindal. The sophomore cornerback led the team in tackles on Saturday with seven, but was a result of the Miami (Ohio) quarterbacks targeting the more youthful and inexperienced defensive back. It'll be a learning experience for the talented sophomore, who's the team's third defensive back and main backup to starters Sojourn Shelton and Darius Hillary
How much can we gather from the first two games? The Badgers were without Caputo for the majority of the Alabama game and though the outcome probably wouldn't have been different, the defense probably fares a bit better against the football powerhouse.
Against Miami (Ohio), the Badgers dominated a bottom-tier MAC team, with their younger backups preserving the shutout. The biggest takeaway is to reserve judgments on this defense, however bad it looked vs. Alaama or elite it appeared vs. Miami (Ohio), until the Badgers get a few games under their belts.