It's one thing to face an Alabama offense with junior running back Derrick Henry and with high hopes of containing the Heisman Trophy contender.
It's another to take on the task once your captain and leading tackler from 2014, redshirt senior safety Michael Caputo, is knocked out of the game with a head injury three plays in.
The Wisconsin Badgers were roughed up Saturday evening at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. in a 35-17 loss, gave up 502 yards total and four rushing touchdowns.
A look at the numbers
Total offensive yards for Alabama: 502
Total offensive yards for Alabama in first half: 199
Total offensive yards for Alabama in third quarter: 187
Total points scored by Alabama in third quarter: 14
Yards per carry for Derrick Henry: 11.3
Total rushing yards for Alabama: 238
Number of turnovers for Wisconsin defense: 0
Alabama's third-down conversion: 4-of-11
Joe Schobert. The senior outside linebacker, at times overshadowed by junior outside linebacker Vince Biegel, shined -- recording 13 tackles (eight solo, five assited), four tackles for loss and two sacks. He brought energy to the fold, and when the defense was successful at times, it was due to him and Biegel providing pressure.
Sojourn Shelton. The junior cornerback, though in just one game as a sample size, appears to have regained his swagger seen in his freshman year. One two deep balls targeting him from Alabama quarterback Jacob Coker, he played both beautifully -- breaking one up at the last moment. It's a solid start for Shelton, who finished the game with two tackles and credited with one pass break-up.
T.J. Edwards. The redshirt freshman, in his first start at inside linebacker, tallied 12 tackles, one tackle for loss and a pass break-up. Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst acknowledged Schobert, Shelton and Edwards as standing out on the defense after Caputo went out.
Third-down conversions for Alabama. A silver lining lies in the third-down stops for defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's defense. When Alabama was forced into third down situations, the Badgers halted most of Bama's momentum.
No turnovers. It was one of the keys to the game for Wisconsin. If the Badgers could force Alabama into mistakes and capitalize on those opportunities, they'd have a fighting chance.
It didn't happen.
Losing Caputo. How do you expect to contain Bama without arguably your best player? The Badgers' defense did suffer without Caputo, with some miscommunication and blown plays. Sophomore safety D'Cota Dixon played admirably in his place, contributing to eight tackles in the game, but Alabama took advantage of the inexperienced defensive back on their first scoring drive, with passing plays of 22, 22 and 10 yards. Dixon admitted after the game he needed to communicate better with his teammates, and also noted it was the hardest game he's ever played.
Injuries limiting potential of defensive effectiveness. Along from Caputo, athletic junior inside linebacker Leon Jacobs was hobbled for parts of the game -- with true freshman Chris Orr subbing in for him. On the Tide's second touchdown drive, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and senior quarterback Jacob Coker took advantage with some completions of 33, 13, 11 and 17 yards -- the final one being to wide receiver Robert Foster on a crossing route underneath for a pitch-and-catch touchdown. The 13-yard completion to wide receiver ArDarius Stewart also showed some of
Couple that with no safety play from redshirt senior Tanner McEvoy, who Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst admitted was "a bit banged up" heading into the game, and it was tough sledding for a defense without some of its more dynamic contributors.
Missed tackles. On both of Henry's long touchdowns, there were opportunities to stop the barreling back but came up fruitless. Sophomore nose guard Conor Sheehy had a chance to tackle Henry -- who ran for 143 yards on 11 carries -- on the 4th-and-1 attempt, but the Bama back broke it for a 37-yard touchdown.
On his 56-yard run, redshirt junior safety Leo Musso also whiffed at Henry -- who's 6'3 and 242 pounds compared to Musso's 5'10 and 186 pounds. Bad tackling was also seen on senior running back Kenyan Drake's 43-yard scamper in the fourth quarter. The Badgers will have to correct those moving forward, though they will not face the type of talent seen in Alabama for the rest of the season.
"There's some things we can do with that and control it," Chryst said regarding the missed tackles by the Badgers, "and I also think they had some pretty good players running through those tackles."