The Wisconsin Badgers comfortably won in a 38-17 victory over the Buffalo Bulls, cruising away in the second half after struggling in the first half, leading just 14-10 at halftime.
Following the game, head coach Luke Fickell praised a group that didn't really stand out in the box scores, but executed the gameplan well to his standards.
“I thought they did a really good job. Give them credit,” Fickell said immediately after the Badgers’ win. “When they held the ball, they held the ball with some max protection stuff. When they were getting rid of the ball they were getting rid of the ball.”
Now, Fickell sympathized with the unit, as Buffalo’s quick-game mentality led to zero sacks.
“Being a former D lineman, there’s nothing more frustrating that the guy catches and delivers the ball and you don’t have a chance to get close. Or if you do make a move and you happen to get free and you get there and the ball’s completely gone. Nowadays you can’t even touch the guy,” Fickell said.
On Monday, the Badgers head coach reiterated his thoughts post-game, praising his unit for their resilience.
“It is frustrating up front, and that’s kind of the thing I had for those guys up front at halftime — don’t get frustrated,” Fickell said. “At some point in time, if they’re going to take their shots, they’re going to have to buy a little bit of time and your opportunity is going to be there. But give them credit, I thought that was a really good plan on our part.”
Fickell went one step further, pointing out that they were the “strength of the team” in Week 1, which was seen with the team’s decision to appoint defensive tackle Gio Paez as the team’s “Defensive Player of the Week”.
“I thought they were the strength of our team. They did a great job,” Fickell said. “I thought that sometimes it doesn’t come up in the stat book. Right after the game, you could see the frustration, and at halftime, you could see the frustration on some of those guys’ faces. But I think when that ball is in rhythm, when they’re getting they were not going to take a sack.”
“I don’t know that we had a tackle for loss or a sack, so the negative yardage plays were really difficult to come by and be there. I’m sure there was a part of a plan for them. Not that anybody wants to give up minus yardage plays or sacks, but the idea of getting rid of the football, don’t take in a sack, put themselves in situations where they’re not behind the sticks.”
Fickell mentioned how he felt the team played sloppy. However, that didn't apply to the defensive line, who he felt played sound football.
“Our guys up front played really sound. If I had said that we were sloppy in a lot of areas, it was not up front. I thought they did a really good football job,” Fickell said. “They didn’t get overly frustrated with how the game was going and the stats that weren’t able to come their way. But when it came down to it, they did the job we needed to, especially on short-yard situations.”
Now, going into Week 2, the Badgers have a tougher opponent in the Washington State Cougars, who sport quarterback Cameron Ward, a player that passed for 450 yards on 37/49 completions in Week 1.
The Badgers are going to need to contain the quarterback in Week 2, and their defensive line will have to be at the forefront of the attack.
Will they get the job done?