Wildcats outsmart, outplay Badgers

first_imgEVANSTON, Ill. –?With the Wisconsin football team leading the Big Ten in rushing defense, the Northwestern Wildcats did what any logical opponent would do?when faced with such a stiff test on the ground.They took to the air with reckless abandon.NU quarterback?and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year candidate Mike Kafka attempted 40 passes against the Badgers beleaguered secondary, completing 26 for 326 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-31?UW loss?Saturday.The Badgers were blitzkrieged?early, giving up a touchdown on the first drive of the game and 27 points in the first half.The 248 yards passing and 33 points for the game were the most the Badgers have given up all season.As if Kafka wasn’t doing enough damage on his own, Northwestern found the end zone on a 38-yard wide receiver pass by Zeke Markshausen.“I think what it was is they knew a lot of the stuff that we were doing,” UW junior cornerback Niles Brinkley said. “They knew the concepts, they knew what coverages we were doing. … It was just them making a couple of big play that we didn’t make.”“It was crazy,” UW senior linebacker Jaevery McFadden added. “They was calling out names of our coverages out, right down to the number. It was crazy.”Only sacked once in 40 pass attempts, the UW pass rushers hit home several times throughout the game only to find the elusive quarterback scrambling.Although Kafka only finished with 17 yards on seven carries, the mobile senior often robbed Wisconsin of a drive-killing sack.Making pass rushers even more frustrated, the Wildcats utilize a quick hitting spread attack, usually getting rid of the ball on three step drops or short out routes.“Their offensive line did a great job,” UW sophomore defensive end J.J. Watt said. “And Kafka got the ball out real quick. We tried to get our hands up to bat some balls away, but we just didn’t do that. We put a lot of pressure on our D-backs because we didn’t get enough pressure on the quarterback.”“It’s extremely hard and it’s really frustrating as a defensive lineman, even if you win you may not get there.”Although Wisconsin scored a reasonable 14 points in the first half utilizing a balanced attack, UW took a note from Northwestern’s playbook and came out in the second half throwing.The Badgers threw 10 straight times with mixed success to open up the third quarter, moving the ball 51 yards but only coming away with a field goal. UW quarterback Scott Tolzien hit wide receiver Nick Toon for 25 yards and Garrett Graham for 14 yards on the drive, but the Badgers were stalled by two Isaac Anderson penalties.“We thought there were some opportunities down the field,” UW head coach Bret Bielema said. “Scotty [Tolzien] has been pretty clean with his reads and just based off what they had been able to do against us in the run game I thought we would loosen it up a bit.”Trailing by nine points entering the fourth quarter, the Badgers quickly cut the lead to two points when Tolzien hit Graham in the end zone for his second touchdown of the game.It was the last time the Wisconsin seniors would score in a Big Ten game, however, as the Badgers turned the ball over two times in their final three drives.“Probably danced with the devil too many times,” Bielema said of UW closing out late in games. “Even with 42 seconds, I guarantee there was not anyone on our sideline that didn’t think we would win that game.”Wisconsin’s last good chance came with 3:43 left in the game and the Badgers starting on their own 34-yard line.After picking up a first down on a five-yard interference call, UW went to sophomore running back John Clay on third-and-one. Having a decent game to that point with 100 yards on 23 carries, Clay fumbled the ball running into the back of senior tight end Mickey Turner.“It was me just trying to fight for extra yards,” Clay said. “I wasn’t holding the ball high and tight. … I tried to jump over [Mickey Turner] at the same time so I could get the first down, but I ran into him.”?????last_img

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