October 4, 2010

Series by series: UW's defense against MSU

MADISON - Defensively, giving up 34 points isn't going to win you many games. Knowing that, the UW defense still accomplished some things that should provide confidence to the unit as the season wears on. But in the end, a loss is a loss.

Before focusing on Minnesota, BadgerBlitz.com takes a look back at each defensive series for Wisconsin. The following is a series-by-series recap of UW's defensive series against Michigan State.

FIRST QUARTER:

Defensive series No. 1: Started on Michigan State 48 yard line following 35-yard Brad Nortman punt.
Plays: 10
Yards given up: 33
Result: 36-yard Dan Conroy field goal. (3-0 Michigan State)

Key play: With MSU facing a long third and 20, the UW secondary had an opportunity to keep the Spartans on the edge of field goal range. Instead Kirk Cousins was able to fire a strike to a wide-open Keith Nichol for 16 yards. The play was short of the first down, but it gave Conroy a legitimate shot at a field goal.

Defensive series No. 2: Started on MSU 15 yard line following 40-yard Nortman punt.
Plays: 8
Yards given up: 62
Result: Antonio Fenelus interception.

Key play: Michigan State was just about inside the UW red zone when Cousins tried to force a pass into Charlie Gantt. However, when the pass was thrown, Fenelus was able to step in front and make the easy interception.

SECOND QUARTER:

Defensive series No. 3: Started on MSU 20 yard line following kickoff. (7-3 UW)
Plays: 3
Yards given up: 13
Result: Aaron Henry fumble recovery.

Key play: Nichol had just caught a third down pass from Cousins that would have gave MSU a first down. UW senior Niles Brinkley thought otherwise. As Nichol was striving for more yardage, Brinkley stripped the football and Henry recovered.

Defensive series No. 4: Started on MSU 45 yard line following kickoff. (10-3 UW)
Plays: 5
Yards given up: 36
Result: 36-yard Conroy field goal. (10-6 UW)

Key play: Jay Valai absolutely drilled Cousins on third and eight from the Wisconsin 23 yard line. Though the ball was completed to Keshawn Martin, it was only good for four yards. Valai's pressure forced Cousins to throw earlier than he wanted, and in essence, kept the Spartans from mounting anything more than a field goal.

Defensive series No. 5: Started on MSU 39 yard line following 14-yard Nortman punt.
Plays: 3
Yards given up: 2
Result: Devin Smith interception.

Note: Martin returned a 46-yard Nortman punt for a touchdown. So at this juncture, MSU had taken a 13-10 lead.

Key play: With pressure around him, Cousins tried dumping it to a receiver, but the ball was tipped and eventually intercepted by Smith.

Defensive series No. 6: Started on MSU 31 yard line following 47-yard Nortman punt.
Plays: 9
Yards given up: 69
Result: Eight-yard Mark Dell touchdown reception. (20-10 MSU)

Key play: Near midfield, the Badgers had an opportunity to take over with time to spare as MSU lined up to go for it on fourth and one. On the play, MSU ran a misdirection sweep that caught the Badger off guard. As a result, Le' Veon Bell saw plenty of open space and rumbled for 23 yards and a first down. The Spartans went on to score a touchdown four plays later.

THIRD QUARTER:

Defensive series No. 7: Started on MSU 18 yard line following kickoff.
Plays: 5
Yards given up: -1
Result: 43-yard Aaron Bates punt.

Key play: J.J. Watt and Patrick Butrym sacked Cousins on back-to-back plays to force a much needed three and out to start the second half.

Defensive series No. 8: Started on MSU 31 yard line following kickoff. (20-17 MSU)
Plays: 10
Yards given up: 68
Result: Turnover on downs.

Key play: MSU had two plays from inside the Badger three yard line. On third and goal from the three, Watt dropped Bell after he gained two yards. Now, with fourth and goal from the one on their hands, the MSU coaching staff decided to go for it. UW's defensive front was ready for it as Watt and Culmer St. Jean stuffed Bell for no gain.

Defensive series No. 9: Started on MSU 49 yard line following 43-yard Nortman punt.
Plays: 6
Yards given up: 51
Result: One-yard Gantt touchdown reception. (27-17 MSU)

Key play: Again struggling inside the Badger five yard line, the Spartans decided to switch it up from their power run game. This time, MSU hit UW with play-action. After faking the handoff, Cousins hit a wide-open Gantt for an easy touchdown.

FOURTH QUARTER:

Defensive series No. 10: Started on MSU 16 yard line following kickoff. (27-24 MSU)
Plays: 15
Yards given up: 84
Result: One-yard B.J. Cunningham touchdown reception

Key play: Following UW's efficient touchdown drive that cut the Spartan lead down to three with more than 10 minutes to play, it seemed as though the Badgers had some momentum on their side. Then the defense couldn't get off the field. A number of plays stick out.

1.) UW had a chance to get the ball right back to the offense with a three-and-out. But on third and nine from their own 17 yard line, the Spartans were able to move the chains when Cousins hit Dell on a 12-yard slant.

2.) Just three plays later, UW forced MSU into another third and long. This time, Dave Doeren brought a monster blitz and the Spartans hit UW with a screen play. After catching it, Larry Caper sprinted for 35 yards.

3.) Wisconsin held MSU to a third and goal from the UW seven yard line. A minimal gain would have forced the Spartans to kick a field goal and that would have given the Badgers the ball back down only six points. However, Caper was able to withstand the contact and dive forward to the UW one yard line. So then the Spartans went for it.

4.) And they got it with another play-action fake. This time, UW was slow to react and Cunningham reeled in the game-sealing touchdown reception.

Defensive series No. 11: Started on MSU 32 yard line following turnover on downs.
Plays: 2
Yards given up: -3
Result: END OF GAME

Key play: N/A


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