September 19, 2008

Bye week look at offense

MADISON, Wis. - Three games into the season, three wins for the UW football team. Blowout victories over Akron and Marshall respectively, and a close, hard-fought win at Fresno State have the Badgers riding high going into their bye week.

The following is a look at the offense and UW players and positions that have stood out during the early portion of the season:

Offense:

In general, the Badgers have scored plenty of points (34 per game), but have also left more to be desired. Miscues inside the opponents red-zone has been a recurring them throughout the early portion of the season.

Against Akron, Allan Evridge threw an interception, P.J. Hill fumbled a ball out of the end zone, and David Gilreath could not hang on to a sure touchdown. Again, at Fresno State, the Bulldogs held Wisconsin to a goal line stand early in the game, swinging the momentum for the time being.

"We can't miss our opportunities," head coach Bret Bielema said Thursday night. "There's a lot of things that we're leaving on the field and they don't do us any good. Against quality opponents, on the road or at home, doesn't matter.

"As our level of competition rises, those things got to decrease."

Quarterback Allan Evridge

Heading into 2008, many wondered how the quarterback position would play out. Well, after three games, the left-handed quarterback has led his team to three wins in as many opportunities.

His numbers are modest, 36-60, 526 yards, 3 touchdowns and one interception, but his leadership has been solid. But starting for the first time since his time at Kansas State three years ago, Evridge is still settling into his new role.

"He's done some good things, but he's got to be a lot better if we're going to win these next few games," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Paul Chryst said this week. "I think he's getting better, but he's got to be better than what we were the other night."

Running backs

As expected, P.J. Hill has anchored this relatively young group. He leads the team with 379 rushing yards and four touchdowns, good enough for second in the Big Ten. He had arguably his best game of 2008 last weekend in Fresno by rushing for 112 tough yards.

"Although he didn't get in the end zone, really, I don't know if I've seen him play better," Bielema said. "The way that he handled the game, the that he handled the game, the situations that came at him, really did a good job, and obviously hanging on, hung on to the football."

John Clay is second on the team with 139 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. Finally, Zach Brown has 128 yards and two touchdowns.

Freshman walk-on Bradie Ewing also found the end zone for his first career score against Marshall.

Tight ends

For UW, it has been the Garrett Graham show so far in 2008. He leads the entire team in receptions (11) and receiving yards (154) and is also the only one to score a touchdown.

Against Fresno State, Travis Beckum made his season debut and made four catches for 51 yards. Still, having him on the filed makes every receiver better because so much focus is put on him.

Prior to Beckum's return, Lance Kendricks had some big games and is currently second on the team in yards (102), trailing only Graham.

In general, this position has caught more than half of Evridge's throws and boasts 56 percent of the total receiving yards for UW.

Wide receivers

Frankly, the receivers do not have gaudy numbers because the Badgers simply have not needed them to at this point in the season. Kyle Jefferson leads the young group with five catches for 93 yards.

David Gilreath is second with 74 receiving yards and Maurice Moore, 61 receiving yards, and Isaac Anderson, six receiving yards, round out the group.

"We got a tremendous group there and those guys are doing a great job and continuing to work," Evridge said. "They've got a lot of speed and definitely a group that people have to look out for."

Offensive line

Easily their defining moment of the young season was in the opener. Against Akron, the line opened holes for the running backs to scamper through for over 400 rushing yards.

John Moffitt has been superb in his move to center, and Kraig Urbik, Eric VandenHeuvel, Andy Kemp and Gabe Carimi have yet to allow a sack of their quarterback.

"I can't say enough about Bob Bostad and what he's doing from a scheme standpoint, protection standpoint," Bielema said. "It's just a huge jump from where we were a year ago about giving up pressures."

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