Badgers prepare for heat, Rebels

first_imgView Gallery (2 Photos)Tyler Donovan and the Wisconsin offense answered many questions last Saturday when they ripped off 486 yards of total offense and racked up 42 points against Washington State. The highly touted Wisconsin defense, however, left a few questions to be answered. After starting out slow, allowing 80-yard scoring drives the first two times the Cougars had the ball, the Badgers turned up the defensive pressure. The next opportunity to answer any remaining questions and build on the momentum built during last Saturday’s second half comes Saturday, when the Badgers hit the road for the first time to play University of Nevada-Las Vegas. “We just have to learn from the first game and pick it up,” defensive tackle Jason Chapman said. “This week in practice, working on UNLV, we’ve built up momentum and we’re going to take that to Vegas.” Facing the Badgers will be the Rebels’ spread offense.”It’s a big challenge because it’s so different,” defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz said. “We couldn’t spend a lot of time in fall camp working on it because Washington State was a conventional offense.”We did work some of this spread attack, but not to the extent you would like to. In one week it’s harder, more difficult.”As if facing a multidimensional offense wasn’t enough, UW’s job will be made tougher by the fact the temperature in Las Vegas is expected to be around 100 degrees for the 7 p.m. (Mountain time) kickoff.”You never can be ready to go into 100 degrees, but you’ve got to be willing to play.” Hankwitz said.The UW coaching staff doesn’t believe that the heat should cause too many problems — if the Badgers prepare correctly.”Once the sun goes down, it won’t be that bad. We’ve got to do a great job of hydrating and doing the right things nutritionally,” Hankwitz said.The Wisconsin coaching staff did what it could Thursday to prepare the team for the heat by practicing inside the McClain Center with the heat turned up.The last time the Badgers faced a spread style of offense was in the Capital One Bowl. As part of it’s Wildcat package, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden would line up as quarterback with fellow runner Felix Jones next to him. Defending UNLV and quarterback Travis Dixon is much different from defending the Wildcat, however, because of the variety of options the Rebels will use. Dixon ran for 129 yards and threw for 141 more in the Rebels’ opening game against Utah.”They are two different things,” Hankwitz said. “There are some similar elements, but [UNLV] is a lot more diverse. … They just have more different plays out of this.” Las Vegas is known for the ribbons of bright neon lights that make the city famous. Wisconsin football fans might have a slightly darker memory of the city. In 2002, the last time the UW football team traveled to Las Vegas to take on UNLV, the game was halted midway through the fourth quarter because of a power failure that caused the lights to go out at Sam Boyd Stadium.For the Badgers’ defense to turn in a different kind of lights-out performance, they will need to control the line of scrimmage and hold their gaps.”You have to make sure you’re really on top of your game, really taking care of your responsibility and staying disciplined,” defensive end Mike Newkirk said.On the topic of discipline, the Badgers will be without reserve tailback Lance Smith, who was suspended Wednesday for Wisconsin’s five road games because of a summer altercation with his girlfriend. Replacing Smith as the top backup behind P.J. Hill will be a true freshman — either Zach Brown or John Clay.While the suspension was not announced until Wednesday, the UW coaching staff has been aware of the situation for about three weeks. Because of the advance notice, losing Smith should not present too much of a tactical difficulty.”We knew this one was coming,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “It’s just like Lance pulled a hamstring during the game on Saturday.”Bielema noted that Clay had seen more repetitions than Brown during both Sunday and Tuesday’s practice, but Smith was back to his normal load Wednesday.Clay, the Wisconsin state high school player of the year as a junior at Racine Park High School, may still be behind Brown, based solely on time in the system. Clay had some eligibility issues during summer, which prevented him from practicing with the team for the bulk of fall camp.Another option for tailback depth would be Bill Rentmeester, a fullback who was initially recruited to the program as a fullback.”As we go closer to the game, we’ll make a determination who the first guy in (will be).”last_img

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