The Wisconsin Badgers 51-17 thrashing of the UNLV Rebels was full of offensive highlights, particularly from QB Russell Wilson in his Camp Randall debut. While Russell received most of the talk and deservedly so, the team’s defense put forth a rather average performance.
When asked to “grade” his squad’s performance, sophomore linebacker Chris Borland answered “I would give us a C. We didn’t do anything terribly bad, but we can tackle better.”
Senior safety and team captain Aaron Henry concurred and attributed some of the defense’s struggles to an unfamiliar pistol offense run by the opposing team.
Despite keeping UNLV off the scoreboard until late in the second quarter, they did threaten to score in Wisconsin territory on a few occasions, but faltered due to missed field goals. Even though the Rebels couldn’t capitalize, they appeared to have success running the pistol offense, a hybrid of the shotgun and single back formations.
The pistol allowed UNLV quarterback, Caleb Herring, to read the defense and rack up 53 yards rushing on the ground to go with 146 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Henry mentioned how the defense was completely caught off guard.
“That wasn’t what we were expecting at all. We have been practicing for about two weeks now and they showed us something completely different. It took us a little while to really get into a groove and even though UNLV only scored three points initially in the second quarter, towards the end of the game they found a couple of gaps and got into the end zone,” said Henry.
As one of four team captains and a senior leader of the Badgers defense, Henry understands it’s his job to report back to the team and make sure they are motivated to improve and get better.
“We will get back at it and it get better everyday. It was the first game and we know we need to practice and tackle better,” said Henry.
The second week should only get a little easier for the Badgers defense as they face off with an Oregon State team who runs almost an identical pro style offense as the Badgers.
Head Coach Bret Bielema mentioned how, “you’ll see a lot of carryover from Oregon State’s offense to our offense, yet, personnel is different.”
Seeing that Henry and his defense face off with Wisconsin’s dangerous offense on a daily basis during practice, Oregon State shouldn’t catch them off guard like UNLV did.
Even though the Badgers defense didn’t look as sharp as the offense, they accomplished one of their team goals which is keeping the opposing team under 18 points. The defensive line was another positive as Louis Nzegwu and David Gilbert combined for three sacks.
What did you think of the Badgers defensive effort against UNLV? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. He also enjoys to share Fantasy Advice from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.