The Badger offense garnered most of the offseason press, and with ten starters returning from the Big Ten’s most prolific attack, it was most likely deserved. After Saturday, though, it may be time to share some of that hype with the guys on the other side of the ball.
Wisconsin almost completely shut down the UNLV attack in the first half, but the team needed more as it held just a three-point edge. The defense delivered more with a turnover and score on the opening series of the second half that ignited a runaway victory.
“Our main focus was coming out of halftime, we need a turnover, and we need to give our offense a short field so they can score,” junior safety Aaron Henry said. “If we get them the ball inside the 50 or inside the 40 they definitely can do some damage and I think that turnover was crucial in setting them up for the rest of the game.”
On the third play of the second half, junior defensive end J.J. Watt hit UNLV’s receiver, Michael Johnson, from behind, jarring the ball free. Henry, in his first start at the safety position, scooped up the ball and went 20 yards to put his team ahead by 10 points.
“I was chasing down the running back at first, but then when I saw the throw went outside and then I retreated outside and got lucky, I guess,” Watt said. “I didn’t even know I stripped the ball, I was just going for the tackle and all of a sudden I saw Aaron in the endzone.”
Watt finished with three pass breakups and four tackles to go along with his momentum-shifting play. UNLV gained just four yards on their next two drives, and the Badgers rolled to two more scores.
But it was the first half where Wisconsin’s defense really shined.
The Rebels only managed 12 yards on 15 plays, and their only offensive score, a 16-yard TD pass, was set up by an 82-yard fumble return. Much of the credit went to the Badger defensive line that sacked junior quarterback Mike Clausen three times and held UNLV to -9 yards on the ground.
Lets hope Bucky can keep it rolling. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!