Wisconsin-N. Illinois Preview

Quarterback Russell Wilson has been stellar for No. 7 Wisconsin,
but it’s been the defense coach Bret Bielema has lauded in
back-to-back victories.

First-year Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren is familiar with
how dominant that unit can be.

Bielema faces his former defensive coordinator as the Badgers
take on the Huskies on Saturday at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Wisconsin (2-0) ranked 20th in the nation in total defense under
Doeren in 2010, finishing fifth in the country and tops in the Big
Ten in rushing defense. After five seasons with the Badgers, Doeren
left to take the Huskies’ top job last December.

“I’m very excited about Northern Illinois,” Bielema said.
“Obviously the familiarity with Dave and our staff puts another
spin on it. I know our kids are excited about the challenge.”

The defensive unit hasn’t missed a beat with Doeren gone,
holding Oregon State to 23 yards rushing in a 35-0 victory last
Saturday – Wisconsin’s first shutout since beating Purdue 37-0 on
Oct. 31, 2009.

“I know this: As long as I have been coaching defensive
football, if people are able to run the football you are not going
to be a very good football team,” said Bielema, whose team has
outgained its first two opponents by 320 yards. “I challenged our
defensive staff and players.”

Doeren’s challenge now is to contain Wilson.

The North Carolina State transfer had his second straight solid
performance, going 17 for 21 for 189 yards and three touchdowns.
Wilson has completed 79.4 percent of his passes with five
touchdowns and also has run for a score in his first two games with
the Badgers.

Jacob Pedersen has caught three of those TD passes, and Wilson
said he and his tight end are developing a close relationship.

”This is what I expected and more,” Wilson said. ”The
chemistry is more what I’m talking about. The guys really believe
in one another, we’re really working hard and executing well. We’ve
just got to keep getting better.”

Junior running back Montee Ball finished with 118 yards on 18
carries against the Beavers, including touchdown runs of 1 and 19
yards.

“It’s not surprising anymore,” Ball said of Wilson’s efforts.
“We’ve been together for quite some time now. Like I said last
week, he’s a great man off the field, he’s very intelligent, he has
his goals that mesh well on and off the field.”

Northern Illinois (1-1) will counter with its own talented
play-caller.

Chandler Harnish played a role in five of the Huskies’
touchdowns in last Saturday’s 45-42 loss at Kansas. The senior went
27 for 33 for 315 yards and two touchdowns while adding 89 yards
and three scores rushing.

Harnish accounted for six TDs (five pass, one rush) in a 49-26
season-opening win over Army on Sept. 3.

“(Harnish) played unbelievable and the offensive line did a good
job of protecting him,” Doeren said. “We had some receivers make
some unbelievable catches, too.”

Running back James Sims had his second straight 100-yard game,
rushing for 110 with two touchdowns. Northern Illinois, though,
couldn’t hold onto a 14-point, second-quarter lead as Kansas’
game-winning score came with nine seconds left.

“One play, one game won’t define our season,” Doeren said.
“We’ll go back and regroup. We’ve got to get better as a football
team.”

Wisconsin will play without cornerback Devin Smith, who
underwent season-ending surgery on his left foot Tuesday after
getting hurt in Saturday’s win. Marcus Cromartie, the cousin of New
York Jets defensive back Antonio Cromartie, will start in place of
Smith.