Badgers defense makes offense look offensive
AUG 15, 2013 3:51p ET
For a team trying to find a starting quarterback and gain an offensive identity, this was not what head coach Gary Andersen had in mind 16 days before his team's season opener. Needless to say, Andersen was not pleased with the performance.
"Offensively, you've got to get some mojo," he said following practice. "Got to get something going. Play one leads to play two on offense and so on and so forth. That's as bad as we've been in camp. It hasn't been like that. It hasn't been nearly that one-sided."
Wisconsin's practice consisted of several live scrimmage scenarios, complete with an entire refereeing crew. The quarterback competition between Curt Phillips and Joel Stave continued, and neither was particularly effective. Stave, in fact, may have had one of his worst practices of the fall.
Cornerbacks successfully blitzed seemingly with ease. The offensive line false started. The quarterbacks bobbled or fumbled snaps from the center.
"There was a lot of kids on the other side of the line of scrimmage," Andersen said. "I saw some blocks being defeated, which was good to see. It wasn't just free runners coming through there on missed blocks. We were on some blocks, we defeated some blocks. There's quite a bit of defense in there. It's a bit risky but they were opportunistic with their opportunities they had today."
By the end, members of the defense were happily running off the field, while offensive players were left to run gassers on the sideline.
"If we're going to be a great defense, we don't let up," Wisconsin safety Dezmen Southward said. "You don't come out and say, 'Oh we won last scrimmage, let's slow up a little bit.' No. You want to keep the pedal to the medal because it will make our offense better in the long run.
"With a lot of teams when you've got two new schemes in, the defense will probably be ahead at first because it's easy. You play hard, be tough and you can just make plays. It's a lot more pieces that have to mesh together in order to get it on offense. I think they'll be fine. I think people need to realize they're going up against one of the best defenses in the nation. So it's not easy."
During the red-zone skeleton drills, Phillips completed 8 of 10 passes with four touchdowns, while Stave completed 4 of 10 passes with one touchdown. Practice then progressed to 11-on-11 drills, where Phillips went 4 for 4 and Stave 2 for 4. In the goal-line portion, Phillips tossed a short touchdown to tight end Sam Arneson in the back of the end zone. Stave, meanwhile, failed to help his team score points and was sacked on fourth down by Bryce Gilbert.
Wisconsin closed practice with a drill entitled "drive-it," in which each quarterback tried to guide the offense in for a score from near midfield. Stave's best play came on a 25-yard completion to wide receiver Jared Abbrederis down to the defense's 25. The offense gained five more yards on Stave's dump-off pass to running back James White, but the drive stalled after Stave's incompletion on third down. Kicker Kyle French missed a 37-yard field goal attempt wide right, and backup Jack Russell made his 37-yard try.
It was as close as the offense would get to the end zone.
"It's got to be a quarterback that can walk up there and have some command of the huddle," Andersen said. "The offensive line's got to get in sync. It's not three or four situations that are going awry. It's kind of something every snap, right? That's what we've got to overcome. We are where we are. I never expect the offense to be where the defense is at this point, but now we need to start closing it."
Phillips' best play was a 15-yard completion to running back Corey Clement. But that drive ultimately stalled at the 44-yard-line of the defense. His next drive ended when his third-down pass to tight end Brian Wozniak went for no gain.
Junior-college transfer Tanner McEvoy, who has fallen out of the starting quarterback race, went 0 for 1 and was sacked twice on his lone drive in the final part of practice. Bart Houston went 1 for 2 and was sacked once.
Stave's final "drive-it" numbers were 4 for 6. Phillips finished 5 of 8, and it would appear the starting quarterback role is as up in the air as it has been all week.
"I thought we were starting to see a little bit more separation, and today I did not," Andersen said. "I'm sure anxious for it to happen. I can't say I'm really frustrated but I'm anxious to see hopefully some separation. If they were all playing at a high level, you're probably not looking for that separation as much. But we're not playing at a high enough level yet.
"(The) quarterback doesn't have to do everything to make this offense good. He just has to be able to command the offense and make certain plays when he has to on a consistent basis and not hurt us. When we can get that, then we'll start moving in the right direction."
Voltz return? Redshirt freshman center Dan Voltz injured his right hamstring during Wednesday's morning practice, but his prognosis was good, Andersen said Thursday. In his absence, Dallas Lewallen has moved over to center from left guard.
"I don't think it's going to be an extended period of time," Andersen said. "I am going to be very cautious with him. The trainers, they'll do a great job. I would expect him back within seven days at the most. He'll probably tell you he'll be back for the scrimmage (Monday). That's highly unlikely unless he's just unbelievable on Saturday."
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