MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin defensive end David Gilbert will pay a small price for critical comments he made Wednesday night concerning Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez.
Badgers coach Bret Bielema said Thursday that Gilbert would sit out the first play of Saturday’s game as a lesson for his poor word choice.
Regarding Martinez, Gilbert told ESPNWisconsin.com, “it still looks like he’s skipping rocks out there to me. … He still can’t throw. He’s not going to beat us with his arm.”
Gilbert was referencing Martinez’s proclivity for dropping down and throwing sidearm.
This season, Martinez has completed 65 of 92 passes (70.7 percent) for 878 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception. But Martinez struggled mightily against Wisconsin last season during a 48-17 loss at Camp Randall Stadium. He completed just 11 of 22 throws for 176 yards and three interceptions.
“A D-lineman maybe doesn’t see the things that we’ve seen, the growth of that kid,” Bielema said. “I think Taylor Martinez is a Heisman-type guy, the numbers he’s having. He’s made tremendous strides.
“D-linemen, I lived in that world for four years of college. I understand it. He will not start the game. And I want to make him understand that’s just not who we are and what we are. So he’ll be skipping rocks on the sideline with me for the first play.”
Bielema said defensive line coach Charlie Partridge called him at 6:30 a.m. Thursday to inform him of Gilbert’s comments. Partridge then disciplined Gilbert during positional meetings.
On Sunday, Partridge praised Martinez’s development as a passing quarterback.
“His throwing motion has improved a lot from last year,” Partridge said. “I don’t know how that happened, who he worked with, but his flat-out throwing motion, his release is quicker. He’s delivering a higher ball. He’s a much better quarterback than a year ago.”
Gilbert is tops among Wisconsin’s defensive linemen with seven solo tackles and 14 total tackles. He has one sack and 2.5 tackles for a loss.
“This kid is going to learn,” Bielema said. “As a head coach, I’ve got to remind guys all the time, obviously the things that we say and the things we put in front of the media — you said it, you’ve got to play it.”
Tyler Dippel and Konrad Zagzebski will start for Wisconsin as defensive ends to replace Gilbert and Brendan Kelly, who is out with a hamstring injury.
Ball cleared: Bielema said Wisconsin running back Montee Ball was fully cleared to play against Nebraska.
Ball suffered a head injury during the second quarter against UTEP last week and did not return. He did conditioning work with trainers on Tuesday and wore a green non-contact jersey on the field Wednesday. But he participated in full pads during Thursday’s practice.
“He actually wanted to,” Bielema said. “We tried to keep him out. He was in a green (jersey) yesterday. He had been cleared, but we kept him in a green. He wanted to go without a green because when people are in a green, we don’t touch them, quarterbacks or whoever. He wanted to have contact today so he was out there today.”
Ball wore a green non-contact jersey during fall camp after sustaining a concussion when he was assaulted the morning of Aug. 1. He described his running as rusty in the season opener against Northern Iowa as a result of missing practice time.
This season, Ball has carried 93 times for 360 yards with three touchdowns. He gained 151 yards with four touchdowns against Nebraska during last year’s game.
In Ball’s absence last week, Melvin Gordon carried eight times for 112 yards with a touchdown. James White added 15 carries for 65 yards with two touchdowns.
“Obviously he’s a very good player, but I think as you guys have known, we’re pretty happy with those other guys,” Bielema said. “To have three running backs that you feel pretty strongly about is a nice thing to have.”
Kicking game carrousel: Freshman kicker Jack Russell will handle duties on kickoffs as well as field goals and extra point tries against Nebraska. He’ll replace redshirt sophomore Kyle French at both positions. French was penalized for a second straight game last week when his kickoff landed out of bounds.
“Jack will be the guy out of the gate,” Bielema said. “Kyle hit the ball really, really well this week. He did again today very well. One thing that both of them have suffered from, if they have a bad kick, the next one is really bad. That’s something we just kind of are aware of.”
Last week, Russell missed his only field goal attempt wide left from 33 yards after he replaced French during the game. Russell did not have any issues handling kickoffs.