MADISON, Wis. (AP) Wisconsin’s defense is preparing for the football equivalent of a track meet.
Bowling Green rolls into Madison this weekend fresh off a win over Indiana – the 19th-ranked Badgers’ Big Ten brethren – in which the Falcons ran a dizzying 113 plays to victory.
Coach Gary Andersen wants his team to set the tone early and extinguish any flickering hopes of an upset Saturday for the Mid-American Conference program.
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”I kind of look at it like you feel when you get ready to play the option,” Andersen said. ”The first drive is so important in games like this to feel the tempo and understand.”
This should not be much of a problem for Wisconsin (1-1) at home in Camp Randall Stadium. Bowling Green coach Dino Babers recognizes the enormity of his team’s challenge.
”These guys are good, really good. Wisconsin most likely is better than Indiana,” Babers said. ”I hope we can stay close to them.”
Some things to watch as Wisconsin tries to win its 31st straight nonconference home game:
KEEPING PACE: If pace is important, the Badgers have just the running back who can play keep-away while threatening to break a long run at any time.
What should also be worrisome to Bowling Green (2-1) is that Melvin Gordon might be looking for a breakout game to ease concerns about the Wisconsin running game. The star tailback was held to 38 yards on 17 carries two weekends ago against a Western Illinois defense that brought up extra defenders to slow down the run. Indiana’s Tevin Coleman shredded Bowling Green for 190 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Imagine what a motivated Gordon might do in front of his home fans.
”I’m sure a lot of defenses come out and say, `If we stop Melvin Gordon, it’ll give us a shot to win the game,” right tackle Rob Havenstein said. ”Then we’ve got to say, `OK, we’ve got to get Melvin going.’ That starts with us up front … If Melvin has a big day, we usually have a big day.”
BUILDING BALANCE: The best way for Wisconsin to loosen things up close to the line of scrimmage is to get consistency in the passing game. Quarterback Tanner McEvoy had a bye week to build on the success he had against Western Illinois, when he threw for three touchdowns and ran for another. Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig said McEvoy used the bye week to work on fundamentals to build consistency. Three weeks ago, for instance, McEvoy made bad throws off his bad foot, an issue that seemed to disappear against Western Illinois.
”So just looking to carry over some of his practice habits into games,” Ludwig said.
GETTING OVER IT: The win over Indiana gave Bowling Green its first win over a Power Five team since defeating Pittsburgh in 2008. It was also the first victory against a Big Ten school since beating Minnesota in 2007. The Falcons celebrated last weekend. But Babers wasn’t happy with how sharp his players were when they started practice this week. He was looking to get the Falcons refocused.
”It carried over to practice, but it needs to be something that’s more or less put aside,” tight end Chris Pohlman said. ”We’re not thinking we can get an automatic win based on something that happened last weekend.”
GETTING PUSHY: The Badgers are known for behemoth offensive lines. But members of the front five took it personally when Wisconsin struggled against the run against Western Illinois, even if the defense was focused on shutting down Gordon.
Guard Dallas Lewallen said the line also focused on fundamentals work during the off week, including technique, footwork and hand placement. He said the line was looking to get more consistent in picking up different looks and pressures.
”We expect our run game back on track,” Andersen said. ”Is it a mindset and want-to for all of us involved to run better than we did a couple weeks ago? Yes.”
AIRING IT OUT: Bowling Green quarterback James Knapke set school records with 46 completions on 73 attempts against Indiana, throwing for 395 yards and three touchdowns. He might not have the same success playing in front of Wisconsin’s loud fans, though it could be fun watching Bowling Green trying to push the tempo on the Badgers.
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP