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.