Wisconsin's secondary much improved against Purdue
MADISON, Wis. -- Darius Hillary figured he'd see a few back-shoulder throws on the sideline and maybe watch Purdue test his fellow defensive backs with deep balls. He was sure the Boilermakers had watched enough film from last week's Arizona State game to try to replicate that success.
Neither of those developments occurred during No. 24 Wisconsin's 41-10 victory on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium. Boilermakers quarterback Rob Henry was flustered by Wisconsin's punishing front seven, which contained him to short throws and scrambles.
But Hillary, a redshirt sophomore cornerback for the Badgers, also saw something else. He saw members of Wisconsin's secondary gain back their swagger.
"Definitely," Hillary said. "We meet separately as corners and safeties. At the end of the day we're all DBs and we came together. We said we had to be the backbone of this defense, to set the tone for the defense and set the tone for the game. I definitely think we came out and did that this week."
A week ago, Hillary was flagged for two pass interference calls against Arizona State. Fellow cornerback Sojourn Shelton drew two pass interference calls and a holding penalty. And in total, the secondary was penalized six times for 76 yards. On Saturday, however, they drew no penalties and didn't allow Purdue to muster much of anything offensively.
"Last week the coaches talked to us about some of the PIs called," Hillary said. "They were saying if you're being aggressive and actually competing, they're not really going to be too mad. They said we can't have anymore self-inflicted wounds. I definitely think we played clean in the back."
Henry finished the day 18 of 36 for 135 yards passing with no touchdowns and one interception. And it was Shelton who came up with the pick in the end zone on a fourth-and-goal from the Badgers' 11-yard line.
"Our coaches stressed they didn’t want those guys to score anymore," Shelton said. "I was just trying to make a play. The defense overall, guys up front, I give those guys the credit."
Throughout the week, Wisconsin's secondary worked in practice to handle deep balls and back-shoulder throws after Sun Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly continually victimized them in the fourth quarter on such plays. The message for players was to remain aggressive despite their mistakes, and it worked on Saturday.
"We weren’t thinking about any calls or anything like that," Shelton said. "We were just playing our game. It helped us out a lot as a secondary."
Injury updates: Wisconsin went through the first three weeks of the season relatively healthy, but injuries appeared to catch up with the Badgers this week.
It began when punt returner/wide receiver Kenzel Doe tweeted Thursday he would miss Saturday's game with an undisclosed injury. And it continued with several more injuries Saturday.
Defensive end Brendan Kelly did not play with a leg injury. He was replaced by Vince Biegel. Cornerback Peniel Jean played on Saturday but left early with a leg injury as well.
Tight end Jacob Pedersen injured his left leg and missed the last three quarters, while center Dallas Lewallen injured his right leg during the third quarter and was helped off the field by team trainers. He was replaced by Dan Voltz at center for the rest of the game.
"At practice every day, we prepare for that situation exactly," Voltz said. "Coach doesn’t tell me when I'm going in. He'll just call my number. I'll have to run in whether I'm cold or not. It happened today just like it happened in practice, so it wasn’t anything new for me. Obviously the moment was a little bit bigger. But I felt like I was ready and mentally prepared."
Linebacker Derek Landisch was cleared to play Saturday after missing two weeks with an ankle injury, but he did not appear. And wide receiver Jeff Duckworth did not play after tweaking his hamstring last week while making a 51-yard reception in the final minutes against Arizona State.
Andersen said he was concerned about the number of injuries ahead of Wisconsin's huge Big Ten game at No. 4 Ohio State next Saturday.
"I didn't even talk to the trainers before coming in here, so we'll see," Andersen said after the game. "But there are some big shots that we took. Hopefully, the kids get back. I don't think anything seems to be a huge problem, but there are some issues out there, and we'll know a lot more tomorrow or early the first of the week, because, obviously, we need everybody we can get for this next game."
Kicking change: When freshman Andrew Endicott woke up Saturday morning, he had no inkling he would be asked to take over as Wisconsin's starting placekicker. But by the end of Saturday's game, Endicott not only had seen his first college action -- he had handled the team's final five kickoffs.
"I didn't know I was kicking last night," Endicott said. "It was a little bit of shock but a lot of, 'Oh, let's go do it.' If they trust me to do it, then I've got to prove them right. I've got to do my job. I just thought, 'All right, here's my chance. Let's go get it.'"
In total, Endicott's five kickoffs averaged 60.6 yards with one touchback. Kyle French took the first three kicks for an average of 64.3 yards.
Andersen said he would prefer Wisconsin use separate kickers for field goals and kickoffs. French made both of his field goal attempts Saturday and is now 4 for 5 this season.
"Right now, we're hitting the ball well in field goals, and he just seems clean and consistent and his extra points are good," Andersen said. "The holds were good, and the kickoffs were pretty adequate. I think we got them up in the air. Even though we were going into the wind, we still got them up in the air pretty good and he pounded them out the back side.
"It's a tough moment, because I promise you, when (Endicott) went to bed last night, he had no thought of kicking the ball off in a Big Ten game, and neither did I for him to have to do that. He wasn't with us at the hotel. But he had the opportunity to come in and play, so away we go. I'm proud of him."
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