Badgers football: Wisconsin defense adjusts to keep BYU out of end zone
PROVO, Utah — Playing at high elevation took its toll on Derrick Tindal at times Saturday afternoon.
It never became a big issue for the senior cornerback on the University of Wisconsin football team because the defense spent a good chunk of the day on the sidelines, watching the No. 10 Badgers’ offense drive up and down the field during a 40-6 victory over BYU at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“I was kind of gassed out there,” Tindal said. “It just felt like I couldn’t breathe sometimes, so with them driving and making long drives and scoring off the drives, it made it a lot easier for us. We just kept getting them the ball back quick and they kept doing their job.”
Junior linebacker T.J. Edwards also offered a huge thank-you to the offense for making his life easier against the Cougars (1-3).
“I felt like every time they touched the ball, they had a chance to score,” Edwards said. “That always is just encouraging to see.”
Edwards and Co. had no problem being overshadowed, even though the defense produced a gem of its own after some early bumps.
The Cougars managed only two field goals and 192 total yards against the Badgers (3-0). Edwards and redshirt freshman cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams had interceptions, and reserve linebackers Christian Bell and Mike Maskalunas teamed up to force a safety in the fourth quarter.
As was the case in the first two games of the season, UW’s defense needed a little time to see what the opposing offense was going to offer, made the necessary adjustments and went in shutdown mode the rest of the way.
“I know the guys want to always start fast and yet you’ve got to kind of see how they’re going to attack you and that’s where you appreciate what the coaches did and then the players being smart and understanding, ‘OK, this is what we’re going to do,’ ” UW coach Paul Chryst said. “We had an idea we thought, but we didn’t know what we were going to see.”
The biggest question for the Badgers was who was going to line up at quarterback for BYU. Starter Tanner Mangum was injured late in a loss to Utah last week and was questionable for the game, so the Badgers prepared for both Mangum and backup Beau Hoge.
Mangum couldn’t go, so Hoge got his first career start. The sophomore struggled through the air against UW, going 11 of 20 for 11 yards with two interceptions.
Hoge’s first pass attempt of the game ended up in the hands of Edwards, who dropped into zone coverage in front of BYU tight end Matt Bushman. The pick set up UW’s offense with great field position and led to a field goal that gave the Badgers a 3-0 lead.
Bushman was BYU’s most consistent offensive player through its first three games of the season, but he was held to one catch for nine yards by the Badgers.
“He was a huge point of emphasis,” Edwards said. “We watched him on film all week, he’s a really talented player. I think our scout team (guys, freshmen) Jake Ferguson and Gabe Lloyd playing his position and just making us work and making us sit down on some coverage (helped).”
BYU freshman tailback Ula Tolutau finished with 58 yards on 13 carries, but almost all of that damage came in the first quarter.
The 250-pound Tolutau, who originally signed with UW as part of its 2014 recruiting class, had 45 yards on his first six carries. But his final seven carries of the game went for 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 2 and 5 yards.
The combination of Tolutau running up the middle and Hoge using his speed on read-option keepers helped BYU go 61 yards on 14 carries on its second series. The drive lasted 6 minutes, 54 seconds, but it stalled after two penalties and the Cougars had to settle for a field goal.
Save for that drive and a 50-yard pass from Hoge to Micah Simon late in the first half, BYU’s offense went nowhere against the Badgers.
“They were out-physicaling us on that first drive,” Edwards said. “I think we started to settle in. Our offense did a good job of putting points on the board, so they had to kind of change their game plan, too, to (try to) catch up with us.”