Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


With non-conference slate over, Bielema breaks down Nebraska

Center Peter Konz leads an offensive line that continues to garner national attention, giving Russell Wilson vast amounts of time in the pocket.[/media-credit]

In years past, a matchup with the University of Nebraska meant opponents had to be prepared to grind offensively, as the Cornhuskers have routinely fielded one of the nation’s top defenses.

But so far this season, the Huskers have posted defensive numbers very uncharacteristic of a Bo Pelini-led team. Through four games, Nebraska is allowing 349.8 yards per game, 52nd in the country. After having one of the nation’s best defenses in both 2009 and 2010, the Huskers’ 2011 start has generated some questions.

But Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema isn’t letting the recent trend draw the Badgers into a lull.


“From a personnel standpoint, they’re extremely gifted athletically on defense,” Bielema said in his weekly press conference Monday. “[They really have] some special players at … linebacker, defensive back and defensive line positions, guys that you really have to be aware of where they are at all times.”

The Cornhuskers will get a boost with the return of preseason All-American cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who made his 2011 debut last week against Wyoming after missing the first three games due to a leg injury.

Coupled with the return of standout defensive tackle Jared Crick from a one-game absence, Bielema feels moving the ball against Nebraska will be no small task.

“Crick, whether he plays or [doesn’t play], they’re still a very good, very dominant, very aggressive, physical group, so there will be a lot of carryover [from last year],” Bielema said.

Bielema and Pelini know each other well, going back to their days together at the University of Iowa. In 1991, Pelini served as a graduate assistant when Bielema was a junior defensive lineman.

“I’ve known Bo over the years,” Bielema said. “We’ve probably both come a long way since then. The thing I admire is, he took over a program and put his stamp on it right away. They play very, very fast, and I think he has probably evolved as a head coach much the same way I have.”

Pelini has been known to run a defense that is predicated on complexity and speed. But Bielema knows Pelini sticks to the basics when it comes to defensive schemes.

“[Nebraska’s defense] is complex, but … if you understand what they’re trying to do, it’s pretty basic, as well, in the concepts and ideas,” Bielema said.

Preparing for a dynamic Husker offense

Saturday night figures to feature tough matchup of talented offenses. The Cornhuskers place four offensive starters on preseason award watch lists, highlighted by sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez and junior running back Rex Burkhead.

“I think Burkhead is a throwback,” Bielema said. “The more you watch him play, you realize he really loves the game. [Martinez] … is very, very fast. He pulls away from people. In the throwing game, he lets guys go up and make plays. They have a couple guys that can really streak down the field.”

Martinez’s multi-dimensional ability poses problems for opposing defenses. He leads the team in rushing yards (421) and is tied with Burkhead for the lead in rushing touchdowns (7).

In practice this week, Bielema has designated one of the fastest players on the team, freshman wide receiver Lance Baretz, to replicate Martinez on the scout team in preparation for this week’s game.

“[Baretz] might be the fastest guy on our football team,” Bielema said. “Lance has got extremely quick feet. I’m not saying he’s Taylor Martinez, otherwise he might be playing. But he’s doing a really nice job of simulating it.”

Offensive line primed for national spotlight

The Wisconsin offensive line has consistently been one of the hallmarks of the program, producing NFL-caliber talent year-in and year-out. With another stalwart unit on display this season, the tradition appears to be alive and well. Bielema said the group is appreciating the recognition that comes with being a top-10 ranked program.

“Our offensive line wants to get all these accolades, which [are] very well-deserved,” Bielema said. “Obviously, they’ve been as good as anybody out there.”

With a Sports Illustrated article highlighting the line’s success due out this week, it would appear the big boys have gone national.

“How many times has Sports Illustrated asked to come in and do an article on offensive linemen”? Bielema asked. “It’s very rare.”

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