Wisconsin tops Western Kentucky

· Sep 30, 2001 Tweet

As expected, Wisconsin banged and bruised the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and sent them on their way Saturday. The Badgers knocked WKU’s starting quarterback Jason Johnson out of the game in the second quarter but inflicted less damage on the scoreboard, finishing with an inauspicious 24-6 win.

Freshman Anthony Davis paced the game with 89 rushing yards on 19 attempts. It was his lowest performance of the season, but he did not carry the ball in the last 20 minutes of the game. Davis scored on 18- and 1-yard runs and continues to lead the nation with 703 yards.

Johnson had been the Hilltoppers’ leading rusher for the season, but was enjoying only mixed success with the option against UW’s defense when he was crushed on a pitch to DeWayne Gallishaw late in the second quarter.

Gallishaw took the ball for a six-yard gain before Mike Echols knocked him out of bounds, but Johnson lay on the Camp Randall turf unable to drag himself to his feet. Trainers put the quarterback’s leg in a soft cast and he did not return to the game. Western Kentucky said Johnson’s knee was examined Sunday.

In a game seemingly compelled to end more by the winding of the clock than by any actions of the players, Western Kentucky was offensively helpless after losing Johnson, and UW scored just once in the second half. It was, however, a score that brings hope for one of Wisconsin’s struggling offensive players.

Toward the end of the third quarter, Brooks Bollinger flipped a screen pass to the sideline and senior wideout Nick Davis, who found a 32-yard lane to the end zone for just his second score of the year.

“Nick has had a lot of lows,” said UW head coach Barry Alvarez. “Its nice to see something positive happen because he works hard and he’s been such a good player for us over the years. It’s time, and hopefully that just springboarded him.”

While the game had not exactly seemed in doubt, Davis’ touchdown importantly sealed the result and brought the margin of victory closer to the difference between the teams.

Not that the Hilltoppers didn’t deserve to keep UW under its offensive averages.

Middle linebacker Erik Dandy made a career-high 14 tackles and free safety Mel Mitchell had 13.

The entire Western Kentucky defense looked crisp, tackling cleanly and covering receivers expertly. Alvarez gave Hilltoppers coach Jack Harbaugh credit for preparing his players for a Big Ten team.

WKU’s secondary lived up to its reputation for playing aggressively, even around the line of scrimmage. Mitchell even recorded one tackle for a two-yard loss.

“We couldn’t make the free safety miss,” Alvarez said. “We block everybody and we can’t account for him. He made tackles for one- and two-yard gains; I was very impressed with him.”

But it was Wisconsin’s defense that was most impressive.

Like WKU, the Badgers had two players, seniors Nick Greisen and Joey Boese, in double digits. But seven others contributed tackles for loss, in addition to Greisen’s two. Boese recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter.

UW had no problem defending the Hilltoppers’ option attack, usually freeing two players to play quarterback-to-pitch, and held the run-powered offense to just 115 yards rushing. Thorpe-award candidate Mike Echols, generally renowned for his coverage skills, displayed fine tackling as he racked up eight stops and a few brutal hits on the perimeter.

“We just knew that when you play an option team you’ve got to play your responsibilities, and that’s what we tried to do,” said cornerback Scott Starks. “I think the defensive squad as a whole did a good job, but most of the time [the secondary] is in good position and can make good plays on the option.”

He, Echols, Boese and safety Michael Broussard may need another strong team performance next week as the pressure will be on UW’s defensive backs against Indiana’s multifaceted offense.


This article was published Sep 30, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Sep 30, 2001 at 12:00 am


UW-Madison's Premier Independent Student Newspaper

All Content © The Badger Herald, 1995 - 2023