Five keys to a Badger victory vs. Indiana

· Oct 4, 2001 Tweet

Nine years have passed since 1992, the year of Indiana’s last football victory against Wisconsin. That year the Badgers finished with five wins for only the second time since 1986, under a third-year coach whom nobody really knew much about — some guy named Barry Alvarez. A year later the Badgers won the Rose Bowl. You know the rest of the story.

Meanwhile, Indiana was also on the way to posting its own 5-6 record. The season began the decline of the Hoosiers’ “glory years,” during which they played five bowl games in six years. Three years later Indiana was 0-8 in the Big Ten. You probably don’t care about the rest of the story.

How does this history lesson relate to this Saturday’s game between the two teams? Well, Wisconsin has struggled to find its killer instinct against weak teams, while Indiana performed respectably — by Hoosier standards — in last Saturday’s 27-14 loss to Ohio State. If Wisconsin continues to play at its opponents’ level, this game could turn into one of the three or four genuine surprises we see every year in the Big Ten.

So if the Badgers want to avoid becoming this week’s SportsCenter Showcase, they’ll follow these five nuggets of wisdom:

1. Blitz early and often: Last week Western Kentucky attempted four passes against Wisconsin. The game amounted to a de facto bye week for the Badgers’ secondary, whose legs this week probably feel as fresh as they have been since fall practice began.

Consequently, Wisconsin’s cornerbacks should be able to cover Indiana’s receivers in man-to-man much more effectively. The Badger defense should take advantage by blitzing linebackers and safeties at Indiana’s quarterbacks more frequently than usual. The blitzes should come primarily from the outside in order to contain Indiana’s multitalented quarterback, Antwaan Randle El, who has already accounted for 52 percent of the Hoosiers’ total yardage in 2001.

2. Play Jim Sorgi, but not right away: Jim Sorgi’s career so far has earned him the “anti-Mike Samuel” Trophy, awarded to quarterbacks who show lots of talent but struggle to win games. In Sorgi’s defense, he has compiled his 0-3 record as a starter in the past year against such juggernauts as Big Ten-champion Purdue last season and top-10-ranked Oregon and Fresno State — he’s completed 54 percent of his passes in those games, with three interceptions and five touchdowns. Last week, though, he played worse, throwing no touchdowns and two interceptions against Division I-AA Western Kentucky.

Interceptions or not, UW’s coaches should not decrease Sorgi’s playing time after last week’s performance. On Saturday, Sorgi should continue to relieve starter Brooks Bollinger periodically. Besides, Sorgi could use a confidence boost. Who better to give it to him than America’s 91st-ranked pass defense?

3. Let Anthony Davis run in the red zone: Before last week, freshman running back Anthony Davis’ statistics were puzzling: America’s leading rusher was gaining 6.8 yards per carry outside of the red zone, yet only 2.1 yards per carry inside it. Against Western Kentucky, however, Davis scored both times he touched the ball in the red zone. His two touchdown runs, of one yard and 18 yards, accounted for half of Wisconsin’s points, and they tripled his touchdown output for the season (he had one; now he has three). If Davis can get the ball in the red zone, he should be able to add to his total: Indiana ranks only 70th in rush yards allowed per game.

4. T-R-U-S-T: Remember that game where your friend stands behind you and catches you as you fall backward? That’s going to be the Badger defense this Saturday against Indiana, as they try to avoid a trampling at the feet of Randle El and Hoosier running back Levron Williams.

To neutralize the duo, which consistently embarrasses overzealous defenders, the Badgers must trust in each other’s ability to play disciplined, team-oriented defense and never get discouraged. Sounds cheesy, but it has worked: Williams and Randle El have averaged less than 4.5 yards per carry in the last two games against UW.

5. Oh yeah . . . STOP RANDLE EL: Kind of an understood rule when a team plays Indiana. His stats have dropped off this year because Indiana coaches have tried him at wide receiver (it didn’t work), but against UW he’ll line up mostly at quarterback. Randle El always damages a team on the ground, but this year the career 49-percent passer has completed more than 60 percent of his throws. On Saturday the Badgers’ secondary must honor Randle El’s arm this year as well as his legs. If they don’t do it effectively, Randle El just may write a new chapter into the Wisconsin-Indiana saga.


This article was published Oct 4, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Oct 4, 2001 at 12:00 am


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