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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badgers hold off Fresno 23-21

Going into last Friday’s season opener against Fresno State, the Wisconsin Badgers were fully aware that they would be without their game-breaking wide receiver, the injured Lee Evans. Little did the Bulldogs know they would have to play without theirs as well.

Fresno’s stellar flanker Bernard Berrian sprained his right knee on a return late in the first quarter, relegating him to the sideline for the rest of the game and significantly draining some firepower from the high-octane Bulldog offense.

Without Berrian, who scored a first-quarter touchdown on a 22-yard catch-and-run, Fresno quarterback Jeff Grady was forced to shoulder even more of the offensive load.

The sophomore signal-caller was able to find receivers, finishing with 262 yards and three touchdowns, but without Berrian the Bulldogs lacked the big play they needed and the UW defense made every play down the stretch, holding on to win 23-21.

“Every loss hurts. It hurts more when there’s nothing you can do about it,” said Berrian. “I have to get an MRI tomorrow, but hopefully I’ll be back next week.”

Sophomore safety Jim Leonhard broke up a pass by Grady on fourth and 19 with less than a minute remaining to seal the game after Mike Allen’s 34-yard field goal put Wisconsin up with 2:05 remaining.

Allen missed a field goal late in the fourth quarter, but a Fresno off-side penalty gave the Badgers a new set of downs. UW took advantage of the error, driving to set up Allen’s game-winner.

The miscue was one of many crucial penalties committed by both squads in what UW-Madison head coach Barry Alvarez termed “not a well-played game.”

“Both teams made a lot of mistakes and it wasn’t a pretty game, but I’m proud of the way our players responded,” Alvarez said. “They did what they had to do to find a way to win. I wasn’t real pleased because we made a lot of mistakes, turnovers, which are not common for us–late hits, a hold on the two yardline. I saw a lot of wide eyes, yet I saw them compete as the game went on and come up and make some plays. We’ll have to get much better as the season goes on.”

With their injured all-America flanker Lee Evans suited up only as an honorary captain for the coin toss, the Badgers were one offensive sparkplug short in the first half. Out until at least the beginning of the Big Ten season while recovering from an ACL tear, Evans patrolled the sidelines in his number-three jersey, offering encouragement to the young Badger receivers.

Wisconsin’s offense found it difficult to get going in the first quarter, as quarterback Brooks Bollinger was sacked three times on the first UW drive, twice by Fresno end Nick Burley. The Fresno pass rush found no trouble getting to Bollinger, who didn’t complete his first pass until late in the first quarter.

The play of tailback Anthony Davis, however, was enough to carry the UW offense until the sputtering passing game, clearly missing the presence of Evans, came alive after the first quarter. The slippery Davis finished with 37 carries for 184 yards, as he continually turned busted plays into five-yard gains, making cutbacks and bouncing plays to the outside for large gains down the sideline.

With Davis shouldering the rushing load, it was redshirt freshman fullback Matt Bernstein who found the end zone, punching in touchdowns from one and three yards out, before a hyperextended knee ended his night. The hulking Bernstein provided a perfect complement to the slashing, shifty Davis. Alvarez’ only lament was that Bernstein’s injury kept him from contributing in the fourth quarter.

“I would have liked to have pounded Bernstein in there late in the game,” Alvarez said. “[He weighs] 260 pounds, you’ve got Anthony running outside, and they were overshifting with our tight-end motion, so we had some seams inside. Bernstein can run and he can move people, and I was real pleased with him.”

Even though Bernstein and Leonhard played like seasoned veterans, Alvarez may have expected his young players to make some mistakes, especially on defense. No one, however, expected that the Badgers, who lost only one fumble last season, would cough up the ball twice inside their own 25, setting up two Fresno scores.

Davis, last year’s Big Ten freshman of the year, fumbled for his first time as a Badger when Fresno free safety Cameron Worrell’s picture-perfect hit jarred the football loose in the third quarter. Five plays later, Grady found Adam Jennings in the end zone for a 14-10 lead. Tailback Jerone Pettus also fumbled in the fourth quarter, setting up another Fresno TD.

After faltering in the first quarter, UW’s young receivers began to look more comfortable as the game wore on as Darrin Charles, Brandon Williams and Jonathan Orr caught the passes that slipped through their hands earlier in the game.

Williams made the catch of the day, as he gave a nice double move and caught a Bollinger pass for a 41-yard gain down the sideline in the second quarter. Williams also made a nice diving catch along the right sideline in the second half to set up a first down. He finished with three catches for 62 yards.

The play of the young wideouts, the solid running of Davis and the tenacious play of Leonhard should help the Badgers forget last season’s 5-7 campaign.
According to Alvarez, the Badgers put last year behind them a long time ago. “Last year doesn’t have anything to do with it. This is all about this year. Last year is over. This is a new team. I like the character of our team, but we have a lot of work to do,” he commented.

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