Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Young receivers stand up to Fresno test

The victory was anything but pretty, but it was a victory all the same Friday evening against Fresno State at Camp Randall. It was a 23-21 win the Badgers had been waiting a year for, after being beaten up last year by David Carr, who led the Bulldogs.

“I’m glad we won because we didn’t play particularly well. We made a lot of plays and did what we had to do,” said Alvarez. “I like the character of our team, but we have a lot of work to do and I think Fresno could say the same things if they had won.”

The game was one marred by penalties and dropped passes for UW-Madison. Fortunately for the Badgers, Fresno State committed a series of horrid special-teams penalties that proved impossible to overcome. On three separate occasions during Wisconsin fourth downs, Fresno committed penalties that converted into first downs for UW.

The final penalty came on a false start, on what would have been a missed 44-yard field-goal attempt by Allen. After the penalty, the Badger offense was able to set up a much closer game, winning a 34-yard field goal.

For the UW offense, it looked as though the Badgers would be able to move the ball consistently on Fresno. Anthony Davis gained 21 yards on his first two carries–then the Badgers attempted a pass.

On each of Bollingers’ first three passing attempts he was sacked, once by Bryce McGill and twice by Nick Burley. The early sacks stopped two Badger drives that had begun with promising runs. On ensuing drives, Bollinger was able to get off passes that fell incomplete or were dropped before finally hitting Darrin Charles for a seven-yard gain late in the first quarter.

Missing Lee Evans to knee injury and with Darrin Charles not 100 percent, the Badgers played nearly their entire receiving corps during the game. Eventually, redshirt freshman Jonathon Orr stepped up with two catches for 41 yards, as did true freshman Brandon Williams, who grabbed three Bollinger passes for 62 yards, including a 41-yard grab.

While the game eventually proved successful for the young receivers, it was a different story earlier as they struggled just to get off the line of scrimmage against the press coverage of the Fresno corners.

“They started slow–they were playing against press coverage and good defensive backs. Pat Hill said before the game that they would play press coverage. He said that no freshman receiver is going to get off [the line on] our guys,” commented Alvarez. “They had a good plan, but we came up with some plays. Brandon Williams is going to be a nice player–he made some nice catches today. [The young receivers] were under fire today and were able to do some things.”

Entering the game, Darrin Charles was the only one of the top four Badger receivers or tight ends to ever catch a pass in college; several players were making their college debuts. For the most part, the receivers responded well after settling in.

“When you come out for the pre-game it is electric and then once you start to calm down and go out there you just have to focus and know what you are doing,” said Brandon White of his collegiate debut. “On the first play I kind of took my eyes off the ball and I just didn’t catch it. So I came back and coach Mason got on me and I got on myself, but I just tried to stay focused and make another play.”

The Badger receiving corps is younger than ever right now, but during the game one occasionally saw glimpses of what makes the corps one of the most talented bunches UW coaches have ever had at Wisconsin. The level of talent is such that coaches are willing to put up with some mistakes in order to push the learning curve with this group.

“I saw a lot of wide eyes from some young players,” said Alvarez. “Yet I saw them compete as the game went on and come up and make some plays. Those guys are talented–they can run and they will be good players. Thank goodness we had them tonight.”

In the preseason it was a stated goal of Bollinger to increase his passing percentage this season. His percentage has fallen each year since his freshman season. Yet after opening the game only one for six while trying to get the ball to freshman receivers, and all the while scrambling away from a relentless Fresno pass rush, he wasn’t upset with any of his younger teammates.

Bollinger knows what it’s like to step on the field for the first time as a freshman in front of 80,000 Badger fans.

“I told them to calm down and just play. They are a talented group but it was their first time being out there,” said Bollinger. “Camp Randall at night, in front of 80,000 people is like no place else in the world. When things were going bad early I just said to relax and that we’ll be all right. Just keep doing what you’re doing and things will come.”

Coaches will tell you that the win over Fresno State was the first step in a maturing process for this young group of receivers. Though it was only one game, the group stood up to the test and gained more experience than any practices could have supplied them with. Did they grow up against Fresno?

“Yes sir, I grew up a lot tonight,” said Williams.

Trial by fire will be the way for the Badger receivers this season, at least until the return of a healthy Evans. They passed their first test.

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