Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


New coach wins with old style

[media-credit name=’BRYAN FAUST/Herald photo’ align=’alignright’ width=’336′]football_39_BF[/media-credit]CLEVELAND — A new coach and an almost an entirely new offensive unit, but it's still the same old classic Wisconsin style.

On the banks of the hardly picturesque Lake Erie, the University of Wisconsin football team clawed out a 35-14 victory in a game that was at times ugly, but was hard-fought from start to finish and much more competitive than the score might indicate, as it took all three units to ensure a win for Bret Bielema in his first game as head coach.

"You always like to be in tight games, they are always going to benefit you down the road," senior strong safety Joe Stellmacher said. "Hopefully they can improve next week, and hopefully we can carry this over to next week."


"We played alright, but there's always room for improvement as usual," added junior defensive end Jamal Cooper.

Redshirt freshman running back P.J. Hill rushed for 133 yards on 22 carries, and senior quarterback John Stocco did just enough — completing nine of 15 passes for 124 yards with a touchdown and an interception — in a game as old-school as the city it was played in, featuring 416 yards rushing between both the Badgers and Falcons.

The game began inauspiciously for UW as the ballyhooed Badger defense allowed Bowling Green to march down the field on the game's first series, as the Falcons put together a textbook 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive to start the game, with all but 12 yards on the ground.

However, Wisconsin responded with a power running attack of its own as the Badgers rolled down the field on the ensuing possession with a 10 play, 66 yard scoring drive, with most of damage being inflicted by Hill and fifth-year senior Dywon Rowan.

"It is not what happens during the course of game [that matters] but how you respond to it, and today was a classic example," Bielema said.

"When you can answer the opponent when they do something, and get the momentum back, it marks a great team and we did that today and we just have to carry that over to the rest of the season."

While Wisconsin did respond, Bowling Green wouldn't go away and continued to rack up yards on the ground against the UW defense, using a unique spread option offensive attack highlighted by the superb play of redshirt freshman Freddie Barnes, who rushed for 165 yards — a Bowling Green record — from the quarterback position.

"It was a really different look for us," Cooper said. "Last year, all they did was pass on us, so the switch up from passing to running was a really big difference."

"After the second series, as coaches we just said basically that the quarterback is the tailback in this game," Bielema said. "They've also got a very special player there for years to come."

The spark Wisconsin was looking for was finally delivered, courtesy of the special teams, as sophomore linebacker Jonathan Casillas blocked a BGSU punt deep in their own territory and recovered the ball in the end zone to give Wisconsin a two-possession lead.

"The first few games are always critically decided by special teams," Bielema said. "We were needing a response when Jona [Casillas] blocked that punt, and we got the win."

Punting woes plagued the Falcons in the first half and led directly to two Wisconsin touchdowns. The first half of true freshman Alonso Rojas' career was a nightmare.

After a paltry 32-yard punt that was almost blocked, Rojas' second effort from the 12-yard line wasn't so much blocked as it was engulfed by Casillas, who swallowed the ball off the foot of the punter and picked it up in the end zone for a touchdown.

"Jonathan's one of those kids that is a big playmaker," Bielema said. "Any time he's been put in games to have success like that, he's been able to convert it."

Then, with time winding down in the half, Rojas took the field only three yards from the spot of his earlier mugging and booted a 25-yard stink bomb that was picked up on the run by senior Ben Strickland, who would have brought the ball inside the five if not for a foolish block in the back at the seven yard line by Casillas.

With the ball at the 17-yard line, Wisconsin marched into the end zone in just five plays, capped off by a one-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown by John Stocco, giving Wisconsin a 21-7 lead with 20 seconds to play before the half.

"That's Wisconsin football — to run the ball right at you," junior wide receiver Luke Swan said.

The game continued to be a struggle between the two teams as BGSU closed the score to 21-14 after their first drive in the second half. However, from that point on the Badger defense stiffened, and kept the Falcons off the scoreboard the rest of the way. The key play came when Wisconsin stopped Bowling Green on fourth down to kill a 21-play drive early in the fourth quarter.

Wisconsin promptly put the game out of reach at 35-14, courtesy of a bruising 10-yard touchdown run by Hill to complete a nine-play, 80-yard drive.

"They were giving me a chance to contribute to move the ball down field and give the team a chance to win," Hill said.

"We just needed to make some more stops and finish that last drive," said Falcon head coach Gregg Brandon. "If we could have gotten it to 28-21 I think it would have been a barnburner."

Although Wisconsin will walk away 1-0, they were far from completely satisfied with the victory, as the players all believed there was still much work to be done.

"You just can't let a team run down your throat like that," senior middle linebacker Mark Zalewski said, who was at a total loss for words when asked to describe the frustration of watching Barnes run wild against the defense. "The amount of rushing yards they had were really unacceptable."

On the other side of the coin, the Badgers couldn't have been happier with their bruising performance.

"That's something we pride ourselves on is being physical and being able to run the football, and our offense certainly did that tonight."

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