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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW offense makes mark on Big Ten

[media-credit name=’RAY PFEIFFER/Herald Photo’ align=’alignnone’ width=’648′]Football_RP[/media-credit]The Badgers offense was a major concern coming into the 2006 season, but those concerns have officially been put to rest.

If UW head coach Bret Bielema needed any more affirmation of this — besides watching his team enjoy back-to-back 500-yard games — it came when running back P.J. Hill became the second Badger to earn the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week award in as many weeks, with quarterback John Stocco winning it last week.

Hill shared the honor with Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith. Last weekend, Hill carried the ball 35 times and ran for 249 yards — including a 60-yard run for a touchdown on the second play of the game.


One of the concerns that Bielema addressed at his weekly press conference Monday was Hill's ability to withstand the physical wear and tear of having a large number of carries week in and week out.

"There are certain things that we have done during the course of the week and made certain adjustments during practice of the things that he goes through or doesn't go through," Bielema said. "Also, we limit the contact that he goes through from our own players during the course of the week. Our players also realize that we are a better team when P.J. is playing."

Hill split Bielema's choice for UW offensive MVP of the week with tight end Travis Beckum, who quietly hauled in eight catches for 107 yards, both game highs, against the Wildcats.

"I thought [Travis] made a giant step forward, not only in the passing game, but some of the things that he was able to do in the running game," Bielema said.

On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu and defensive end Matt Shaughnessy were named the co-defensive most valuable players. According to Bielema, Ikegwuonu has been playing very well the last few weeks and had a very good game against Northwestern, even though he has not put up stellar numbers.

"[He] doesn't have as many stats as we would like to see, but this is because they are not really coming his way," Bielema said. "There are certain things that he is doing [well], not only on defense, but also on special teams."

Take a number

The Badgers made their debut in the rankings this week. They are now ranked No. 25 in the nation in this week's Associated Press Poll, receiving 86 votes.

However, Bielema was not flattered by the national recognition. Instead, he said he looks at it as somewhat of a distraction to his players.

"I really appreciate the ranking and everything that comes into it," Bielema said. "I knew it would become an issue, not just from the media and the questions that they were going to be asked, but now they are going to walk into the classroom and people are going to make reference to it."

He emphasized that the players must keep working hard and maintain Bielema's mentality.

"The reason we are in this situation is the focus that we have had and we have kept the '1-0' mentality," Bielema said. "If we falter off of that, we can lose that same position as fast as we earned it. "

No rest for the weary

The question arose of the Badgers not having a bye week this season. Wisconsin has hit the halfway point of a grueling 12-game stretch in consecutive weeks. This could have a big impact not only on the health of the players, but also keeping the "1-0" mentality that Bielema has been pushing on his players and his coaches.

"What we try to do is understand where we are with our players," Bielema said. "Some guys, no matter what you do to them during the course of the game, they're always going to come back on Sunday, and especially giving them Monday off, are going to come back on Tuesday for a strong practice."

Bielema didn't say either way definitively whether he would prefer to have a bye week or would he rather just keep on moving through the season.

"I have nothing to compare it to as a head coach," Bielema said. "As an assistant coach, you always look forward to those off-weeks because you look forward for your players to have a chance to get healthy."

Hubbard, O-line updates

One of the major health issues that Bielema addressed was the injury that Paul Hubbard sustained last weekend. Hubbard has been a large contributor to the young receiving core. He has had 19 receptions for 313 yards and two touchdowns on the year.

"Sunday's practice, we didn't practice him," Bielema said of Hubbard, who appeared to be knocked out with a concussion Saturday. "But we expect him to go out there [Tuesday] and be able to bounce back."

One of the concerns that some have had was how good the offensive line would be. The O-line lost four starters from last year, which created some skepticism among critics and fans.

However, Bielema feels that they have made a lot of progress, not only from last spring, but this year as well.

"This was probably the best performance this past weekend in overall pass protection from first quarter to fourth quarter," Bielema said. "I can't say enough positive things."

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