The University of Wisconsin football team’s offense is a work in progress.
At least, that was the way UW head coach Paul Chryst put it Monday during his weekly news conference.
“We got a lot of work to do for where we want to be and where we should be,” Chryst said. ” … I feel good with how [the offense] is approaching it.”
Perhaps the best example of this is who has stepped up in the passing game during the Badgers (2-0) first two games of 2016. Against LSU, it was redshirt junior tight end Troy Fumagalli, who had seven catches for 100 yards. Two days ago in Wisconsin’s 54-10 win against Akron, Jazz Peavy emerged for a 100-yard day, also on seven catches, along with two touchdown receptions.
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When defenses elect to emphasize coverage in the middle of the field, it presents a challenge for Fumagalli to get open, yet opens up one-on-one opportunities for Peavy and fellow wideout Robert Wheelwright (four catches, 99 yards against Akron). The options in the passing game are a welcome sign for fifth-year senior quarterback Bart Houston, who said whoever is open at the right time during his progressions will get the ball.
“Everybody will have their turn,” Houston said Monday. ” … Jazz had his big day. Troy had his big day the week before. Whoever is open is going to get the ball, right?”
Peavy said it was a product of Akron’s defense that allowed him to have the opportunities he did.
“I feel like that was the coverage that Akron was playing, and just the plays they were running allowed things to open up the way it did,” Peavy said.
The connection between Houston and Peavy was evident on Saturday, particularly on the second touchdown for the duo. Houston perfectly placed his pass between two Zips defenders for a 34-yard score.
The play is an example of the work the pair have put in even after practice, Peavy said. Last week, they were working on comeback routes during practice. After they failed to complete the first few passes, both realized they needed to work on it, so they stayed after practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and drilled the routes over and over again.
“I feel like our connection is really good,” Peavy said. “Bart’s one of those quarterbacks whenever we need to fix any mistakes during practice, he’s the kind of guy that will tell you after practice, ‘Let’s figure it out.’ ”
Edwards feeling good
Two days removed from his first game action of the 2016 season, redshirt sophomore linebacker T.J. Edwards said the foot he broke before training camp felt surprisingly good and was “almost 100 percent.”
Edwards, who was the Badgers’ leading tackler last season, missed all of training camp with a broken left foot. The injury caused him to miss the season opener against LSU, as well.
But when he finally ran out of the tunnel Saturday fully padded and ready to go, he said he felt relieved. It was also important to him, he added, that he see meaningful game reps before Big Ten play starts Sept. 24 at Michigan State.
“I definitely wanted to get into these two games for sure,” Edwards said. “I wanted to be able to play. I think it’s vital to get these reps, once you make it back, before we get into the meat of the season.”
In Edwards’ place, fellow redshirt sophomore Ryan Connelly has stepped up, much to the delight of his friend Edwards.
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“Ever since we came in, Ryan’s been the guy who’s always on top of it mentally,” Edwards said. “He’s one of the best athletes we have on our defense. So just to see him out there making plays against LSU, no one was happier for him than me.”
Connelly has recorded eight tackles in the first two games of the season, which ranks third on the team currently.
Edwards said he definitely felt rusty, and he displayed that when he missed a tackle in the open field Saturday. The coaching staff also noted his rust during Sunday’s film sessions. Still, Edwards hopes for more snaps on Saturday against Georgia State.
“I’d imagine I get more snaps,” Edwards said. “I don’t know what [defensive coordinator] Coach [Justin] Wilcox thinks. That’s his deal. They pay him to make those kinds of decisions. I’m hoping to get more reps.”