It’s no secret that third down is the most important down in football. Usually, the team that converts the majority of its third downs come out on the winning side of the final score.
In the first two games of 2016, the University of Wisconsin’s defense has had tremendous success on third downs. Both Louisiana State University and University of Akron, the Badgers’ first two opponents of the season, each had 10 third-down chances against the UW (2-0 overall) defense.
LSU only converted two times, and Akron just once. Redshirt sophomore inside linebacker T.J. Edwards said Wisconsin’s week of preparation is the reason for success on third down.
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“So far, we’ve been able to win those one-on-one battles we have to win on third down,” Edwards said Monday.
UW’s third down success is key to giving the offense as many opportunities as possible. It was key in upsetting LSU, and against Akron it allowed the first-team defense to take only 20 snaps — all in the first half.
“It’s definitely not a coincidence we’re good on third down,” fifth-year senior outside linebacker Vince Biegel said. “We rep it a lot in practice. We take great pride in third down. We got a lot of players who understand third downs. We got guys who can get after the passer [and] cover on third down.”
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On the offensive side of the ball, Wisconsin fans have seen both sides of the spectrum regarding third-down performance. Against LSU, quarterback Bart Houston and the Badgers were an abysmal 3-for-15. They flipped the script last Saturday, going 10-for-15 on third down against the Zips.
Houston said that for the Wisconsin offense to keep improving, they’ll have to maintain that level of success on third down to sustain drives and control the clock.
The Badgers have dominated time of possession during the first two wins of the season. They held the ball an extra 13:54 than the Tigers in the opener, and the Zips had the ball for just 19:08 during the Badgers’ blowout win at Camp Randall.
“We got the weapons,” Houston said.