MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin defense won’t let up against inferior opponents.
While other ranked teams are showing flaws in September against non-conference foes, the ninth-ranked Badgers plan to take advantage of what amounts to a two-week breather in their otherwise brutal schedule .
On third downs, the defense has been as sturdy as a red brick wall. Wisconsin (2-0) has held its first two opponents to a combined 3 of 20 on third-down conversions.
“We’ve started the first two games the way you’d like,” Chryst said. “If you want to form your identity, then you have to do it again and again.”
Wisconsin held LSU to 2 of 10 on third downs in the season opener. Akron managed just one conversion in 10 tries last week.
Next up on Saturday is Georgia State (0-2), which has lost to Ball State and Air Force this season by a combined score of 79-35.
Seems like another blowout is in order for Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium this weekend.
But as the Oklahoma State Sooners know , there are few gimmes anymore in college football.
In contrast, Chryst had his team focused and prepared last week in a 54-10 rout of Akron , yet left room for improvement. Inside linebacker T.J. Edwards pointed to a few communication mix-ups against the Zips’ spread offense that will need to be cleaned up.
“Some little things that will hurt against big-time opponents will hurt against this week’s opponent,” Edwards said. “If we’re not on point with communication, they’ll take advantage.”
Developing depth will be important, too, after the Badgers lost another key player on defense. Third cornerback Natrell Jamerson could be out 4-6 weeks after needing help to get off the field in the fourth quarter of the Akron game with a left leg injury.
Freshman Caesar Williams could get more playing time behind top two corners Sojourn Shelton and Derrick Tindal. A similar situation arose last week after starting inside linebacker Chris Orr was lost for the season after the first defensive play in the LSU game with a right knee injury.
Edwards, who had a foot injury, returned last week to help fill that hole.
“You never want to see anyone go down,” Edwards said . “I know those guys that are willing step in for (Jamerson) for as long as needs to recover. So no, it will be the same effect, I’m happy we can say that about our defense.
Coming off a promising freshman season in which he had a team-high 84 tackles, Edwards is gradually getting back up to speed. Big Ten play starts on Sept. 24 at Michigan State.
Fortunately for the Badgers, the rest of the defense has held up exceptionally well. Wisconsin’s front seven is dominating up front, and the secondary has reaped the rewards, having forced four of Wisconsin’s five turnovers.
The Badgers are pretty good at stopping opponents the old fashioned way, too.
“It always comes down to when there’s an opportunity, you have to make a play, a sack or a stop,” Chryst said. “I think a lot of it has been we’ve been pretty good on first and second downs.”
NOTE: Chryst said there were no lingering concerns with RB Corey Clement, who left the win over Akron late in the second quarter after rolling his left ankle. The Badgers were up by 20 points at halftime and didn’t need Clement in the second half anyway. The senior is healthy enough that he has replaced Jamerson as the top option to return kicks on the depth chart. “I anticipate him going to work, practicing,” Chryst said. Clement needs 86 yards rushing to become the 16th player in school history to run for 2,000 in his career.
Online: AP College Football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/
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