It was supposed to be an LSU thing, right?
A Brandon Harris thing, they said.
A Cam Cameron thing, they whispered.
But hang on. Against VMI last weekend, Akron threw the ball all over the place — to the tune of 425 yards and six scores, racking up a whopping 11.2 yards per attempt.
Saturday against No. 10 Wisconsin: 136 yards through the air, zero scores, an interception, a not-so-whopping 5.4 yards per throw.
This after the Tigers — with Harris at the trigger and offensive coordinator Cameron allegedly directing traffic — managed just 131 passing yards against the Badgers and were picked off twice in Week 1.
“(Akron) challenged us more than the first game,” Wisconsin cornerback Derrick Tindal said after the Badgers bashed the Zips, 54-10. “I feel like we held our own pretty well. They had great receivers, we were just staying within our technique and it was working for us.”
Once? Once says something about them.
Twice? Twice, my friend, says something about you.
It also says that maybe we’ve been sleeping a little bit on Bucky’s secondary, too.
Because if you’re looking for a sneaky-big moment from the Camp Randall Stadium opener, despite massive games all over the map from tailback Corey Clement (who was pulled after 111 rushing yards in the first half thanks to a left ankle injury); backup Bradrick Shaw (74 rushing yards, including a 35-yard touchdown); wideout Jazz Peavy (seven catches, 99 yards, two scores); and quarterbacks Bart Houston (231 passing yards) and Alex Hornibrook (5-for-5, 61 passing yards), we’re saving a game ball for Tindal.
PC: Proud of the players. Noted turnover forced by Tindal. Players played off of each other.
— Bucky’s 5th Quarter (@B5Q) September 10, 2016
With nine-and-a-half minutes left in the first half and the Badgers ahead, 16-0, Akron had started to find its feet a little, especially on the ground. Zips tailback Warren Ball broke a handful of tackles, then turned on the jets into Wisconsin territory, giving the underdogs a flicker of life.
Ball was off to the races, until…
Is that @peanuttillman?
— Wisconsin On BTN (@WisconsinOnBTN) September 10, 2016
Sojourn Shelton scooped up the loose ball and returned it to the Badgers’ 27-yard-line, tossing sand all over Akron’s attempt at a grease fire.
“He was holding the ball with no ball security,” Tindal explained, “so I could just punch it.”
Tindal getting ready for that strip like…. pic.twitter.com/AXrI0wwy0w
— Tommy Olson (@t0mmy0ls0n) September 10, 2016
Metaphorical bullet dodged, the Badgers then marched the ball 73 yards the other way on nine plays, a drive started by a 27-yard run by Clement and punctuated by a 13-yard touchdown pass from Houston to Peavy, pushing the hosts’ lead to 22-0.
Desperate, the Zips went right back to work — only this time, through the air. Akron quarterback Thomas Woodson found Jerome Lane for a 27-yard pickup to the Wisconsin 38.
But on the next throw, Woodson went for broke — and it wound up breaking the Zips instead. A first-down rainbow up the left boundary was snatched by Badgers safety Leo Musso at the Wisconsin 9-yard-line, snuffing another threat.
An Akron offense that had racked up 16 first downs through the air last week managed only four via the passing route in Madison, and only 10 on the afternoon. And even the man for whom Tindal’s “Peanut Punch” was named, former Chicago Bears cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman, made it a point to pay homage:
Nice Peanut Punch Derrick Tindal ?? https://t.co/5ZtICAasx9
— Charles Tillman (@peanuttillman) September 10, 2016
The front seven — led by outside linebacker/free-thinker/wild man Vince Biegel — get the ink, and it’s deserved. But with a defense gets rolling like this, it takes a village, back to front. Akron had piled up 576 total yards on 67 plays in its opener. By the end of the first half in Madison, they totaled 151.
“We already knew what we came here to do, what we came into the season expecting,” Tindal said of the secondary. “And we see it in practice all the time. Now we just have to bring it over to the field.”
The Zips were just 1-for-10 on third down, a week after LSU converted just two of 10. Once is kismet. Twice?
Twice is a trend.