MADISON, Wis. – Trust. Communication. Respect. All keys to a successful relationship.
And to an effective defense, apparently.
Members of Wisconsin’s front seven said it took all three pillars – along with a slight shoulder chip – to repeat the dominant performance they had against LSU in Saturday’s game with Akron. The Badgers kept the Zips from the red zone and held them to 136 yards passing in the 54-10 victory. Wisconsin had limited LSU to 257 total yards and forced three turnovers.
So at this point, ‘successful’ is far too mild.
“It was more just trusting our preparation,” Badgers’ defensive end Alec James told Land of 10 following Saturday’s win. “I think a big question coming in from outside was just, ‘Can we keep it up?’ and we were able to do that. Akron was a good team, and they’ve got a lot of good players. We just trusted our preparation and did our job.”
James credits defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox for his players’ readiness. The first-year Badgers coach’s meticulous methods to scouting have eliminated surprises on the field.
That attention to detail has seeped into his supporting cast of position coaches.
“I feel like we manned up and did what we had to do,” said cornerback Derrick Tindal. “We’re big on our technique. I feel like if we stay within our technique, we’re athletic enough to make plays. Just stay within our technique like coach [Jim] Leonhard tells us every day. Then we can go out there and make the game easy. [Today] it was pretty easy.”
These games have certainly not been easy on the Badgers’ defensive depth chart so far this year.
Inside linebacker Chris Orr exited LSU on his first defensive play of the game – a confirmed right knee injury has made it his only this season. Then there’s inside linebacker T.J. Edwards, sidelined up until Saturday with a broken left foot. He’s easing back in, though, and had two tackles and a sack in four series against Akron.
He’ll have to get used to the speed again, but Edwards said he has no concerns about a lack of chemistry.
“Guys on the field, they’re communicating a lot better,” Edwards said. “On defense, if you’re not communicating well, you won’t be successful. I think we do a great job of that throughout the whole week, so when Saturday comes, it’s pretty easy.
“I was with the guys on the sidelines and in meetings, so the whole communication thing wasn’t that big of a deal. It’s just now I finally get to say something and communicate with them.”
Tindal can’t help but occasionally tune into the outside chatter. And he hasn’t liked what he has heard.
Even with the newly added No. 10 in front of its name, Wisconsin hasn’t been able to fully escape national skepticism – unsurprising for lifelong Badgers fans.
“I know, personally, what [my team] is going to do and how they’re going to step up to the task,” Tindal said. “Everybody else can get on board or—”
We’ll just let his game fill in that blank.
Is that @peanuttillman?
— Wisconsin On BTN (@WisconsinOnBTN) September 10, 2016