peter konz russell wilson

Wisconsin center Peter Konz and quarterback Russell Wilson line up on the goal line in this September file photo.

CRAIG SCHREINER – State Journal

Junior center Peter Konz fielded several questions during an interview session this week about the University of Wisconsin offensive line's struggles against Ohio State in the last game.

Finally, even the good-natured Konz seemed to reach his fill on the subject, when asked whether the line needed to redeem itself after the last two performances.

"I don't think so," he said. "Did you think we did bad?"

The Badgers' line certainly wasn't at its best in the 33-29 loss, but the Buckeyes had something to do with that. UW rushed for 89 yards on 29 carries, its lowest output since finishing with 87 yards on 33 carries in a 20-10 loss to Iowa on Oct. 17, 2009.

"I thought it was inconsistent," offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said of the running game. "Credit to them. We thought going in, it was as good a front as we've seen across the board. We've played some good players, but across the board.

"So, you have to be a little bit more on. When you weren't, be it anyone blocking or a back, the holes aren't going to stay open as long, the blocks are harder to maintain."

In addition to the lack of a running game, UW converted 6 of 15 third downs. Five of the failed conversions came in the first half and were third-and-5 or less. That led to a season-low time of possession of 24 minutes, 12 seconds.

The Badgers converted 60 percent of their third downs (44 of 73) through six games, but are at 41.7 percent (10 of 24) against better defenses the last two weeks in Michigan State and Ohio State.

"When you're playing better defenses, that always kind of plays into it a little bit," senior quarterback Russell Wilson said. "But I think the main thing is we've just got to make plays. I think we're still doing a really good job of converting when we need to and making plays when we need to, but there's that little thing that we're missing, whatever it is."

In some ways, the offense is a victim of its own success. The 29 points were the second-most scored by the Badgers in Columbus, Ohio, since 1948, topped only by the 42 in 1999.

When asked if the line played up to its standards, Konz said: "I don't know when's the last time we put up that many points (at) Ohio State.

"Even though people look at it and say they're not the Ohio State of the past, if you look at their defense, they're very good. They still have all of the athletes they had before."

UW coach Bret Bielema said at the start of the week he didn't think the Badgers were dominated up front in the game.

"I wouldn't say across the board they won all the time, but they won their fair share," he said. "The part that I think our offensive line has always prided themselves on (is) how they play as a whole, and as a group, that wasn't there. That was a big factor in the game."

Given the high standards in the line, getting motivated for Purdue on Saturday won't be an issue. Bielema said after practice on Thursday he liked the way the group responded this week.

"That particular group, in general, takes a lot of pride in how it plays," Bielema said. "When they turned on that film last Sunday, they probably weren't (pleased) at what they saw. The fortunate thing is, we've got an opportunity to go out this week and get a chance to rectify it."

Nzegwu, Claxton return

Two senior defensive starters, defensive end Louis Nzegwu and linebacker Kevin Claxton, missed practice time earlier in the week for various aches and pains, but returned on Thursday and are expected to be ready to go for the game.

Sophomore linebacker Ethan Armstrong, who is Claxton's backup, underwent surgery on Monday morning for a detached ligament in a finger. He practiced without issue on Wednesday and Thursday and also is expected to play.

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