Phillips' run game has Fresno on alert

2009-09-10T18:25:00Z Phillips' run game has Fresno on alertTOM MULHERN tmulhern@madison.com 608-252-6169 madison.com

No matter how many snaps University of Wisconsin redshirt freshman quarterback Curt Phillips plays Saturday against Fresno State, he will impact the game even before the kickoff.

That's because Fresno State's defense will have spent time this week preparing to face the running ability of Phillips, the backup who splits time with junior starter Scott Tolzien.

Time spent preparing for Phillips is time taken away from preparing for the other aspects of coordinator Paul Chryst's diverse offense.

"All of that shifting and all of that motion and all that stuff, it's preparation," Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill said before the Badgers' 28-20 victory in the season opener. "It keeps your kids from just settling in and playing football. Then you add the (running quarterback) into it, it makes preparation tough."

Phillips played two series, a total of 19 snaps, while Tolzien had 44 snaps, a ratio Chryst said he liked. While Phillips was just 3-for-5 in passing for 24 yards, he ran four times for 34 yards, with a long of 20 yards.

Neither of Phillips' drives resulted in points, but it didn't take Tolzien long to see the benefits of playing both of them.

"(Northern Illinois) definitely had to adjust to it," Tolzien said. "Now, other teams are going to have to game plan for that. It's just going to make our offense more dynamic."

Despite all the talk of a package of plays designed for Phillips, everything he has done so far has been a part of UW's offense. That includes the zone-read play, a version of the option run out of the shotgun. The quarterback holds the ball in the stomach of the running back, while reading the defense before pulling it out or handing it off.

While it's not new, it's not something the Badgers would use with a less-mobile quarterback.

"That was the one commitment we made, we wanted to keep this our offense," Chryst said of playing Phillips. "Now, it's just an added feature, not a new package or a new offense, where if something happened to Curt, you'd lose that."

Fresno State coach Pat Hill has a similar situation going for his offense. The Bulldogs played three quarterbacks in their 51-0 victory over UC Davis last Saturday night.

Junior Ryan Colburn is the starter and speedy redshirt freshman Ebahn Feathers is the runner. True freshman Derek Carr played in the second half because it was a blowout.

Hill looked at the "pistol" formation in the spring, in which a quarterback lines up three yards behind center, with a running back directly behind him. The pistol features a zone-based power running scheme and works best with a dual-threat quarterback.

But after two weeks, Hill decided he didn't want to junk the offense for one player.

"The thing that makes Ebahn so special is he's a sub-4.5 (seconds) 40(-yard dash) guy and he weighs 215 pounds," Hill said. "He's a unique guy, but I didn't want to have an offense that's just for him."

Hill said preparing for two quarterbacks with different styles is a challenge, but it helps his team since it sees something similar in practice.

"It's more prep time and really it's three days to do it," Hill said of typical game-week preparations. "Anytime you have a change-up quarterback, it causes you problems."

UW defensive coordinator Dave Doeren said option quarterbacks affect blitz packages the most. Also, creative coordinators can do things to enhance the surprise factor.

"Now, every blitz has to be option sound," Doeren said. "It really puts you in a bind that way, especially if they're good at hiding it, they're getting him in (the game) late. You make a (defensive) call and here comes the athletic quarterback."

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