While the University of Wisconsin football team gave itself mixed reviews for its performance Saturday against San Jose State, Spartans coach Mike MacIntyre continued to give the Badgers high praise after his team’s 27-14 loss to UW.
“Aw, shoot, the Badgers are good,” said MacIntyre, whose team came into Camp Randall on the heels of a 48-3 loss to top-ranked Alabama. “They’ve got a bruising football team, running the football. They can run the football on anybody in the country. When you can do that, you’re in any game.
“I think they’re a top-10 team, not a No. 11. I think they’re better than that.”
While the Badgers stewed over four fumbles that stalled drives and acknowledged breakdowns in pass coverage on defense, MacIntyre stood by his belief that the Badgers will be a tough team to beat once Big Ten Conference starts on Oct. 2.
“I think they’ll have a hard time losing in conference this year,” MacIntyre said “I really do.”
Asked to compare UW to defending national champion Alabama, at least one San Jose State player believes the Badgers’ rugged style of play both ways would give them a chance.
“It would be a real physical game,” Spartans safety Dominique Hunsucker said. “I can’t say who’d win or not. It would be a good matchup.”
MacIntyre said: “I think you have to just put them on the field and let them play. I think they’re a little different. But it would be a heck of a football game.”
Surprising depth at LB
For much of the second half, the Badgers had a converted defensive back (Kevin Claxton) and a dependable utility player (Blake Sorensen) at linebacker while starters Mike Taylor, who saw limited action coming back from a knee injury, and Chris Borland (shoulder) watched from the sideline. “That’s why we pay ’em,” Bielema said in his postgame press conference. “They gotta figure it out.”
“That’s why you pay the players?” Bielema was asked.
“Pay the coaches,” Bielema responded with a smile.
All kidding aside, linebacker depth was one of the bright spots for UW against the Spartans. Sorensen shared the team high in tackles (seven) with cornerback Antonio Fenelus and had an interception while Claxton added two tackles as the Badgers held San Jose State to 55 yards rushing on 20 attempts.
“Like coach (Bielema) always says ‘Next guy in,’“ Claxton said. “We prepared for it all week, just in case. All of us were getting good reps in practice We all just practiced like we were going to be the starters.”
White: Never again
Badgers freshman running back James White tried reach a milestone in the second quarter with his first collegiate TD, but admittedly reached too far.
“That probably was (the problem),” White said of the second-and-3 play when he covered eight of the nine yards between the line of scrimmage and the goal line only to fumble the ball through the end zone for a touchback. “I saw the end zone and I was like ‘I’m just going to stick the ball out’ and, as soon as I tried, it popped right up on me. ... I’ve declared I’m going to try not to do that the rest of the season.”
Said UW tailback John Clay, who has battled fumble-itis at times in his career: “He’s a freshman; he was trying to score. We talked (and I told him to) run through the goal line, just because something like that will happen. ... We talked to him and he understands. Ball security is job security, just like coach (John) Settle always says.”
The injury to senior David Gilreath, who suffered a concussion after being drilled on a third-quarter punt return and left the field in an ambulance, might have been the Badgers’ most visible ding, but not their only one.
Bielema said sophomore defensive end David Gilbert suffered a concussion on kickoff coverage in the second quarter and didn’t return. Junior right tackle Josh Oglesby suffered an apparent left knee injury on Scott Tolzien’s third-quarter interception and was replaced by sophomore Ricky Wagner.
The Badgers held out Borland (shoulder) and wide receiver Nick Toon (turf toe). Bielema expects both players to be back next week against Arizona State.
“Both players made dramatic improvement over the last 48 hours,” Bielema said. “Nick we put in sweats, but Chris wanted to dress and participate in pregame. But we had specific orders to take his helmet (during the game), because he’s the kind of guy that I could see run out there if we gave him a chance.”
San Jose State lost starting center Robbie Reed for the season to a knee injury. He is the Spartans’ third starting offensive lineman out of action.
Welch kicks bad practice
UW kicker Philip Welch was not at a loss for confidence despite what Bielema described as “not exactly a stellar” Thursday practice.
“Phil really hit some huge kickoffs today,” Bielema said of Welch, who averaged 68.8 yards on five kickoffs. “At the end of the half, to hit that (45-yard field goal) and to hit that other one, I think it was (37). He came up to me on that last series when the ball crossed the (Spartans) 45 and said ‘You’re in my range.’ ... Before the game, I came over and said ‘How far in both directions?’ And he said ‘60 (yards) both ways’ and he was serious as a heart attack.”
Spartans get jumpy
A few UW opponents have participated in the Camp Randall tradition of “Jump Around” between the third and fourth quarters, but perhaps none with the vigor of San Jose State – which also witnessed the participation of its head coach.
“We prepared for it, but I was not prepared for our head coach to start jumping around,” Spartans linebacker Vince Buhagiar said. “So once he did that, me and everyone on our sidelines starting going crazy with it. ... It was fun.”
MacIntyre said: “We had watched a video of it and told our kids about the atmosphere and to enjoy the moment. ... I thought it was great.”
Odds and ends
The announced attendance of 78,469 represented the lowest turnout for a UW home opener since 2003 when the Badgers’ game with Akron drew 75,401. The Camp Randall renovations, which increased official capacity from 76,129 to 80,321, were not completed until 2005 ... Freshman Jared Abbrederis, who ran the ball 15 times and threw it 11 on the Camp Randall turf two years ago when he led Wautoma to the WIAA Division 4 state title, had his first collegiate reception — a six-yarder in the second quarter — and then added four more for a total of 58 yards. ... Junior Kevin Zeitler, who started all 13 games at right guard last season but lost the job in preseason camp after suffering a high ankle sprain, worked a handful of series for Bill Nagy. ... Junior halfback John Clay had his eighth straight 100-yard game rushing. ... Tolzien’s 191 yards passing left him with 3,093 yards for his career and 28 yards behind Tyler Donovan for 10th place on UW’s all-time list.
San Jose State linebacker Vince Buhagiar, on trying to stop UW’s 255-pound Clay: “It would be like you imagine: Hard, but not impossible.”
— Capital Times reporter Dennis Semrau contributed to this report.