UW football: Defense's first exam nets favorable grade

2010-11-08T06:45:00Z 2010-12-17T14:28:12Z UW football: Defense's first exam nets favorable gradeTOM MULHERN | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 madison.com

Not all spreads are created equal.

Still, University of Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren feels good going into the final three regular-season games against spread offenses after the way his side of the ball responded in the second half of the 34-13 victory over Purdue on Saturday.

"We've been able to find a way to win," Doeren said Sunday. "I thought the defense did a tremendous job of helping our offense (against Purdue). You go back to the Iowa game and it was the other way around. Those guys (on offense) carried us.

"That's the thing we've got to preach - it's a team game."

The Badgers, who are 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten Conference, moved up to sixth in the latest Associated Press media poll and fifth in the USA Today coaches' poll. It's the third time they have been ranked in the top five in either poll in head coach Bret Bielema's five seasons. They were fifth in the media poll for two weeks in 2007, after starting the season 5-0.

They moved up two spots in the Bowl Championship Series standings to seventh, one of four Big Ten teams in the top 13, with Ohio State ninth, Michigan State 11th and Iowa 13th.

If the Badgers learned anything against Purdue, it's that nothing will come easy in their final three games, at home against Indiana on Saturday, at Michigan and home against Northwestern.

UW trailed 10-6 at halftime against the Boilermakers and Doeren had to wonder what happened to all the preparation the previous week.

"I was really disappointed in our first-half performance," Doeren said. "I thought we tackled poorly. We didn't execute. The plan we had in place was very good. ... There were certain run plays we had worked really hard on defending. They shouldn't have gotten out of the backfield. Once they started doing what we were trying to do, it was a lot easier day for us."

The game reminded Doeren of UW's 30-24 win over Illinois in 2006, Bielema's first year as head coach. The Badgers trailed at halftime against freshman quarterback Isiah "Juice" Williams, then got rolling on an interception by linebacker Mark Zalewski on the first drive of the second half.

This time, it was against Purdue freshman quarterback Sean Robinson with UW linebacker Culmer St. Jean intercepting the pass to start the second half, one of four takeaways by the defense that led to 24 points.

Robinson was picked off three times in the second half, two on deflections hauled in by linebacker Mike Taylor and cornerback Antonio Fenelus.

"We've tipped a ton of passes this year and none of them have bounced into our arms," Doeren said. "(Saturday) they did."

The Badgers held Purdue's spread to 130 yards and three points in the second half. While that could be a good omen for the next three games, Doeren stressed the next three versions of spreads are all different.

"It makes you feel good in the way they responded and the way the kids learned the scheme," Doeren said. "Each one of these three (remaining offenses) are totally different from the other. That's where people have a misconception, if you play one spread team, you play them all.

"Indiana's chucking it all over the field. Michigan, obviously, has two different quarterbacks doing two different things. ... This week's a totally different animal."

Doeren had the expected reaction of a defensive coach to Michigan's 67-65 triple-overtime win over Illinois in a game that featured 1,237 yards of total offense.

"I was dumbfounded. It's embarrassing for anybody to give up points like that. Those two coaches are good coaches," Doeren said of Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson and Illinois defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. "For our players, they know what's ahead of them. They've got some tough offenses coming up."

Indiana (0-5, 4-5) had a chance to upset Iowa on Saturday, but fell 18-13 when Damario Belcher dropped Ben Chappell's fourth-down pass in the end zone in the final seconds.

Chappell, a senior, leads the conference in passing yards, averaging 296.3 per game, nearly 45 more than anyone else.

"He's a very good quarterback," Doeren said. "He's a good decision-maker. He's an accurate thrower. He's a leader.

He's played a lot of ball so there's not a lot out there he hasn't seen. I know he's never beaten us so this is going to be a big game for him."

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