Madison, WI (SportsNetwork.com) - Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats hope to bounce
back from a heartbreaking loss as 19th-ranked Northwestern takes on the
Wisconsin Badgers in a Big Ten Conference matchup at Camp Randall Stadium.
Northwestern held a 10-point lead over the Ohio State Buckeyes last week as
their game at Ryan Field reached the mid-point of the third quarter. The
Buckeyes charged back and outscored the Wildcats, 27-7, the rest of the way to
claim a 40-30 win. The loss was the first of the season for Northwestern and
dropped it to 0-1 in the conference standings. Fitzgerald is 1-0 on the road
in 2013 thanks to the Wildcats' 44-30 victory over the Golden Bears at
California in their season opener.
This will be the first time Wisconsin faces Northwestern under Gary Andersen,
who has compiled a 3-2 record through the first five games of his head
coaching tenure at the school. Wisconsin fell to 1-1 in league play as it
lost, 31-24, at Ohio State on Sept. 28. The Badgers were off this past
Saturday and will look to continue their five-game regular-season winning
streak following a bye week.
Andersen will look to continue the Badgers' tradition of success against their
Big Ten rivals from Evanston. Wisconsin holds a 56-33-5 all-time series lead
over the Northwestern. The Wildcats are going to be out to avenge the 70-23
loss they suffered to the Badgers on Nov. 27, 2010, which was the most recent
"We love playing on the road," said Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter. "We
love having that mentality, us against the world. So, we're excited. We need
to get on a roll here in Big Ten play, so looking forward to it."
The Wildcats successfully employ a two-quarterback system with pocket passer
Trevor Siemian and the versatile Colter sharing the snaps on a regular basis.
Siemian completed 13-of-18 pass attempts for 245 yards and two touchdowns
against OSU, but also threw a costly interception in the fourth quarter.
Colter connected on all 12 of his attempts for 98 yards and added receiving
and rushing touchdowns. He also made a vital error, fumbling a snap on a
crucial 4th-and-1 on the offense's final possession. Despite the return of
star tailback Venric Mark, who missed the previous three games due to injury,
Northwestern was limited to 94 rushing yards on 43 carries.
Mark should provide a boost to the offense that has averaged 474 yards of
total offense and 39 points per game despite being without his services for
the majority of the campaign. The senior tailback was one of the Big Ten's
elite players in 2012 with 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns on 226 carries. He
rushed 17 times for 61 yards against OSU. Mark also reeled in four catches for
43 yards. The star of the loss to the Buckeyes was Rashad Lawrence, who had a
breakout game with eight catches for 149 yards. The senior wideout had never
reached the 100-yard receiving mark before in his career and had only three
catches for 36 yards on the season coming into week six. Northwestern's usual
go-to-guy in the passing game, Tony Jones, finished with only three catches
for 23 yards.
The Wildcats' defense allowed 451 total yards to a very powerful OSU offense.
Although the Buckeyes posted 40 points, two of their touchdown drives started
with very favorable field position and another touchdown came on a blocked
punt return. Northwestern has not been a dominant defensive squad on a
consistent basis, however its opponents are averaging just 27 points per game.
It had been very strong against the run, allowing only 118 rushing yards per
game through four games. However, the Buckeyes gained 248 yards via their
ground attack in week six. Northwestern's secondary is filled with playmakers,
which has led to 11 interceptions with four returns for touchdowns. Junior
Ibraheim Campbell has been out to prove he is an all-conference caliber safety
with a team-high three interceptions already.
Northwestern needs to tighten up its rushing defense this week if it hopes to
survive. As a team, Wisconsin is leading the nation with 7.4 yards per carry
on 202 attempts. Melvin Gordon led all FBS players by averaging 10 yards per
rush in 2012. The sophomore halfback has done a marvelous job of replacing
Montee Ball as he ranks eighth nationally and first in the Big Ten at 139.6
rushing yards per game. Gordon's numbers are impressive considering he is part
of a three-back committee. Senior James White has carried the ball a team-high
69 times for 473 yards and the team has received 334 yards courtesy of
promising freshman Corey Clement's 44 rushes.
Wisconsin is not a one-dimensional offense by any means. In fact, it is one of
just four teams to have amassed 1,500 rushing yards and 1,000 passing yards
this season. Junior quarterback Joel Stave is fourth in the conference with
211.2 passing yards per game.
Although Stave threw his fourth interception of the season at OSU, he went 20-
of-34 for 295 yards and a pair of touchdowns against a talented defense on the
road. Jared Abbrederis is the 12th most productive wide receiver in the FBS
with 114.4 yards per outing. The senior is also second among Big Ten players
with 6.6 catches per game.
The Badgers rank in the top 10 nationally in total defense (272.6 ypg) and
scoring defense (14.6 ppg) due to their back-to-back shutouts of Massachusetts
and Tennessee Tech. They also overmatched Purdue and limited the Boilermakers
to only 180 total yards in their Big 10 opener. Wisconsin's defensive unit
showed it is not invincible against the Sun Devils and Buckeyes.
"We can't give up the big play on defense," said Andersen. "We're young on the
back end, but youth is not an excuse. It does not matter. We've got to get
better. We can't let people get behind us. We've got to get better on third
downs on defense overall."
ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly passed for 352 yards versus the Badgers, which
could be a good sign for Siemian. He will need to be weary of Sojour Shelton,
the first true freshman to start at cornerback for the Badgers since 1989.
Shelton has lived up to the hype, recording two of Wisconsin's four
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