Wisconsin will host Akron in the first home game of the season on Saturday.
Akron, from the Mid-American Conference, won its first game against Virginia Military Institute last Saturday 47-24. Akron’s starting quarterback junior Tommy Woodson threw for 407 yards and six touchdowns, and junior wide receiver Jerome Lane caught 10 receptions for 196 yards and two touchdowns.
In short, Akron’s offense is explosive.
“They’re a great offense; they’ve got a great pass game that complements their run game really well,” safety Leo Musso said Wednesday after practice. “They’ve got a great running back, great quarterback and great receivers on the outside. It’s going to be a test for our defense and we’re looking forward to it.”
Cornerback Sojourn Shelton expressed similar sentiments, saying that the Wisconsin defense will have to prepare for an all-around good offense.
“They are a team that throws the ball around, gets the ball in their playmakers’ hands and a team that can just put up a lot of points if you don’t come with it,” Shelton said. “I think it’s important as a defense to make sure we start off pretty fast, kind of get a beat to what these guys are going to do against us. They’re a good team, and they’re not a team to be taken lightly.”
Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst spoke highly of Akron’s offense on Thursday afternoon in talking about the defense’s preparation against Akron.
“Any good offense is hard to spread,” Chryst explained. “I think that the spread isolates people a bit more. When they have got balance, it’s not just one ball carrier. The running back is really good. The quarterback can hurt you with his legs and also does a good job throwing. Now you can truly threaten the whole field, therefore you have to defend the whole field.”
The Badgers will be without starting inside linebacker Chris Orr for the rest of the season, while inside linebacker T.J. Edwards (foot) is questionable to play Saturday.
Musso and Shelton said Orr will definitely be missed on the field.
“He [Orr] is just one of those players that is the heartbeat of this defense,” Shelton said.
“Chris Orr may only be a sophomore, but he’s a leader on our defense,” Musso said. “Obviously it sucks that he got injured with what he did, but he’s a guy that’s still around helping the next man in. Ryan Connelly came in and did a great job for us, stepped right in, didn’t skip a beat. Chris is still around practice, trying to help the younger guys and almost be a coach in a sense. He’s still a leader of our defense and guys look up to him.”
Connelly went in for Orr last weekend and is expected to start this Saturday against Akron.
“I just had to go in and do what we’ve been preparing for,” Connelly said of his unexpectedly large role in last Saturday’s game.
The mentality of the Wisconsin defense, according to Shelton, is simply “next man up.”
Fifth year senior Bart Houston will make his second career start on Saturday, coming off a big win in Lambeau last week. While he made some very visible mistakes in Saturday’s game, both Houston and Chryst remain optimistic in Houston’s ability to manage the offense and move the ball. The Badgers are also coming off a boost in the rankings, being moved to #10 in the Associated Press rankings after their big upset in Green Bay.
Going into this Saturday’s game, Houston will focus more on situational analysis and ball security while also trying to put up more points than he was able to last week.
“Touchdowns are what we want, but we have to put points on the board,” Houston said Monday afternoon.
This Saturday’s game will also be the first game of the season at Camp Randall. The Badgers are excited to bring football back into the Camp this weekend, hopefully with a win against LSU.
“Camp Randall has a certain aura especially when ‘Jump Around’ begins,” Houston said.
“We got a preview how it’s going to be rocking here last week,” Shelton said. “I’m expected to see a ton of red this week, and I’m expecting the fans to be loud and I know they will be. Playing here is special. I’m just excited to just be back home truly, playing in front of these great fans and for this great state.”
Chryst said he hopes to build on the things that the team excelled at last week and improve what they struggled with. The defense played strong last weekend against a top-ranked LSU offense and are expected to play well this week against Akron. Though adjustments were made in the linebacking corps, the group is solid and should be able to stop Akron’s offense and hold them to few points.
Wisconsin’s offense will rely heavily on Corey Clement, Dare Ogunbowale, and Taiwan Deal in Saturday’s game, though Houston will certainly gets his chances to continue to grow.
Overall, if the team can work as one cohesive unit, they will have no problems beating Akron on Saturday, especially with how well the defense performed against LSU.
The Wisconsin Badgers take on the Akron Zips at 2:30 p.m. this Saturday at Camp Randall.