MADISON — The 70-yard run. The sideline grab. The touchdown. Nothing gets a stadium buzzing like the big play, and Wisconsin has had many during this surprisingly successful season.
Perhaps one of the most consistent big plays though, has been what has been dubbed ‘The Jazz Sweep.’ The play is essentially just a jet sweep with Jazz Peavy coming across the offensive backfield, starting in motion, and receiving the handoff.
What is really just a simple play has paid dividends for not just Peavy, but for the entire Wisconsin offense.
On the season, Peavy is averaging 15.5 yards a carry and scored his lone rushing touchdown on a 46 yard jet sweep against Northwestern. In the Ohio State game alone, Peavy totaled 70 yards and almost was able to sweep Wisconsin’s way to a victory.
“First thing that comes in my head is, get up field and get whatever you can,” Peavy said. “When you see a lot of green grass like that it’s just ‘run, run, run.’ That’s all that goes through your mind. I don’t know it happened so fast, you can’t really think about it, you’re just playing the game.”
Peavy has also done more than just run sweeps. He is the leading receiver for the Badgers and has 944 all purpose yards and six total scores.
In the seven games since implementing the jet sweep, Wisconsin has averaged 230 rush yards per game. Compare that to the five games prior, when Wisconsin was averaging about 160 rush yards a game.
The jump in rush yards a game looks even better when you look at who Wisconsin was playing in those games as well.
“It just brings momentum,” senior receiver Rob Wheelwright said. “And that helps a lot. When you can get a big run, when you get a 70 yard run, it motivates everyone, like, ‘ok we need to score now’ and that’s really big.”
Forcing the ‘ok we need to score now’ mentality is something that has really helped Wisconsin’s red zone efficiency.
Scoring in the red zone was a problem that plagued the Badgers earlier in the season, but as the season wore on, and the jet sweep was implemented, the efficiency has gone up.
“I think that’s why we use those end arounds and those quick bubbles or short passes,” Wheelwright continued. “They can be looked at like a run play. You’re guaranteed like six yards on a bubble. And those end arounds, they can go from eight to 80 real fast. That helps our whole offense as a whole.”
Wheelwright has also seen his fair share of big plays such as a big third down catch in overtime against Ohio State. He has averaged a quality 13.2 yards per catch.
“It just feels good to keep the chains moving and being able to create a closer range to the touchdown is tremendous. Just being able to be accountable.”
Football is a game all about momentum. And nowhere is that more evident than last weeks game against Minnesota. The first half was all Minnesota, but big plays turned the game back in Wisconsin’s favor.
A 71-yard jet sweep from Peavy was one of those plays.
“[It’s] most of the time a huge play,” starting tight end Troy Fumagalli said. “It sparks us. In the Minnesota game it was a huge play, we needed it.”
Not only does a big play like a successful jet sweep swing momentum, but it makes the players around you better as well.
“You know, especially running the jet and you have success at it, they’ll have to respect it and that opens up lanes inside for Corey [Clement] and Dare [Ogunbowale] and Bradrick [Shaw],” freshman receiver Quintez Cephus said. “When you get those opportunities you definitely want to make the most of it cause that keeps the defense honest.”
And keeping the defense honest will be crucial in a successful game for the Wisconsin offense as they take on Penn State. The Big Ten Championship will be buzzing, the atmosphere will be electric and teams will want that electricity and buzz behind them, not against them.
For that to happen, you’re going to need the big play.