While it’s the Western Michigan offense that has been putting up big numbers, the team’s top-ranked defense has been quietly – yet powerfully – taking the Broncos through their undefeated season.
The Broncos defense, while not ranking as high as Wisconsin’s defense (led by seniors such as Vince Biegel and Sojourn Shelton), is still within the top 50 for both rushing and scoring defense. The Broncos are 14th in scoring defense and 47th in rushing defense.
Junior linebacker Robert Spillane from Oak Park, Ill. leads the team in tackles with 105 total tackles, 56 solo and nine tackles for a loss. He also boasts two sacks and two forced fumbles through the season. Along the line with Spillane is senior defensive end Keion Adams from Salisbury, NC. Adams has the team high tackles for a loss with 17 as well as three forced fumbles and 7.5 sacks.
A pounding defensive line by Western Michigan will pose an obvious challenge for Wisconsin’s run offense led by Corey Clement and the pairing of quarterbacks in Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston.
On the Broncos secondary is junior cornerback Darius Phillips from Detroit. Phillips has four interceptions, 39 tackles and two touchdowns on the season.
While Wisconsin’s offense has played well this season, it is the Badgers’ defense that brought Wisconsin to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship. If Wisconsin hopes to win the Cotton Bowl, Hornibrook, Houston and the rest of their offense will have to maintain ball security and find ways to get around the playmakers of Spillane, Adams and Phillips.
The Wisconsin defense, if they play the way they did all of the regular season, should have the advantage over Western Michigan despite the Broncos putting up big numbers both passing and rushing. If the Badgers’ defense plays as they did against Penn State, however, the Broncos will have the upper hand.
In a season plagued by injuries on virtually every position of the defense, the Badgers maintained a relentless defensive strike against all opponents. The linebacking corps, though consistently down starters, pressured quarterbacks and forced several fumbles. A secondary with team MVP Leo Musso and senior Sojourn Shelton performed like wide receivers with the amount of interceptions throughout the season. In fact, the defense’s 21 interceptions (tied for 3rd in the country) would rank as the fifth-most receptions on the Badgers.
Overall, the Wisconsin defense ranked 21st in red zone defense, 2nd in rushing and 4th in scoring—a stellar year for a team in the first year under new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.
As far as a defensive battle goes, Wisconsin holds the obvious advantage. But it is the strength of the Broncos offense that may be a challenge on Monday. Wisconsin’s offense showed consistency this season but with little flash. In a game of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, Chryst’s team should expect to put up the same high numbers on the offensive side if the Badgers hope to win in Arlington.