Leading up to last week’s season opener, the Wisconsin defense was tasked with adjusting to life without starting linebackers Zack Baun and Jack Cichy, both of whom are out for the season with foot and knee injuries respectively. Characteristically of the team, linebackers T.J. Edwards and Chris Orr stepped up in a major way, leading the team in tackles with seven each, Edwards had an interception, all while constantly disrupting Utah State’s offensive flow.
Additionally, the defensive line rose to the occasion to consistently put pressure on quarterback Kent Myers, who threw three interceptions on the night, and stifle any rushing attempts; the Aggies rushed for a total of 83 yards, their lead rusher only racking up 28.
However, even after a dominant performance Week 1, the Badgers yet again have shoes to fill. Defensive end and senior Chikwe Obasih is listed as out after injuring his knee during Wednesday’s practice. While the injury does not appear to be season ending, per Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Jeff Potrykus, UW has not released a timetable for Obasih’s return.
The defensive line is made up of mostly seniors, players who extremely experienced at their positions, so the loss of Obasih is yet another blow. But, if there’s been anything to learn about the attitude of this Badger team it’s that the “next man up” mentality runs deep.
Redshirt freshman defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk, who recorded his first career sack last week, will reportedly start in Obasih’s position. Loudermilk has impressed coaches throughout spring practices and summer camp, and his presence will ideally fill the void left by Obasih.
Saturday, the Badgers host the Florida Atlantic University Owls, coached by former offensive coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide, Lane Kiffin. FAU lost their season opener to Navy in a 42-19 blowout, in which the FAU offense rushed for just 40 total yards on 24 combined carries. The Badger run defense has been the hallmark of a dominant defensive squad, so expect the Owls to have similar struggles in the run game.
Since the ground game posed such a challenge versus Navy, FAU relied heavily on quarterback Daniel Parr, who threw for an impressive 281 yards on 19/30 passing. Focusing on containing a pass heavy offense will once again be the key to a solid Badger defensive performance. To do this, Edwards and Orr must continue their disruptive play, while Loudermilk will have to grow into his more highly involved role. If the defense can limit absent-minded mistakes, pressure the quarterback, and adjust to newly assigned roles, the Badgers should walk away with another handed victory.