September 6, 2008

Five things to watch against Marshall

MADISON, Wis. - Even with their season opening win against Akron last weekend, the UW football team has some improvements that need to be made. The Badger's left points on the field by committing costly turnovers and penalties. The secondary also benefited from overthrown passes from the Zips quarterback and wide receiver drops. Against Marshall, it will be critical to clean those areas up if the cardinal and white are to go 2-0.

The following are five things to look for during Saturday's game at Camp Randall:

1. Dodging bullets in the secondary

Last Saturday, multiple receivers slipped behind the Badger defensive backs. Luckily for UW, most of those passes were dropped by wide-open receivers or were slightly overthrown. At least one would have been for a touchdown, but the Zips running back overthrew his target in the end zone on a trick play.

"There was some major bullets dodged," sophomore strong safety Jay Valai said. "You learn from that, you live and you learn and we're good to go…As a DB you have to have a quick memory to next play next play because if you get stuck on that you'll get broke off again."

Keep an eye on Marshall wide receiver Darius Passmore, who reportedly ran a sub 4.3 40-yard dash in high school. With speed like that, the UW secondary will have to play sound defense or he could potentially turn Akron's missed opportunities into Marshall's big gains.

2. The Thundering Herd has a good tight end too

Whether Travis Beckum plays or not, there will be solid talent at tight end on the Camp Randall field turf Saturday afternoon. Marshall's Cody Slate, 6-foot-4, 220-pounds, returns to the Thundering Herd's offensive game plan after leading the team in receiving a season ago.

Look for the first team All-Conference USA tight end from last year, to provide the Badger linebackers with their first true test in pass coverage. The potential return of linebacker, and UW leading tackler, Jonathan Casillas could be key in slowing down Slate. However, if he is not healthy, look for Marshall to utilize their tight end much the same way the Badger's use Beckum.

3. Repeat performance?

Obviously tallying up 400 plus yards on the ground is not something that can be expected. But much like last week the Badgers will once again hold a dramatic size advantage over Marshall's front four. If the Thundering Herd has any hopes of slowing down the Badger backfield, they will need significant push from their defensive tackles. James Burkes and Delvin Johnson both come in as clogs, each weighing in over 300 pounds.

At the end position, Marshall possesses Albert McClellan, a former conference freshman player of the year in 2006 before suffering an injury in 2007, who will keep Badger tackles busy all day.

"The one part that it looks like his pass rush is at full speed," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "He definitely will be the best pass rusher we've faced to this point."

4. Allan Evridge

While P.J. Hill was busy running to the tune of 200 plus yards on 63 carries against Akron, Evridge's primary concern was getting the ball to him. Evridge was somewhat productive in his first game as UW's signal caller though completing his first five attempts. However, a terrible interception inside the opponents 10 yard-line made some question his decision-making ability.

Other than one ill-advised pass, Evridge proved he can manage the game. He even threw a beautiful pass to sophomore David Gilreath that would have been a touchdown had Gilreath held onto the ball. Look for Evridge to get more than 10 passing attempts this week as Marshall's defense is a step up from Akron's and may have more success in slowing the run game.

5. Red-Zone efficiency

Simply put, the Badgers left legitimate scoring chances on the field last week, particularly in the second quarter. Two turnovers, Evridge's interception and Hill's fumble, thwarted two chances for touchdowns. Also, Gilreath's dropped ball in the end zone limited the Badger's to a field goal.

Against teams that are weaker in most phases of the game, UW can get away with that poor execution. But as the schedule gets increasingly tougher, starting with Marshall, the Badger's must shore up those shortcomings.

"It drove you nuts," offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said. "You talk about one, both turnovers are on first down, I don't care, we had enough time…I'm not saying P.J. tried to fumble, he (Evridge) didn't try to throw the interception, but you know, they did. And that drives you nuts."

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