September 19, 2008

Levy, Casillas feed off each other

MADISON, Wis. - It turns out, all senior linebacker DeAndre Levy needed was for teammate and good friend Jonathan Casillas to return to the Badger lineup. Once he did, he had arguably the best game of his career.

Coming into the UW football program as members of the same recruiting class, the two outside linebackers have played together for many years. However, it's been since January 1 against Tennessee in the Outback Bowl that the two have taken the field together.

"Levy, I think he did a great job of leading the team," Casillas said. "Basically, when I came back, he had the performance of his career last week. I'm probably his No. 1 fan. He probably doesn't know that, but I am."

In his first game of the season against Fresno State, Casillas recorded seven tackles-4 solo-in somewhat limited reps while the coaching staff kept the New Jersey native out of nickel packages in order to slowly work him back to game speed.

" It feels good to finally have him out there," Levy said following practice Wednesday night. "He missed most of the spring (and) most of camp. It was just fun having him out there again and seeing some of the things he can do."

But it was Levy who had the better night and last laugh. The former Milwaukee Vincent stand out had 9 tackles, an interception and four tackles-for-loss, good enough to garner him Big Ten defensive player of the week and Bronco Nagurski national player of the week honors.

"It was a little surprising," Levy, in regards to the accolades, said. "I was honored (and) it feels good. I was a little surprised because they look at numbers, they don't look at some of the plays on film that weren't as good, but I'll take it either way."

Levy could have just as easily had two interceptions against the Bulldog's but he was unable to haul in Tom Brandstater's pass. Following the controversial overturned play that WAC officials have ruled a mistake, Levy jumped an out route on the next play. Had he caught the ball, he likely would have scored a touchdown with his head of steam and momentum blaring the opposite direction.

"That's one of those plays that I was talking about," Levy said. "(I) just got to work on that, get used to catching the ball. It's been a while.

"It kind of caught me off guard. As soon as I jammed him and broke and turned, like, it was right there. I kind of reached and squeezed it like…it just caught me off guard."

Because the Badgers were able to hold on for the victory, neither the overturned call nor Levy's dropped interception had a major impact on the game as far as the final score. UW did give up over 350 yards on defense, 150 of them came on just three plays that could prove fatal in upcoming weeks.

Still, the maturity and resiliency that such experienced players as Levy and Casillas bring to the cardinal and white's defense, especially on the road, is apparent. It was Casillas that ran down the Bulldog ball carrier from behind, which in turn held them to a field goal when all indications pointed to them taking the lead. Plays like those can be built upon going to Michigan next weekend.

"It challenges in a lot of ways, being on the road, facing a tough opponent, a physical opponent and a little adversity," Levy said. "Things weren't going our way all the time, but we just managed to respond and I think that just built character for us for the Big Ten season."

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