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April 23, 2011

Defense stifles offense in finale

MADISON - As the final seconds ticked off the Camp Randall Stadium scoreboards, and as approximately 10,000 of the football team's most dedicated fans emptied the stands, the only bit of soothing information that resounded from a rather stale spring game was that the calendar still reads April and there's plenty of time to work out the kinks.

It was one of those days.

Unfortunately it came at the expense of a beautiful Saturday afternoon that didn't feature any offensive scoring from anybody other than a 44-yard field goal from Kyle French, a walk-on third-string kicker, with more than eight minutes to play in the second quarter.

White (defense), who was provided seven points to start each half, wound up beating the Cardinal squad 29-27.

Jon Budmayr, UW's No. 1 quarterback, finished 10-of-23 for 113 yards with an interception. He guided a starting offensive unit that never really threatened to score a touchdown. The closest it got to the end zone was when it reached the defense's 21-yard line before Philip Welch missed from 38 yards out.

"I saw what you saw," UW head coach Bret Bielema said in regards to Budmayr's play. "I think what really affects the quarterback, and what we've had the convenience of over the last two seasons, is receivers. No matter how good they are and no matter how talented they are, if they are in the same spots at the same time with the rhythm, throw and route, I think that's really going to help Jon out."

Without Nick Toon for the entirety of spring, Budmayr's most veteran receiver was Jared Abbrederis, a walk-on sophomore who played sparingly as the team's No. 4 receiver a season ago. Abbrederis did finish with two catches for 40 yards during the scrimmage, but it was for an offensive unit that struggled to gain any sort of consistency from the start.

Manasseh Garner, a sophomore wide receiver, tight end combo, finished the game as the No. 1 offense's most productive pass catcher with four receptions for 57 yards.

"I think it's going to help Jon out the more that they can work together in the summer," Bielema said. "(Especially) with the guys that are going to be out there. I don't want us to be careless with the football. That's my one concern. We can't win if we're not being careful with the football."

Collectively, UW's offense committed four turnovers throughout Saturday's event, including a Budmayr interception to Devin Smith that immediately followed a Joe Brennan pick to linebacker A.J. Fenton. Budmayr also lost a fumble when Marcus Trotter bolted in and knocked the ball out of his outstretched arm as he was getting ready to let go of a pass.

Later, reserve linebacker Ben Roechel picked off senior quarterback Nate Tice's pass for the defenses third collective interception.

"Part of the problem with our offense today was that our defense played pretty good," Bielema said. "Ever since the first day of spring practice I thought our defense has continued to get better. As a coaching staff I think we've got four guys that really love to teach the game and fundamentals. That's been very evident to me as a coach."

Peniel Jean, a freshman cornerback led the way for the UW defense with nine tackles. A stable of guys - including David Gilbert, Conor O'Neill, Michael Trotter and Brendan Kelly - finished with six tackles each behind him.

Marcus Trotter, a walk-on that has filled in for an injured Chris Borland with an improving No. 1 defense all spring, finished with five tackles.

"We were giving up 100-plus rushing yards each scrimmage (early in camp)," Trotter said. "Coach was telling us that we need to get better at this, specifically with the ones. We came out today and we had a fire within us. We were ready to prove to everyone that this is not just a one-dimensional team. This is not just an offensive team. We have a defense and we're going to show the Big Ten and the whole nation that we can play ball."

Montee Ball and James White, two backs that combined for more than 2,000 yards a season ago, were held to 90 yards on 16 combined carries. White's rush of 22 yards was the longest of any UW back throughout the entire scrimmage.

"I remember last spring we had a terrible spring game," Ball, who finished with 33 yards rushing, said. "Today, we were a little sloppy in a couple aspects of the game. I'm sure every team in the country is at this time. That's what the summer is for. We're going to make sure we capitalize on the summer and get better."

As far as quarterback play is concerned, especially with the confirmation that Curt Phillips will remain sidelined through the 2011 season with another severe knee injury, Budmayr and company understand their combined 22-of-61 effort needs to improve.

"In house we know that we're not satisfied at all with where we're at," Budmayr said. "We've got to continue to get better. That starts with myself. I've got to get better, know situations and improve on my whole play overall. Hopefully I can take advantage of this summer heading into the fall."

POST GAME AUDIO:
Bielema, post game
Brennan (1), post game
Brennan (2), post game
Welch, post game
Marcus Trotter, post game
Fenton, post game
Garner, post game
Russo, post game
Ball, post game
Budmayr, post game
Stave, post game


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