MADISON, Wis. - As promised, the Wisconsin football team underwent a lengthy scrimmage inside Camp Randall Stadium Saturday afternoon. Fortunately, and perhaps the most important piece of information for the day, is that the team remained healthy throughout.
Nick Toon (quad), Isaac Anderson (hip) and Kyle Jefferson along with John Moffitt, Gabe Carimi and Bill Nagy, were the only regular contributors to sit out during the over 100-play scrimmage.
"For the most part, everybody that started today's scrimmage finished it," UW head coach Bret Bielema said following practice. "There was good spirit and good energy. There are a couple of things we've got to clean up."
Brown showing something:
Yet again, Zach Brown ripped off some huge runs during practice. This time, with live tackling in play throughout, Brown burst through a hole off right tackle and sprinted 63 yards for the touchdown. In the process, he outran Chris Maragos and Jay Valai for the score.
"Zach has had as good a camp as he's had since he's been here," Bielema said after practice. "He really, to me, looks extremely quick. It will be interesting to pop on the film and see what the difference was there, but I thought he did a good job of putting the foot in the ground and getting north and south on a couple of occasions.
One particular drive stood out more than the rest for Brown. With Sherer under center, Brown touched the ball on each of the eight plays. He had approximate runs of 6, 13 and 18 yards and eventually capped the rugged drive with a three-yard fight to the goal line for his second touchdown of the day.
"I really liked that drive that he finished off from beginning to end in the middle of the scrimmage," Bielema said.
False start penalties:
With three experienced and projected starters from the offensive line injured, it could have been expected for Saturday's scrimmage to present some problems for the makeshift offensive line. And, of course, it did.
While the number wasn't overly high, there were a handful of false start penalties that really plagued certain drives that looked to be headed in a positive direction. Mickey Turner, Ricky Wagner, Zac Mathias and Travis Frederick were all guilty of jumping early.
Consequently, those four, along with Antonio Fenelus, who committed a pass interference penalty on third down in the red zone, were singled out at the end of practice for 100-yards of conditioning drills.
"One of the big things that we have to do is be smart before the snap," Bielema said. "We kind of had some conditioning at the end of practice to reinforce that."
After those five players finished their conditioning, the entire team, including the five that already went 100 yards, had to do the drill. The drill consisted of running five yards then dropping down to the belly, getting up and doing it again all the way down the field.
In addition to false start penalties, there were a few holding penalties called by the Big Ten officials in attendance that also damaged drives. But in total, the number of penalties, while always concerning, can be attributed to freshman linemen making mistakes.
"Three of them were freshman players," Bielema said. "On the flip side, there was only one penalty on the defensive side of the ball (pass interference on Fenelus) and I know he came out of a break. But the bottom line is, if they're called you've got to address them. I do think there are some guys up there that I know they're heads are spinning. They don't even know what plays they're doing on every play and they're just kind of guessing on every play.
"So, it's getting kind of frustrating from that standpoint, but I appreciate the work that they're doing."
Quarterback decision looming?
Following Friday's night practice, Bielema acknowledged he would name a starter no later than Wednesday of next week. He also mentioned that the performance of each player in Saturday's scrimmage would weigh in heavily because it was as close to a game atmosphere that the team has had all fall camp.
Dustin Sherer, Curt Phillips and Scott Tolzien have been locked in a three-way quarterback battle since fall camp began nearly two weeks ago. While Phillips and Tolzien seemed to have separated themselves during the past week, the overall assessment coming out of the scrimmage will need to wait until the coaching staff can watch the film later today.
"As coaches, we'll probably really reserve until we get a chance to watch that film today," Bielema said.
On the day, Phillips threw four interceptions. However, the first can be attributed more to the fact that Isaac Anderson cut off the route too early and watched the ball sail over his head into the arms of Devin Smith.
The second interception can be attributed to bad decision making on the part of Phillips. On third and eight, Phillips rushed the pass and wound up throwing it directly into the hands of Niles Brinkley to end the drive.
And the third was a desperation throw that wound up into the hands of Josh Peprah after Rob Korslin could not catch the sailing pass. His fourth pick came on a pass that was deflected and redirected from his intended target into the hands of Culmer St. Jean who returned it for a touchdown.
Phillips did score a touchdown when he capped a red zone drive with a 6-yard scamper after the pocket collapsed around him. Overall, though, the freshman played like a freshman. He finished the day with some great plays, but also logged some not-so-great ones.
Sherer, who had not received a bevy of reps throughout the week got plenty of chances Saturday to prove his worth. He led one scoring drive, but that can be mostly attributed to Zach Brown who ran the ball each of the eight plays before finishing the drive with a three-yard touchdown run.
Overall, he did not throw an interception but did not generate many scoring chances and was sacked a couple of times by Kevin Rouse and Mike Taylor.
Finally, Tolzien, who finds himself in the thick of the running for the starting spot, threw one interception on the day and did not lead a touchdown scoring drive.
After watching all three players perform during Saturday's scrimmage, Bielema believes he has a better understanding of in regards to the starting quarterback than he did when he woke up this morning.
"I think so," he said. "You're going to have an understanding. You've got to take a look at the bigger picture, we've been here for two weeks. But again, we weren't going to make a decision just based on today, but today factors in."
Ball bouncing UW's way:
With his parents in attendance, freshman Montee Ball had an impressive scrimmage Saturday afternoon. He routinely pounded the ball up the middle and never had a problem with ball security.
With the offense backed up deep inside its own territory, he also ripped off an 83-yard run up the middle on a defensive blitz to put his team in position to get points on a drive that looks doomed. If it weren't for Devin Smith, Ball would have taken it to the house, but the speedy Smith caught him inside the 15 yard line.
"Earlier in the week he kind of hit a little bit of a wall," Bielema said. "He really did well in the first week and now it's really kind of come back to him. I think Montee is, and you hate to refer to it, but he's a gamer type guy. He really gets the juices flowing and he relies on physical strength."
Defense looked good
for the most part:
On several occasions, the defensive line would overpower the offensive line unit and get into the face of the quarterback or drop the running back for a loss of yards. There were also a handful of interceptions, as previously mentioned, going in the favor of the defense. But, there were also some big plays given up, including the long Ball run.
Otherwise, facing a third and 18 situation, St. Jean was beat by Lance Kendricks on a seam route that went for 79 yards down to the one yard line. Valai was able to catch Kendricks at the last minute and bring him down just prior to the score.
"You know what, at times they (the defense) looked good," Bielema said. "We really talked about all winter long and all spring and all summer was
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