Young defensive line unrelenting despite losing Cooper, Ware

first_imgCHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Wisconsin’s defensive line was already thin heading into its match-up against North Carolina, but things took a turn for the worse for the Badgers. Already without Justin Ostrowski, and playing without Kurt Ware — who contracted chicken pox just prior to the UNC game — Wisconsin lost another key member of its young defensive line when defensive end Jamal Cooper went down in the second quarter Saturday night.Though it’s too early to determine the extent of Cooper’s injury, initial indications look bleak as the sophomore limped off the field after the game on crutches, following what head coach Barry Alvarez classified as an ACL injury. “[Defensive line coach John Palermo], didn’t have the luxury of rolling them today, because we didn’t have enough guys to role,” Alvarez said. Prior to his untime injury, Cooper was giving the Tar Heel offensive line fits, especially true freshman Garrett Reynolds. In less than two quarters of action, Cooper picked up a pair of tackles for losses, including a devastating sack on North Carolina quarterback Matt Baker that sent the senior flailing from the whiplash.”I thought Cooper was playing really well, he made a couple of nice plays early on,” defensive coordinator Bret Bielema said, his voice nearly gone from the game. “We were already a little thin at that position so we were going to Plan A, to Plan B, it kind of reminded me of the Purdue game (last season).”As it turned out, Plan B was quite fruitful for the Badgers. With Cooper and Ware both on the mend, Wisconsin turned to true freshman Matt Schaughnessy to pick up the pass rushing slack. And Schaughnessy didn’t disappoint.The true freshman, bouncing back and forth from both ends of the defensive line, was a disruptive force throughout the game, compiling 1.5 tackles for loss and a half a sack. It was also Schaughnessy who, along with sam linebacker LaMarr Watkins, knocked Baker out of the game following a sandwich hit on the quarterback. “Matt Schaughnessy just keeps really coming along and the things that he does, for a young kid, he’s really into it, he’s focused,” Bielema said. “I can’t say enough good things about him, he keeps getting better every day.””We always talk about everyone who goes in, keeping the same level. So I just tried to keep the same level,” Schaughnessy said of his goals after Cooper’s injury.After Cooper’s injury, Wisconsin was forced to employ a short rotation consisting mostly of Schaughnessy, Joe Monty, Nick Hayden and Jason Chapman, all of whom finished the game with at least half a sack, with Brandon Kelly and Mike Newkirk seeing some spot duty. Still, despite the hardship, Bielema believes his team is showing steady improvement to go along with its limitless potential.”Where they were at the Bowling Green game, coming off that field, to where they are right now, they’ve made gigantic steps, but it’s no where close to being as good as they can be,” Bielema said.Stocco and Williams getting in rhythm: As has been the norm for the first two games of the season, junior quarterback John Stocco and senior receiver Brandon Williams appear to be creating quite a rapport with each other.”I think just having played that much together, him and I, and really working hard this summer and throughout camp we’re starting to feel like we’re on the same page,” Stocco said. “I know where he’s going to be and I know he’s gong to make big plays for us so I just try to get him the ball.”Williams was the recipient of Stocco’s first three completions, including a pair of double-digit yardage completions on Wisconsin’s second drive of the game. Williams was also the only player, other than the multi-talented Brian Calhoun, to gain any yardage on the Badger’s third drive of the game, a 45-yard march that gave UW a 7-0 lead.”I think we’re coming along pretty well,” Williams said. “When we look at game plans, we focus on who can be open more and it just happened that I was getting a lot of single coverages early in the game, so early on he came to me a lot. But that’s just what you’ve got to do, take what the defense gives you.”Williams finished the game leading all Wisconsin receivers with five receptions for 62 yards. The senior also fielded three punts for another 30 yards.last_img

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