Wisconsin executes game plan to near perfection in defeat of Western Michigan

Quintez Cephus had several impressive runs on jet sweeps to help the Badgers win the Cotton Bowl. 

Image By: Jessi Schoville

The No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers beat the No. 15 Western Michigan Broncos in the Cotton Bowl by playing their style of football: a slow, efficient offense complimenting a punishing and consistent defense.

Paul Chryst’s team is not one that will have a lot of opportunities to blow opponents out, but they grind and wear down all challengers for four quarters, pulling ahead and staying ahead as they did in their 24-16 victory Saturday in Dallas.

It started as it has all season, with senior running back Corey Clement and the rushing attack. The Badgers don’t run a bunch of different ground schemes, but they stick to their four or five main runs and execute them to near perfection.

Once again, Clement wasn’t breaking off huge runs or eating up big chunks of yardage, but it was the two, three, four and five-yard handoffs that slowly added up, killing the clock and maintaining the momentum on Wisconsin’s side for the majority of the game.

The downhill, power-running game was complemented by the newest wrinkle to the identity of Wisconsin football under Chryst, the horizontal attack of the jet sweep. While Clement did the dirty work, wide receivers Jazz Peavy and Quintez Cephus enjoyed the spoils of the misdirection game off of Clement’s work up the middle, picking up big gains with tons of open field on quick handoffs.

Then when the Badgers’ offense needed it most, redshirt senior quarterback Bart Houston came through with the passing attack. All 12 of his passing attempts hit Wisconsin receivers in the hands. Eleven of them were caught, and one was dropped by redshirt junior Troy Fumagalli, the only blemish on another strong performance by the nine-fingered tight end.

Fumagalli’s first catch was a screen pass that went for a loss, but his other five grabs all picked up first downs or touchdowns and brought his production up to 83 yards as Western Michigan had no one who was capable of keeping him covered.

Defensively, the game plan was obvious for Wisconsin, and they executed it well. All they had to do was get pressure on redshirt senior quarterback Zach Terrell and keep tabs on future NFL wide receiver Corey Davis.

The Badgers did a good job getting after Terrell and keeping him on the move, even if they only brought him down for two sacks. They batted away a few of his passes and forced him to throw the ball away a handful of other times, and it really kept the experienced passer from getting into a rhythm for more than a drive or two.

Part of the key to that was slowing down Davis, who wasn’t really able to get going until the second half. Wisconsin’s defense kept a lot of blanket coverage on him to keep him from getting space in the first two quarters, but the Broncos adjusted and moved their receiver around to get better matchups.

He still finished with six catches for 73 yards and a touchdown, but that was a relatively quiet performance for the senior, who was averaging over 110 receiving yards per game heading into the matchup.

The rest of Western Michigan’s offense was unable to keep up and find consistency against Wisconsin’s stout defense, and combined with the Badgers’ offensive philosophy, UW really seemed to be in control for most of the game.

Wisconsin’s performance reflected the consistency of the program under Chryst. It almost doesn’t seem to matter which players are out there. Whoever is on the field is put into position to be successful, and they execute regardless of their opponent.

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