Offensive line key to turnaround in Wisconsin's 59-10 victory over Utah State

Running backs Bradrick Shaw and Jonathan Taylor will look to pound the rock against Inidana this weekend.

Image By: Brandon Moe

Wisconsin offensive lines are held to a different standard given the history of the position in the program. And that standard wasn’t being met in the first half of the Badgers’ 59-10 win over Utah State.

After the first quarter, the Aggies (0-1) had a 10-0 lead over No. 9 Wisconsin (1-0), and the Badgers’ offense remained scoreless with only 1:21 remaining in the first half.

The issues for Alex Hornibrook and company started up front.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback was sacked twice on UW’s opening drive of the game to force the punt, and the next time Wisconsin got the ball, it gave it right back, Hornibrook and redshirt freshman center Tyler Biadasz fumbling the snap under center, setting up the 10-point start for Utah State.

“Everybody just had to do their part for the eleven guys out there,” redshirt junior right guard Beau Benzschawel said. “If one person messes up, it’s the difference between a touchdown and a loss of five [yards], and once guys started figuring that out is when we really started hitting our stride.”

It wasn’t until mid-second quarter when the Wisconsin offensive line started hitting its stride.

Their patience and commitment paid off when the Badgers took over at their own 21-yard line to start a 15-play, 79-yard touchdown-scoring drive that took eight and a half minutes off of the clock.

Head coach Paul Chryst remained dedicated to the running game even when it wasn’t yielding big returns, but gains of two, three and four yards slowly started adding up, and once Hornibrook started getting a little more time to throw, he got into rhythm, and WIsconsin's offense had new life.

“We were kind of beating ourselves in the beginning,” redshirt sophomore left guard Jon Dietzen said. “After we went through that first drive, got down there and got into the endzone, we kind of realized that ‘hey, we can do this.’”

UW’s offensive line problems weren’t all self-inflicted. Utah State deserves some credit for dialing up the pressure early on by throwing some creative stunts and blitz combinations that made things difficult for UW’s younger blockers.

Biadasz, center, and Michael Deiter, left tackle, were playing  their first career games in those positions. And the Badgers rotated Dietzen and redshirt junior Micah Kapoi on left gaurd.

All of those moving parts coming together for the first time also revealed the gaps in the Badgers' lineup, so when the Aggies started bringing pass rushers from all angles, Wisconsin’s offensive line needed to take some time to adjust.

“It wasn’t like we had guys getting beaten one-on-one or anything,” Hornibrook said. “It was just some pressures that we weren’t expecting and some things that we weren’t getting to, but I always trust those guys. They do a great job up front.”

The key to overcoming a slow start for an offensive line is communication. When Utah State challenged the five blockers to act as one fluid unit, exchanging pass-rushers left and right, the Badgers needed to be on the same page.

It took leadership from the new kid to bring the group together.

“They threw a lot of stuff at us that we kind of had to take a little bit to get over, but Tyler [Biadasz] did a great job. He was calm, collected the whole time,” Dietzen said. “One of the biggest things is communicating on the sideline afterwards, and Tyler did a great job doing that.”

Biadasz got the left and right sides of the line operating on the same page, and by the second half, Wisconsin’s offensive line were blocking like the well-oiled machine that this team has come to expect, paving the way for their blowout victory.

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