Wisconsin's offensive line seeks to win battle in trenches, get revenge over Michigan
David Edwards looks to help Wisconsin's offensive line perform better against the Wolverines in the latest installment of the team's matchup.Image By: Brandon Moe
The No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers (7-0 Big Ten, 10-0 Overall) still have a bad taste in their mouth from the last time they faced No. 19 Michigan (5-2, 8-2).
When the undefeated Badgers travelled to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines in 2016, they struggled through a brutal 14-7 loss that put the season in perspective and forced Wisconsin to get back on track.
“They were a pretty sound, physical defense, and they kind of kicked our butt that day,” redshirt sophomore right tackle David Edwards said. “We kind of woke up and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got some things to work on.’”
Last year’s loss to Michigan was especially difficult for the Badgers’ offensive line, an inexperienced group that was and continues to be the backbone of their offense.
The talented Wolverines defense manhandled them at the line of scrimmage, and UW is determined to not let it happen again.
“We were kind of young as an offensive line, so I think we were kind of just intimidated going into it, and we really didn’t see a defensive front like that last year,” redshirt junior right guard Beau Benzschawel said. “They played with great technique, and for me, my pad level was really bad that game, so it’s going to be a different year this year.”
This time around, Wisconsin’s offensive line will be more ready for the challenge. Benzschawel and left tackle Michael Dieter took their lumps last season in Michigan and Edwards has been in place with them every game this season.
The question mark in this group is at the center position with redshirt freshman Tyler Biadasz questionable for the game with a left leg injury. Redshirt sophomore Jason Erdmann is next in line to fill his role and handle making the calls from the middle of the line if Biadasz doesn’t play.
“I think at the beginning of the year, you’ve kind of got to work through some stuff as far as game speed and stuff like that, but I think our preparation from week to week has gotten better,” Benzschawel said. “That’s what’s really set us up well, is knowing what pressures different teams are going to bring and seeing tells and communicating it down the line so everybody’s on the same page.”
Communication is that much more important against a defensive line as strong as the Wolverines’.
On the interior, defensive tackle Maurice Hurst is playing like a future first-round NFL draft pick, while defensive ends Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary terrorize offensive tackles on the edge.
The mistakes made by this Michigan group are few and far between, giving Wisconsin’s offensive line little margin for error.
“When you see teams consistently win one-on-ones, that’s the sign of a pretty good, athletic group that can run around,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said. “And they do all that within a really good scheme.”
The Wolverines’ defense blitzes opposing quarterbacks like crazy, and it puts a lot of pressure on offensive lines to avoid confusion and stay on the same page.
That was a big part of the Badgers’ issues in their matchup last season. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook was only sacked twice but he was under pressure early and often, throwing three interceptions in the process.
Keeping the pocket clean will be a big point of emphasis this time around.
“This is a great challenge. I’m sure they’re pumped for it,” Rudolph said. “Obviously, you didn’t perform the way you want to, and you get another opportunity at it, and you want to take a step.”
A win over a top-25 conference opponent would be another big step towards Wisconsin’s College Football Playoff hopes. This time around, the Badgers are hoping for the sweet taste of revenge instead of the bitter mouthful of maize they left with last time.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter