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Sunday, September 25, 2022
Ball security issues not a big concern for Bielema

David Gilreath: David Gilreath is taken off the field on a stretcher in the third quarter after being knocked unconcious while fielding a punt return.

Ball security issues not a big concern for Bielema

After last week's 41-21 victory over UNLV, the overriding message from members of Wisconsin's offense centered around not turning the ball over and converting in the red zone.

On Saturday against San Jose State, the on-field results took another step backwards.

The Badgers fumbled three times (one lost) in the red zone, including two by senior quarterback Scott Tolzien. Both resulted from exchange problems, including a second quarter mistake on fourth and one from San Jose State's four yard line.

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UW head coach Bret Bielema said that the first of Tolzien's fumbles had to do with the exchange between the quarterback and sophomore center Peter Konz. On the second one, redshirt freshman Ryan Groy, an offensive lineman who has played fullback at times in each of Wisconsin's first two games, lined up too close to Tolzien and hit the ball with his thigh as Tolzien came out from under center.

Still, Bielema said he was not overly concerned with the ball security issues.

""If there was one guy that kept repeating it and it was the same situation [I would be concerned],"" he said. ""But they are very specific that you can point at and say ‘That's what caused it.'""

The Badgers also squandered an opportunity to score early in the game when freshman running back James White, looking for his first career touchdown, extended the ball to the goal line, only to fumble it out of the end zone, resulting in a touchback for San Jose State.

""James White wants that touchdown as bad as anyone,"" Bielema said, ""But here at Wisconsin we run the ball in the endzone we don't reach it in. ""

""He made a mistake and hopefully from watching tape, he'll learn from it,"" added junior running back John Clay. ""Instead of stretching out maybe he would be one yard short and then he'll get another chance to get it.""

While the Badger offense had problems finding the end zone, one bright spot from the day had to be the performance of junior kicker Philip Welch. The Fort Collins, Col. native consistently hit kickoffs into the endzone and converted on field goal attempts of 38 and 45 yards. He had plenty of leg on each, especially the 45-yarder, which looked like it would have been good from considerably farther.

""Before the game I usually come over [ask Welch] ‘how far?' in both directions,"" said Bielema. ""He said ‘60 [yards], both ways.' And he was serious as a heart attack.""

Welch has now converted on 13 of his last 14 field goal attempts, dating back to last season. He currently holds the second highest career field goal percentage in school history at 78.8 percent (41-52), and has been stellar on kickoffs, a big reason why UW has held UNLV and San Jose State to a combined 20.1 yards per return.

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