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Sunday, September 25, 2022
UW has plenty to prove against Austin Peay

James White: Head coach Bret Bielema said this week freshman James White will see an increased amount of touches Saturday against Austin Peay. White has averaged over five yards per carry this season.

UW has plenty to prove against Austin Peay

No team wants to get caught looking past a weaker opponent and turn in a poor performance. Whether or not that has happened to the Badgers early this season is up for debate, but one thing that is certain is No. 10 Wisconsin (3-0)  has plenty to clean up in its final non-conference matchup this Saturday against Austin Peay (2-1) at Camp Randall Stadium.

""The biggest thing is to just not fall asleep and have that constant improvement mentality,"" senior left tackle Gabe Carimi said. ""This group is pretty good at that.""

 The UW offense took a step forward last weekend against Arizona State by not turning the ball over, but continued its struggle to end drives with touchdowns instead of field goal attempts. So far this season, the Badgers have turned just 56 percent of their red zone chances into touchdowns (9-16). Last year, they converted at a 75 percent clip (42-56).

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A key to turning that trend around will be to continue running the football effectively on first and second down. This week, head coach Bret Bielema said freshman running back James White will see an increased number of carries, though he stopped short of anointing the youngster the clear number-two option over sophomore Montee Ball. Still, the big-play potential from White has coaches excited.

""James, in a short amount of time, has made more guys miss than we're used to seeing around here,"" offensive line coach Bob Bostad said. ""If he can go out there and consistently make guys miss, it's not [a dynamic] that we've had.""

As if a stable of running backs did not give UW enough incentive to pound the ball, Austin Peay's inability to contain opposing teams' rushing attacks has been obvious through three games. So far, the Governors have given up 219.0 rushing yards per game.

Though Austin Peay struggles to stop the run, they run the ball effectively. Junior running back Ryan White has amassed 290 rushing yards through three games and eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark a year ago.

Wisconsin struggled to contain Arizona State's rushing attack last week, but overall has been stout against the run. However, the loss of sophomore linebacker Chris Borland—who is out for the season due to a shoulder injury—is a big blow to the Badgers defense.

""Chris was a great guy in our rotation and now we're just going to have to add another guy to it to help [keep] up the production,"" said senior middle linebacker Culmer St. Jean, who leads the team in tackles with 17. ""As a team, as a collective group, we're going to be just fine.""

Borland is not the only impact player that will be missing in action this Saturday. Standout junior wide receiver Nick Toon, who has missed the last two games due to turf toe, has been ruled out by the coaching staff for this week but likely will be ready for Michigan State in two weeks. Senior wide receiver David Gilreath will also sit out this Saturday's game but is expected to be ready to play in time for the Badger's conference opener against the Spatans.

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