Depleted Wisconsin looking for confidence-boosting win against struggling Rutgers

Jonathan Taylor and the Wisconsin offense will be looking to bounce back from a letdown performance against Northwestern, where Taylor gained just 46 yards.

Jonathan Taylor and the Wisconsin offense will be looking to bounce back from a letdown performance against Northwestern, where Taylor gained just 46 yards.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger and Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Editor's note: Rutgers linebacker Izaia Bullock was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder Tuesday. He was immediately removed from the program. For any information or questions on how this may affect Rutgers this weekend, we defer to the local reporting, which can be found here.

For the first time in more than four years, Camp Randall will play host to a matchup between two teams coming off of losses.

Saturday’s game will pit a Rutgers (0-5 Big Ten, 1-7 overall) team that has lost seven straight games against a Wisconsin (3-2, 5-3) squad that has dropped three of its last six games.

Wisconsin’s offense will have a chance to get back on track against a Rutgers defense that has not been anything to write home about. The Scarlet Knights come into the game surrendering over 400 yards per game, over half — 224 yards — on the ground. 

While the Badgers have struggled offensively, junior tackle David Edwards believes that the offense will be prepared because the Scarlet Knights feature an odd front, where defensive linemen line up directly across from the offensive line in a symmetrical formation, the same scheme Wisconsin’s defense employs.

“I think there’s a lot of carryover with schemes between our defense and their defense. I think whatever guy is out there, they have really good players and defensively they’re doing a really good job,” Edwards said. “The cool thing about it is we prepare against the odd front pretty much every day. I think that gives us a little bit of help and a lot of confidence, just because you know what to expect.” 

Any source of confidence will be important for the offense after a disappointing display last Saturday against Northwestern, which included three fumbles and just 46 yards for sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor.
The lone bright spot of the Badgers rushing attack came from sophomore running back Garret Groshek, who had 68 yards on seven carries.

“I just run hard, trust the guys up front, trust the guys downfield like the wide receivers, tight ends and everyone making blocks downfield and really those guys made it work last game,” Groshek said.

After gaining playing time at the end of last year, Groshek has seen more time on the field throughout this season due to his utility in the passing game.

“I spent a lot of time working on routes, pass protection and kind of everything that comes with the role of being the 3rd down back,” Groshek said. “That was something coach Settle told me to work on and I just took it and ran with it and I’m trying to do the best I can with it.”

The Badgers’ offensive line will also be missing a key member of the group, with sophomore Cole Van Lanen listed on Thursday as questionable to play with a left leg injury, which he sustained during the first half of the game at Northwestern. Van Lanen has been one of the best tackles in the FBS in the run game, according to PFF College.

Injuries will also be the story once again for the Wisconsin secondary, as senior safety D’Cota Dixon is questionable to play for the fourth consecutive week and freshman safety Scott Nelson is out for the third week in a row. Freshman cornerbacks Deron Harrell and Travian Blaylock are both questionable and out, respectively.

The injury-depleted secondary has had its ups and downs in recent weeks but has a chance to improve its numbers this week against Rutgers’ freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski, who has just thrown 15 interceptions and just three touchdowns this season.

For Wisconsin, junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook has cleared the concussion protocol after missing last week’s game against Northwestern and is expected to start.

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