Hayden resilient in win

Nick Hayden (UW Athletics)

Sophomore defensive tackle perseveres through pain to make big plays

MADISON — With the University of Wisconsin's defensive line already depleted due to a number of injuries, the Badger defense had another nervous moment in Saturday's game. Following a play late in the third quarter defensive tackle Nick Hayden jogged off the field favoring his left arm.

With defensive linemen Jamal Cooper and Justin Ostrowski both sidelined, as well as a variety of other Badgers, including fullback Matt Bernstein and tight end Owen Daniels, the Badger sideline had become an infirmary, but Hayden was not about to check himself in.

As the trainers looked at Hayden's arm, the Hoosiers punted the ball away and it looked like the tackle would have time to shake off the injury. But as the staff worked a brace onto the sophomore's big arm, quarterback John Stocco threw an interception on the first play of UW's drive and the defense once again took the field.

That defense included the resilient Hayden, who was determined not to miss another play. And he did not waste any time letting the Hoosiers know he was back and ready for more.

"Injuries happen, bruises happen," said Hayden, who finished with six tackles. "You just have to keep going and play through it."

On the second play of the ensuing drive, Indiana running back Yamar Washington took the handoff and tried to find a hole. But blocking his way was Hayden, who knocked the ball loose. UW defensive back Roderick Rogers recovered.

"Nick's a guy that really tries to do things right every time," defensive coordinator Bret Bielema said. "He's focused, he does everything you ask him to do, he plays hard. The first series he comes off, he looks like he's about ready to die. But he really strains, competes, and is a good leader for us during practice.

"Any time you get a big body like that in the middle that can mix it up, you get some good success."

Hayden was not done there. On the very next Hoosier drive, he came up big again.

When defensive end Joe Monty found his way into the Indiana backfield and sacked Blake Powers for an eight-yard loss, he also caused the Hoosier quarterback to cough up the ball. This time it was Hayden on the recovery side of the turnover, falling on the loose ball.

"I just stepped up and made big plays right there," Hayden said. "I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time."

"We thought we were going to have an opportunity to get some strips this week, and we really emphasized it all week, and fortunately it came out today," Bielema said.

Despite being nicked up, Hayden returned with two big plays in a lackluster second half.

On both drives, the Hoosiers found themselves in Badger territory, down 17 points and with a chance to swing momentum their way. But thanks to the turnovers, they walked away empty-handed on both occasions.

Up three scores late in the third quarter, it would have been easy for Hayden to say that he needed another defensive series off to rest the injured arm, but he is not that kind of player.

The 6-foot-5, 302-pound lineman does not take plays off. Bielema characterized him as an "throwback" player.

"He understands the importance of what we're trying to do as a defensive line," Bielema said. "Obviously we're a little banged up and he gives us the best opportunity to win. He's just one of those guys where it's hard to pull him out of that game."

"There are some things that I need to correct…but I think I do give it all on every play," Hayden said.

Due to the injuries on the line — but also to Hayden's style of play — it will be hard to pull him out of any game over the course of the season, but the Badgers are not complaining about that.

"We didn't play with some good players," co-offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said. "Yet the trademark of this program is guys stepping up and playing well."

BadgerNation.com Recommended Stories


Up Next


Tweets