Better Late than Never

Better Late than Never

For the third consecutive week, Wisconsin's defense waits for the second-half curtain to rise before taking center stage.

MADISON - Whatever the reason, Wisconsin's defense seemingly can't muster up the firepower in the first 30 minutes to stop any opponent. Whether it is a potent Pac-10 offense, a struggling team from the desert or a team picked to finish fifth in I-AA's Southern Conference, the Badgers have no answered for opposing offenses.

When the page turns to the second half, however, Wisconsin looks every bit like the hyped-up defense they are known for.

After allowing The Citadel to rack up 245 total first-half yards, Wisconsin finally figured out the puzzling spread-offense The Citadel possesses; allowing the visitors to gain 132 yards the rest of the half, with 104 coming with the game well out of reach and the reserves earning some minutes.

The question still remains of what it takes to get the Badger defense rolling. In week one, the Badgers were on their heels until Aaron Henry provided the key interception while Shane Carter providing the needed fireworks in the desert last weekend.

In week three, Shane Carter provided the big bang again, with his roommate and secondary teammate Aubrey Pleasant lighting the fuse.

With the Wisconsin defense playing so poorly that a chorus of boos fell down upon them at the end of the first half, the group responded on back-to-back plays that changed the entire game around in a matter of seconds.

On the Citadel's first offensive possession, sophomore strong safety Aubrey Pleasant came untouched around the right side and nailed QB Duran Lawson for a nine-yard sack.

"It was just a blitz and it was actually the first time I was able to do that this season," Pleasant said. "The coaches going into halftime saw an opportunity for us to make a play."

Pleasant's hit seemingly rattled the Citadel signal caller, as on the very next play, free safety Shane Carter skied into the air and made a highlight-reel interception to stop the drive cold. Seventeen unanswered points later, Wisconsin had full control of the game and attributed that play as one of the turning points on Saturday.

"Those plays made a major impact, as one play can set the pace [for a defense]," junior Allen Langford said. "Once Shane got the interception, we got a lot of three-and-out series. It only takes one play to ignite a defense and that was the play. That's the kind of play we need from the get go."

"The whole crowd was into it after that and after two plays, the whole complexion of Camp Randall changed," Pleasant added.

The other turning point on Saturday afternoon was the time of possession in the third quarter. After controlling the ball for 17:02 in the first half (nearly four minutes more than Wisconsin), the Badgers put the hammerlock down on their visitors. When the third quarter ended, the Citadel had run only five plays for negative three yards, controlling the ball for just two minutes and 17 seconds.

"[Time of possession] is very important because our offense can eat that clock up," Pleasant said. "They can eat that clock alive. To be able to get off the field and give our offense a chance to do what they do best, that's what our defense is here for."

For as good as this defense has been labeled, however, Wisconsin shouldn't need a turning point or a game-changing play to get revved up. For three consecutive games, Wisconsin has allowed over 300 total offensive yards to an unranked opponent. Coincidentally, all three schools run a spread-offense, forcing Wisconsin to cover them from sideline to sideline, while having a quarterback capable of using his legs as a weapon.

"The spread offense is very difficult to defend because they can run and pass the ball from different looks," Langford said. "Early on, we didn't correct the little things from last week that we needed to [and had] trouble settling down."

At halftime, Lawson looked like one of the top quarterbacks in the nation – completing 13-of-16 passes for 140 yards and three scores. Wide receivers Andre Roberts and Tim Higgins and running back Tory Cooper each had receptions of over 15 yards. The Citadel ran 40 plays in the first half -11 more than Wisconsin – for 245 yards (57 more than the Badgers).

"Everything in football is unexpected," Pleasant said. "They came out and did some things that we did not see on tape, but at the same time, you have to be ready to make those adjustments. You're not always going to see on tape exactly what a team is going to do, especially against a high-ranked team like us. It's not just a regular game when a team comes into Camp Randall."

But once again, thanks to a little firepower, Wisconsin was able to stop the bleeding and escaped thanks to P.J. Hill's touchdown prowess and Shane Carter's game-changing interception for the second consecutive week. With Big Ten conference season beginning under the lights next week, the Badgers hope to improve defensively and keep feeding the ball to their stellar offense.

"Momentum is a big, big thing when you have home-field advantage," Pleasant said. "Being able to make plays and give the ball back to our wonderful offense is our goal, three-and out every time. Now, your goal might not always be achieved, but when you can make those big plays, you can make those exceptions."

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