Wisconsin Badgers prepare for first true test
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MADISON--The prevailing notion in the wake of Wisconsin’s second consecutive easy victory under Gary Andersen is that the Badgers’ trip this week to Arizona State will provide a clearer picture of UW’s strengths and weaknesses.
After all, UW’s defense hasn’t allowed a point in two games. As a result, UW hasn’t trailed.
Quarterback Joel Stave, significantly better in Week 2 than he was in the opener, hasn’t been asked to perform under pressure in the final quarter.
Arizona State (1-0) routed Sacramento State, 55-0, on Sept. 5, and the Sun Devils should pose problems UW has yet to face when the teams meet at 9:30 p.m. Saturday in Tempe.
Yet senior safety Dezmen Southward insisted he already has a firm grasp on Andersen’s first UW team, which moved up three spots to No. 18 in the USA Today coaches’ poll and one spot to No. 20 in The Associated Press poll on Sunday.
“I don’t have much to learn honestly because I know our team,” he said after UW’s 48-0 victory over Tennessee Tech. “I know that we’re tough. I know we’re going to respond to adversity. I know we don’t care who we play.”
Senior linebacker Chris Borland was asked what the trip to Arizona State might reveal.
“Who likes to really compete,” he said. “I think a lot of times you can have guys that are front-runners, that when everything is going well they are rah-rah guys.
“But Arizona State is an excellent team. We’re going to find out who really likes to compete.”
The Sun Devils appear poised to compete under second-year coach Todd Graham.
School officials have been promoting the game with a “Blackout Bucky” theme. Sun Devil Stadium’s listed capacity is 71,706; as of Friday afternoon, 8,000 tickets remained available.
“It’s going to be a packed house,” Graham told his players in the locker room after the victory over Sacramento State. “This place is going to be rocking. And we’re going to come out and it’s going to be the exact same plan.”
Arizona State’s game plan for the opener and beyond was to play disciplined football and win the turnover battle.
The Sun Devils were penalized once for 5 yards and finished the turnover battle at plus-four (two fumbles recovered, two interceptions).
The only nervous moments the Sun Devils endured came early when Sacramento State drove from its 25 to the Arizona State 16. The Sun Devils blocked a 33-yard field-goal attempt and quarterback Taylor Kelly engineered an 80-yard touchdown drive on his way to passing for 300 yards and five touchdowns in barely more than two quarters.
UW has faced minimal adversity in its first two games.
No player has suffered a significant injury. Stave has thrown two interceptions, but both occurred in enemy territory.
Andersen was asked if he would have preferred to see his team stressed more than it has been heading into a road test.
“No,” he said. “I’d prefer to win going away every single time and deal with adversity when it comes our way.
“We talk about adversity all the time. It’s something we believe we’re prepared for. How we’re going to handle it when it comes our way, we’ll see.
“But there will be there’s always going to be adversity. I think the key is to understand that there will be and it doesn’t matter what happens to us.
“We talk about it all the time, just being steady. No matter how good it is, no matter how bad it is, no matter what happens, you just got to stay steady.”
Players who remain poised generally do so because of ample preparation.
After the victory over Tennessee Tech, the excitement among the UW players was palpable when talking about the trip to Arizona State.
“We understand we had two good showings,” Southward said. “But also that the season is going to be long, and we’re going to face some adversity.
“We’re going to face bigger, faster and better people. That is something we look forward to.
“I guarantee you within the next hour or so a lot of guys will be watching some Arizona State film. We take it seriously. We love it, and we can’t wait to get out there.”