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Ikegwuonu among Badger heroes

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Aaron Brenner/Special to the Gazette
November 12, 2007
— Of all the factors that contributed to the University of Wisconsin’s 37-21 football victory over then-No. 12 Michigan, Jack Ikegwuonu’s defense might have been the most underrated.

Michigan’s offense, when healthy, features a triple threat of quarterback Chad Henne, running back and Heisman hopeful Mike Hart, and wide receiver Mario Manningham.


So when Hart sat out Saturday’s game and Henne was yanked after two series, the Wolverines looked to Manningham to shoulder the offensive load.


Enter Ikegwuonu, the Badger cornerback who won All-Big Ten honors a year ago and shut down Manningham—for the most part, anyway—to help Wisconsin contain Michigan.


“You’ve got to accept the challenge,” Ikegwuonu said. “He’s a great receiver, and he made me work all day today. There were points in the game where I was so tired from him making me work.”


Ikegwuonu’s one major blemish came in the fourth quarter, when Manningham broke off a 97-yard touchdown reception on a third-and-long play.


But in the first three quarters, Manningham was limited to just two catches for 16 yards (though one was for a touchdown). After the long score, he didn’t catch another pass.


“Jack went out there and competed,” Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. “I think the last three or four weeks have shown Jack of late, that he can go out there and compete.”


Ikegwuonu finished with a season-high four pass breakups on the day, and it was his first interception of the year with about five minutes to go that helped seal Wisconsin’s victory.


“They’re a quick-strike team,” Ikegwuonu said. “So the interception was big to get our offense back on the field and get that second touchdown (to make it 37-21), that really put the game away.”


Line shift


With right tackle Eric Vanden Heuvel unable to go for Wisconsin because of a foot injury, the Badgers didn’t elect to simply plug someone in for him. They made a few shifts, which ended up paying off.


Right guard Kraig Urbik moved over into Vanden Heuvel’s spot, left guard Andy Kemp flipped to the opposite side for Urbik, and redshirt freshman John Moffitt got the call at left guard.


“We popped some guys around,” Bielema said. “It’s just what we had to do. We don’t worry so much about who’s not in. We just worry about the guy that’s in.”


But the Wolverines weren’t able to take advantage of having three Badger linemen in new spots—and a fourth, Gabe Carimi, playing left tackle in his redshirt freshman season.


“Starting from Sunday, after the Ohio State game, we knew Vandy might not be able to play,” Kemp said. “The preparation … is where it all started, and that’s why we played pretty well.”


Though quarterback UWler Donovan was knocked to the ground all day, Michigan was unable to register a sack. Meanwhile, the Badgers really made the Wolverines pay on the ground, rolling up 232 yards.


And it all came against the same Michigan unit that made 10 tackles for losses in year’s meeting, when the Wolverines triumphed 27-13 at Michigan Stadium to give Wisconsin its only defeat of the season.


“I don’t think anyone thought, even with a mixup on the line, that we weren’t going to have success today,” Carimi said.


Back to Top 25


Wisconsin’s victory was one of the big upsets of the weekend, and the Badgers were rewarded with a return trip to the Top 25.


UW (8-3, 4-3) is ranked No. 24 in both national polls, which were released Sunday. The Badgers have made three entrances to the USA Today coaches’ poll during this season, and it’s their first Associated Press ranking since their 38-7 loss to Penn State on Oct. 13.


Michigan (8-3, 6-1) took a tumble from No. 12, but the Wolverines are still one spot above Wisconsin in both polls, at No. 23, at they had into the Big Ten championship against Ohio State on Saturday at Ann Arbor.



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