Minnesota natives Kelly, Allen chose UW over UM

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Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Friday, November 11, 2011
— Somewhere near TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, two groups of Wisconsin fans will meet to hold a dual tailgate party before UW and Minnesota resume a fierce football rivalry.

The planners are the parents of Wisconsin defensive end Brendan Kelly and defensive tackle Beau Allen, both Minnesota natives who chose to play for UW over the Gophers.

"I need 30 tickets," said Kelly, a redshirt junior who originally committed to Minnesota before signing with UW in 2008. "I don't know if my teammates are going to help me get some, though."

Allen, who had strong family ties to UW, wasn't interested in playing for the Gophers.

"I've got 20 people coming, friends and family," the sophomore said. "I've been trying to weasel tickets from guys.

"The tailgate is going to be a lot of fun. We're not going to be there obviously, but it should be fun for them."

Kelly and Allen, part of a long line of Minnesota natives who have come to UW, could play key roles when the Badgers (7-2, 3-2) face Minnesota (2-7, 1-4) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and try to extend their winning streak in the series to eight games.

Minnesota's most dynamic player on offense is junior MarQueis Gray, a dual-threat quarterback whose confidence has blossomed recently.

Gray, listed at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, has completed only 52.4 percent of his passes, with almost as many interceptions (six) as touchdown passes (seven).

However, in the last two games he has completed 30 of 49 attempts (61.2 percent) for 488 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed a combined 32 times for 133 yards, a 4.2-yard average, and a touchdown.

Gray passed for 193 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown in a 22-21 victory over Iowa. In a 31-24 loss at Michigan State, Gray passed for 295 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 71 yards.

"Here in the last couple games he has done a really nice job," UW defensive coordinator Chris Ash said. "You can see him gaining confidence. You can see the coaching staff settle in on a system utilizing what he can do.

"And he is athletic. He can extend plays with his feet, buy receivers time to get open. That is always a difficult challenge And he is a big guy so you've got to tackle well. He can run through you or make you miss."

UW has faced several dual-threat quarterbacks. The Badgers controlled Chandler Harnish of Northern Illinois and Taylor Martinez of Nebraska. However, the defense struggled at times against Ohio State freshman Braxton Miller.

The UW defensive ends must keep Gray from getting to the outside and the tackles must make sure they stay in their rush lanes so they don't leave an escape route between the tackles.

"You have to be very conscious of your pass-rush lanes," Allen said, "and that is one of the things we did a very good job of doing against Nebraska."

Kelly added: "The thing about Gray is that he's definitely got a lot more confidence. That is something to be aware of and be ready for. We need to contain him and be smart, like we did with Martinez. We have to break down and tackle."

Wisconsin natives do not hide their desire to beat their rivals from the Twin Cities. Over the years, Minnesota natives who chose UW have displayed the same passion and desire to take back or maintain possession of Paul Bunyan's Axe.

Allen played in UW's 41-23 victory last season in Madison. Kelly missed the season because of injury and played sparingly in 2009, when UW recorded a 31-28 victory in Minneapolis.

"It's something I didn't feel like I really deserved it because I wasn't starting," Kelly said of parading around the field with the axe after the victory.

Bielema reacts

Moments after he had finished speaking to members of the Mendota Gridiron Club Wednesday night, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema knew something as amiss.

"When I got done speaking everyone was glued to a TV," Bielema said after practice Thursday night as UW continued preparations for its game Saturday at Minnesota. "I knew something had happened."

What happened was that Penn State's board of trustees had just announced the firing of Joe Paterno. The dismissal of Paterno, 84, was the latest fallout since former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually assaulting eight boys over a 15-year period.

Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley has been named interim head coach.

After hosting Nebraska on Saturday, the Nittany Lions play at Ohio State on Nov. 19 and close the regular season Nov. 26 at UW.

Bielema acknowledged facing Penn State without Paterno will be similar to facing Ohio State earlier this season without Jim Tressel.

"It is just one of those things you've gotten ingrained," he said. "(Joe) is a big part of college football."

Last updated: 6:56 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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