Badgers prepare for Spartans’ blitzing defense
Konz and his linemates should face their toughest test so far when No.?4 UW (6-0,
2-0 Big Ten) plays Michigan State (5-1, 2-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday in East Lansing.
The Spartans have arguably the best defensive line in the Big Ten.
“They’ve just got an attitude right now,” Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. “They’re an attacking front. … We’re going to go get people.”
And under Narduzzi, the Spartans will blitz linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties.
“I expect that,” Konz said, “throwing whatever is going to work at us.
“Thank God our defense does a lot of blitzing. And we saw a lot from Nebraska.”
Nebraska used a variety of blitzes in the Big Ten opener against UW on Oct. 1 and had success early pressuring quarterback Russell Wilson.
Defensive tackle Jared Crick came through unblocked between Konz and left guard Travis Frederick on UW’s third offensive play. Wilson was able to sidestep Crick and complete a 21-yard pass to wide receiver Jared Abbrederis.
Three plays later, linebacker Lavonte David came free between Frederick and left tackle Ricky Wagner and sacked Wilson for a 9-yard loss, forcing a punt.
Crick and David came free because the line calls Konz made as he studied the defensive front were not communicated to all the linemen and tight ends.
“I would re-declare the middle linebacker and some people didn’t hear it,” Konz said. “Some people were confused. As you noticed, it got better as the game progressed.
“We went through it on film and we corrected it. I let everybody know: That’s on me. It won’t happen again.”
On the first play, Frederick slid to his left because a safety was moving toward the line of scrimmage and Konz moved to the right because there was a linebacker on that side
“Ideally we would have been on the same page and either both moved to the left or both moved to the right,” Frederick said, “and there would have been one left for the back to pick up.”
On the second play, the line call meant tight end Jacob Pedersen had to slide from the right wing past Konz to block David. Pedersen didn’t have enough time to react.
“Those are great things to learn,” Konz said. “Not only for me … but that’s for the whole team.
“If it happens during a game which you win, you’re very thankful. If that happens again— obviously teams are going to look at it—I’m going to know how to pick that up.”
The Spartans lead the Big Ten in pass defense, holding opponents to 119.2 yards per game and a completion rate of 47.2 percent, and are second in the league in sacks (21).
UW has allowed just eight sacks in six games, the third-lowest total in the league.
“I think our offensive line is doing such a great job right now,” Wilson said. “We have a lot of experienced guys, obviously, up front. It all starts with Peter Konz calling out the protections.”
Thirteen Michigan State players have contributed at least one-half sack.
The starting front four—ends William Gholston and Marcus Rush and tackles Jerel Worthy and Kevin Pickelman—have combined for eight sacks and 10 quarterback hurries. Gholston faces a suspension for his actions in the victory over Michigan (two personal fouls), but Michigan State officials said Tuesday they are reviewing the matter.
“They’re a good front four,” UW offensive line coach Bob Bostad said. “We’ve just got to make sure we’re on the same page and play our game.”
The starting linebackers—Denicos Allen, Chris Norman and Max Bullough—have combined for eight sacks and two hurries.
“They bring pressure from everywhere, all over the field,” UW coach Bret Bielema said. “And I do know this. I think our guys up front, our running backs, our tight ends, anybody that is called into action to protect Russell is going to probably do it to their highest capabilities this coming Saturday.”