Numbers game: Allen defends UW defense
What: Wisconsin (8-5) vs. Stanford (11-2) in the Rose Bowl
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
When: 4:10 p.m. kickoff, Tuesday
TV/Radio: ESPN/WCLO, 1230 AM
LOS ANGELES Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
That is why junior defensive lineman Beau Allen doesn't care that Wisconsin's defensive line doesn't have some of the gaudy numbers as No. 8 Stanford's defense with its nation-leading 4.32 sacks and 9.23 tackle for loss per game.
"It doesn't matter if it looks pretty or not," said Allen, "as long as we're getting wins."
Wisconsin's defense—particularly the defensive line led by Allen—has been one of the key ingredients that have helped the Badgers win a third straight Big Ten championship and a third straight Rose Bowl appearance that will come against the Cardinal on Tuesday in Pasadena.
In a year where Wisconsin's offensive rhythm has been severely challenged at times, the Badgers have held the ship together by ranking 13th nationally in total defense (320.9 yards per game) and in a tie for 19th nationally in scoring defense (19.1 points per game).
The Badgers have held eight opponents to 14 points or less in regulation.
"We've played like we thought we could at the beginning of the season," said defensive coordinator Chris Ash. "The thing I've been happy with is the guys have improved every single week. The guys have showed up to work every single week.
"Each individual has gotten better," Ash said. "They've bought into what we're doing, believe what we are doing and execute what we put in throughout the course of the week."
Defensively, Wisconsin will be tested in a multitude of ways against Stanford's offense; a unit that runs multiple sets and formation to feature a power tailback and its tight ends much like the Badgers do.
And while the Cardinal are 94th through the air (203.5 ypg), freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan has thrown for eight touchdowns and three interceptions since taking over under center for Josh Nunes.
In his four starts, Hogan has knocked off four ranked opponents, including ruining then-No. 1 Oregon's national title hopes in Eugene on Nov. 17.
It's why Partridge has put a lot of emphasize on the quarterback-run game and getting pressure on the pocket, as the Badgers have worked on tip drills and batting passes in the practices leading up to the Rose Bowl.
"It's something we have been close on a lot of times, and it hasn't affected games in the way we think it can," said Allen.
Wisconsin's defensive line is responsible for only 12 of UW's 63 pass breakups this season.
"You see J.J. (Watt) at the next level with the Houston Texans seeing what he is doing with getting sacks and seeing tipped passes go for interceptions," Allen said. "He really affects quarterbacks. It's hard to train for, but that's definitely an important part of the game that we know can change a game."
A year after registering 22 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in a reserve role, Allen's play has helped a defensive tackle position that was threatened with depth issues from the onset. Before fall camp opened, Wisconsin learned that junior Jordan Kohout—expected to be a key fixture in the rotation—had to give up football because of migraines.
With no proven players on the depth chart, Allen has started all 14 games and has set career highs in tackles (33), tackles for loss (6.5) and forced his first fumble against Illinois.
"Fundamentally he's come a long, long way," said Partridge. "He's played well against the run and the pass. He's continued to be productive for us in ways you can't see."
Allen got stronger over the summer and has been more mentally consistent, Partridge said. The coach says Allen's numbers would be higher if he wasn't consistently taking on double teams at the line of scrimmage.
By taking on two defenders, it has allowed linebacker Ethan Armstrong (89 tackles), Chris Borland (95) and Mike Taylor (120) to be the top three tackle producers on the team.
"The linebackers credit him for a lot of the things he does because it helps the things they do," said Partridge. "He does a great job demanding double teams, which helps the linebackers."
Choosing to play right away as a freshman, New Year's Day will mark the third straight season Allen will have played in a Rose Bowl as a Big Ten champion. He said winning it this time would be the ultimate family honor considering his grandfather, Janesville's Fred T. Westphal, is a charter inductee into the UW Athletic Hall of Fame and his uncle, John Westphal, never experienced a championship when he played football for UW from 1980-81.
"It's pretty remarkable and you can't help but be pleased with it," said Allen. "We've have the Big Ten championship ring, but we want to win that Rose Bowl ring. I think this year we realize what's at stake and what it means. I think this (Stanford) team is a team we match up well with.
"To get that Rose Bowl ring is on everyone's mind because we don't have one of those yet."