Linebacker Garret Dooley and his defensive teammates are ready for a grueling aerobic workout this weekend.
“This is the highest up-tempo team we’re going to be facing,” Dooley said. “It’s like 10 seconds after the last play is over that they’re ready to snap the ball.
“So we’re all going to have to be ready. Being able to focus when you’re tired is going to be huge this weekend.”
UW (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) faces host Indiana (3-5, 0-5) at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The Hoosiers are 13th in the Big Ten in time of possession at 27 minutes, 52 seconds per game. That is 7:07 behind UW, which leads the league at 34:59.
Indiana’s offensive coaches aren’t concerned about time of possession, however. Their goal is to get off as many plays as possible.
The Hoosiers got off 97 plays, including 62 passes, last week in a 42-39 loss at Maryland. They rolled up 35 first downs, 21 passing, and held the ball for a season-high 36:08. That marked just the first time this season Indiana held the ball for at least 31 minutes.
“They go as fast as anyone we’ve played all year and they’re efficient,” UW defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said. “The number of plays is very high because they know how to move the sticks.
“Obviously, you want to limit those possessions. You want to create some three-and-outs and get them to press a little bit, but it is hard to make them do that.
“Our kids will be prepared for that tempo. You’ve got to be a little bit cleaner and tighter with your communication, but the biggest thing is making plays.
“If you’re getting incompletions and getting off the field, that helps slow a team down. When they are efficient and racking up 3, 4, 5, 6 yards a play it is hard to get off your heels.”
With starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey nursing a right-knee injury, Indiana probably will have to rely on Richard Lagow against UW.
Lagow, who has completed 56.8 percent of his passes for an average of 135.3 yards per game, has a trio of talented wide receivers to target.
Simmie Cobbs (54 catches), Luke Timian (49) and Whop Philyor (21) have combined for 124 catches and eight touchdowns. Philyor had 13 catches for 127 yards, Timian had 13 for 91 yards and Cobbs had 10 for 138 in the loss to Maryland.
“I think, across the board, this may present as a big a challenge as we have (had),” UW coach Paul Chryst said, “with the style of their offense…
“You’ve got to play really sound defense. It will be a challenge for our guys. They are looking forward to it.”
UW struggled at times against Utah State and Florida Atlantic, both of which try to push the pace with a no-huddle attack.
The No. 1 issue in those games, the first and second of the season, was inconsistent communication once the defensive call was signaled in from the sideline.
“It is a little bit of trial and error in those first couple games, especially playing tempo,” linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “There were times we didn’t get the calls or we got the calls and some guys got (confused).
“I think that stuff is cleared up. I know in practice we’ve been stressing faster pace, to try to put us in those game-like situations.”
Joe Ferguson filled in at safety for D’Cota Dixon (right leg) last week at Illinois. Dixon has practiced all week, however, and Leonhard anticipates he will be ready to play Saturday.
Dixon’s experience—21 starts and 37 games played—should ensure there are few, if any, communication breakdowns.
“The main thing is the communication,” safety Natrell Jamerson said. “When they line up real quick we have to make sure everybody is on the same page. If the call from the sideline comes in a little late we’ve got to make sure everybody gets it.
“We’re going to be good. We’re not worried about them gashing us.”