UW ‘D’ ready for NIU offense

first_imgSecond in the nation with a 237.64 passer efficiency rating, quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown a mere seven incomplete passes in two games this year. His numbers could continue to improve against a vulnerable NIU defense.[/media-credit]If only for the day, old friends become new enemies Saturday when No. 7/8 Wisconsin meets Northern Illinois in Chicago’s famed Soldier Field.Ending his stay as defensive coordinator of the Wisconsin football team following the Rose Bowl, Dave Doeren will now be standing across the field from the Badger coaching staff as the new head coach of Northern Illinois.With friendships still existing along the Wisconsin staff and players still smiling with the memory of Doeren recruiting them, several members of the team admitted over the past week how nice it will be to see the former coach again – not that the niceties will continue between the opening kickoff and the final whistle, however.“He recruited me, so it’s going to be nice to see him again,” running back Montee Ball said of Doeren. “But we got a lot to work on, make sure we change up a few things because we know he’s going to attack us in a couple aspects of the game because he knows us really well.”Doeren’s knowledge of Wisconsin (2-0) has been a constant point of inquiry for the Badgers all week. Although a few adjustments are expected to be made, Doeren’s successor, Chris Ash, still expects the game’s decision to come from who simply performs better.“They still have to block us and make throws and make catches, and we’re still going to have to get off blocks and run and tackle them too,” Ash said, who shares the reigns of defensive coordinator with Charlie Partridge. “I think it comes down to more about that than it does about him knowing us or our personnel.”Thus it should be an intriguing matchup whenever the Northern Illinois (1-1) offense and the Wisconsin defense take the field, not just because of the minds at work.Against Oregon State one week ago, Wisconsin refined the finer points of its defense after missing too many tackles in the opener versus Nevada-Las Vegas.The Badgers stifled the Beavers for 24 rushing yards on 23 attempts and didn’t concede a point in a 35-0 route.But the Huskies tote a high-rolling offense led by fifth-year senior quarterback Chandler Harnish.Returning eight starters from a group that led the Mid-American Conference in scoring and total offense a year ago, Northern Illinois has hardly seen a drop-off in production since. NIU’s 45.5 points per game rank 17th nationally, while its 485.5 yards per game fall in at 22nd.The main engine behind it, Harnish, has already notched 11 touchdowns (seven by air) in just two games while completing 75 percent of his passes and totaling 510 passing yards along the way.It’s Harnish’s athleticism that has UW safety and co-captain Aaron Henry expecting Saturday’s game to be the most challenging so far this season for the Badger defense.“Just because of what the quarterback can do,” Henry said of Harnish. “He’s an extremely savvy athlete. He does well, it seems, under pressure, and he can definitely go out there and win the ball game.”“I think if we allow him to do the things that he’s been doing these last couple games, we’re going to be in a world of trouble.”Ash also said it’s been difficult to determine what strategy Northern Illinois will administer on the Wisconsin defense due to Doeren’s arrival and the lack of challenges that the offense has faced in its first two games.“There’s still a lot of unknowns about what they do because it’s a new staff,” he said. “They didn’t have to do a whole lot against Army (in a 49-26 win), had to get a different gameplan from game one to game two (a 45-42 loss to Kansas) and we’ll have to wait and see what they do in game three.”But the Huskies aren’t the only offense with big numbers heading into Soldier Field. The Badgers’ offense – which will see the return of left guard Travis Frederick from a knee injury – has rolled up 43 points and 448 yards per game, while quarterback Russell Wilson currently holds the nation’s second-best passer efficiency rating of 237.64.Ball is on a roll, too. Dating back to last year’s Nov. 13 contest against Indiana, the junior running back has scored more touchdowns than all but four Big Ten teams – a total of 18 fit into just six games.The Northern Illinois defense, meanwhile, is giving up 471.5 yards a game and 35.5 points, and Wisconsin’s offense will look to keep those numbers from slipping.“I’m not surprised by our production so far,” Wilson said. “I think that our offense is an offense that can do a lot of different things. … We’ve clicked really well, the huddle is great every single day and we just got to keep working.”last_img

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