Victory restores confidence

first_imgJEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoOn the heels of an inspired performance in all aspects of the game, Wisconsin will work to keep momentum in its favor when Indiana comes to town Saturday.The Badgers (7-2, 2-2 Big Ten) are set to face the Hoosiers (5-3, 2-3 Big Ten) on Homecoming and Halloween weekend. In last year’s game against Illinois on “Freakfest,” the relevant boos and scares were on hand as Wisconsin stumbled out to a 21-3 defeat. Rest assured, according to linebacker Jonathan Casillas, it shouldn’t happen again.“If we play our technique and play the ball we’re supposed to play, I think we’re going to come out with a win,” Casillas said. Gone are the days of uncertainty and hesitant play, and here to stay is newfound swagger, freshman cornerback Aaron Henry said. “We’re not worried about mistakes anymore,” Henry said.Like a tiring boxer against a faster opponent, the Badgers were down and out after the two consecutive losses. “The team was down morally,” senior receiver Paul Hubbard said. “The guys weren’t expecting to lose a game this season, let alone two, so a lot of guys were down. … Last week was the first step that we took to get back on the horse — taking accountability and responsibility and changing what was going on.”Entering last year’s matchup against Indiana, Wisconsin was coming off a tough loss to Michigan. Following the game, several players, including Hubbard, were called out for their lackluster play. The players responded. The result: a 52-0 lead after three quarters against the Hoosiers and nine straight wins to end the season.“Coach Paul Chryst called us out after the game. … He said, ‘you know what Hubs, I’m going to call you out, the first play is going to you. If you make it you keep getting them.’ I made it and kept going,” Hubbard said. Execution and consistency on both offense and defense will be vital if Wisconsin is going to come away with its 13th consecutive home victory. The defense will try and build on its two forced turnovers last weekend against Northern Illinois. “Turnovers — coaches say all the time — are basically based on the passion we bring on the defensive side of the ball and we saw that last week,” Casillas said. “If we can play like that against Indiana I think we can definitely force some turnovers.”The combination of IU’s sophomore gunslinger Kellen Lewis and junior freak-of-nature James Hardy who, at 6-foot-7-inches, can run, catch and jump will prove to be a grave task for the Badger secondary. “He’s a four-inch-taller version of Travis Beckum, and he’s a former basketball player,” UW defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz said. “He utilizes his size and body well.“So we know we have a challenge, but we have to make plays.”Hardy, whose 14-catch, 142-yard performance last weekend versus Penn State was a personal best, has a Big Ten-leading 11 touchdown receptions to go with 748 yards. “If you’re a competitor you’re thinking, ‘I’m going to beat him.’ It doesn’t matter how tall he is,” Henry said. Badgers senior receiver Paul Hubbard, who listed himself at “90 percent” Tuesday following practice, admits that even though he and Hardy aren’t on the field at the same time, there will be some competition.“There is pride involved,” Hubbard said. “James Hardy is an excellent receiver; he’s a beast as I call it — that guy’s a monster. The ball goes up, he’s going to come down with it somehow, some way.“Just seeing that, you don’t want to have a receiver out on the field on the other end outplaying you, so that’s the competition that always comes with every game with two good receivers out there.”As good as Hardy is, he’s only as good as Lewis’ arm. The sophomore quarterback has improved significantly from a year ago, passing for 1,952 yards and 19 touchdowns, and his ability to run the ball will give the Badger defense some challenges. “He’s been able to throw the ball with a great amount of success,” UW head coach Bret Bielema said. “He has also been very effective when he’s on the move, and I think that creates some issues [there] as well.”No matter how good Hardy or Lewis have been for the Hoosiers, or how bad the Badger defense was for the first seven weeks of the season, the team is finally playing with energy and showing glimpses of life. Above all, Wisconsin is finally learning how to have fun again.last_img

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