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September 5, 2011MADISON - The legend of Russell Wilson continues to gain momentum.
From North Carolina State castoff to Wisconsin standout, Wilson earned the Big Ten's first Offensive Player of the Week award of the 2011 season. With 317 yards of total offense and three touchdowns in his Badger debut, the senior quarterback continues to prove how valuable an asset he is to UW's offensive juggernaut.
"I've only been around him since the start of fall camp in early August," UW head coach Bret Bielema said during his Monday press conference. "As of right now and living in the moment, you just appreciate the professionalism that he has. What you guys (media) see is the exact same thing I see.
"To go out and do what he did last Thursday, if you know him, is just status quo."
Wilson completed 10 of the 13 passes he threw, he rushed twice for 62 yards, including a scintillating 46-yard scamper toward the end of the first half and managed the game about as well as anybody could ask.
Following the game he remained humble and harped on the fact that he needs to keep getting better. He's equally remarkable as a player and a person.
"To be a kid that has professional (baseball) money in his pocket and still handle it (this well)," Bielema said. "He could be an elitist and he could be a guy that is stand offish. But he blends in with our guys so well it's incredible."
Though Wilson was spectacular in his debut and though the Big Ten acknowledged his play with its award, Wilson was not named offensive MVP inside the Badger locker room.
Instead, both Montee Ball and James White, a standout running back duo, earned that distinction.
"Both of them, I thought, were balanced," Bielema said. "I think they were within one or two plays in regards to number of plays taken and one or two yards in total yardage. Obviously James had the kickoff return, but I thought they really did a nice job."
Defensive tackle Ethan Hemer, who beat out Jordan Kohout and Beau Allen for the starting job alongside Patrick Butrym, received team MVP for his defensive performance.
"He played a pretty complete game," Bielema said.
Bradie Ewing, UW's oft-used fullback, was tabbed special teams player of the week.
"He starts on all four units and did an exceptional job," Bielema said. "He really is taking a great leadership role for us."
Offensive scout of the week went to offensive lineman Ray Ball. And Derek Watt took home the week one defensive scout of the week.
"Derek is extremely talented and goes 100 miles an hour," Bielema said. "I'm very excited about his future."
When asked about his return to action following his squad's 51-17 win over UNLV, UW sophomore linebacker Chris Borland said he was and will continue to knock some of the rust off his skill set.
It has, after all, been about year since he's participated in any sort of full-contact football game on the collegiate level.
"He's had a couple of scrimmage plays," Bielema said. "But that's nothing to the extent of what you see game speed wise. For the first time he was the guy making all the calls. The mike linebacker is the guy that is the quarterback of our defense."
Playing his first game as the middle linebacker, Borland led the defense with seven tackles, four unassisted and recorded a tackle-for-loss. It wasn't his best performance by any means, but the fact that he played solid football during his first time out is nonetheless encouraging.
"In high school he was a safety and a running back," Bielema said. "He's never been in that situation. When played his first year here he was at outside linebacker and had guys giving him the calls. It's a new experience for him.
"Hopefully now he's through that he can continue to move forward."
New additions to the special teams?
When asked about the importance of getting both Melvin Gordon and Jeff Lewis into Thursday's game, Bielema made it clear that their performance peaked his interest. He wanted to see what they were capable of doing as special teams players.
"They're probably two of our faster guys on the team," Bielema said. "I think on every special teams unit, kickoff coverage in particular, you can use them as end guys that are full guys. I think Jeff Lewis has enough size to him that he can run down the middle of the field and be faster than everybody else."
Gordon might also get an opportunity to utilize his explosiveness while recovering punts.
"I'd like to incorporate Melvin because he's got some elusiveness," Bielema said. "Maybe as a punt blocker as a guy that can hold up at the line of scrimmage. I'd like to get them both involved in both of our coverage units. I think right now Jeff Lewis on kickoff coverage and punt return, Melvin on both of those as well.
"Melvin could be a possible return man on the back end of kickoff return."
Bielema on whether he'd had any communication with former UW defensive coordinator and current Northern Illinois head coach Dave Doeren after the Huskies won their opener:
"Every game I get out of I get a bunch of emails and texts. He congratulated me and then I shot him one back. It's probably still fine to talk this week. I don't know if we'll talk next week until then."