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September 17, 2011

Notes: Reunion, Brennan and defense

CHICAGO - When Dave Doeren took the head coaching job at Northern Illinois last December he quickly became aware that his new squad would face his old squad during week one.

"I knew (this) was going to be tough," Doeren said following UW's 49-7 win over NIU. "It's not an empty feeling. You just go back to work."

That's a perfect example of following a template to a tee.

Neither Doeren or head coach made the past week leading into Saturday's game about the reunion between head coach and defensive coordinator. Instead, both opted to frame it as Wisconsin against Northern Illinois.

There was nothing that either Bielema or Doeren could physically do that would change the outcome of Saturday's game, one that eventually turned into a blowout in favor of UW.

"It was kind of like when I went back to Iowa," Bielema said. "The feelings are more after the game. I tried to tell as many of the Northern Illinois players as I could to win out. They have that kind of football team. As coaches it's not about us. It's about the players and winning a football game.

"At least that's how I think and I think Dave's the exact same way."

Bielema didn't approach his pregame ritual any differently. He still had his cup of coffee an hour and a half before kickoff, he still lingered around midfield and he still approached the opposing head coach like he would any other week.

It was business as usual. It just so happened to be one of Bielema's closer friends starting him down.

"Before the game had started Dave did say, 'Let's not do this again,' Bielema said. "We always shoot phone calls and text messages. I've known quite a few of his coaches because we've been in the same coaching fraternity the past five years."

Brennan makes an impact:

If there is anything to be taken from the recent playing time freshman quarterback Joe Brennan has received, it might take until he's needed in a meaningful situation to surface.

Still, playing in his third straight game, Brennan finally broke the nervous slate of ice that had been plaguing him so far this season with a nine-play, 50-yard touchdown drive capped by a six-yard touchdown scamper.

Though Melvin Gordon did most of the damage on that drive, it's been encouraging to see Brennan's continual progress.

"I gave Paul Chryst one pass opportunity there with Brennan because I didn't want anything to get out of hand," Bielema said. "But I do think it's great, just even in these past couple of games, to get those fourth quarter reps with Joey Brennan.

"You never know when you're going to need him."

Oglesby injured:

When Josh Oglesby went down during the third quarter of Saturday's game and immediately grabbed his left knee the worst thoughts had to have instantly crept into the mind of those that have followed his career.

It was obvious that Bielema endured a similar reaction when asked about it following the game.

"I don't think it's as significant as an ACL or something like that," Bielema said. "Josh is very frustrated. I think the world of that kid, but he's just extremely snake bitten in the knee department. He's been battling and grinding out there.

"This week was kind of a tough week for him because the knee was hurting so hopefully it's nothing too serious."

Other than that injury, it seems as though the Badgers got through Saturday's game unscathed.

Team notes:

-Wisconsin has won 31 straight non-conference games, including all 23 under Bret Bielema.

-Saturday's game marked the third time Wisconsin played in a pro venue. With the win, UW improved its record in such facilities to 2-1. Bielema started his career with a win over Bowling Green at Cleveland Browns Stadium. UW lost to Tennessee in the Outback Bowl at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium in 2008.

-UW's 97-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter was its longest score since a 97-yard drive in the fourth quarter against Iowa in 2006.

-Wisconsin has now scored at least 40 points in five of its past six regular-season games.

Individual notes:.

-Russell Wilson became the ninth Badger passer in school history to throw for at least 300 yards in a game. His 347 passing yards was good for seventh-best in school history.

-Wide receiver Nick Toon now has 11 career touchdown receptions. His two-touchdown game Saturday marked the first time the senior has recorded back-to-back games with a score.

- has scored at least one touchdown in each of the past nine games for UW. He has 23 touchdowns during the same time frame.

-UW's running backs combined to haul in 10 passes for 126 yards in Saturday's win.

Quotable:

Bielema on Wilson's running ability:

"If you bring all that pressure, all he has to do is make one guy miss and then he is running for a while."

Marcus Cromartie on his first start at cornerback:

"When you get your first start I feel like it's kind of like a right of passage for the coaches to see how well you're going to play. I guess coach Doeren knows my weaknesses and strengths. I just went out there and played my game."

Kevin Zeitler on the offensive penalties:

"We talked about it a lot and we finally got it figured out on the sideline. Obviously during the second half we cleaned it up. That was kind of an obscurity for us."

Ball on his performance:

"I had a poor game today. I have to really take this week to heart and get ready for the next game." (Note: Ball rushed 20 times for 91 yards and scored two touchdowns)

White on the way the pass game set up the run game:

"Teams are starting to key in on the run right off the bat. We have to loosen them up with play action and everything. We know we can't get down on ourselves. We've just got to be patient and we'll get our yards."

Aaron Henry on UW's defensive performance:

"Unfortunately we gave up seven points. I definitely think we're improving on our tackling but there are still little things we have to work on. Ultimately we would like to keep a zero on the scoreboard but with this offense (NIU) being as high powered as people said they were, to hold them the way we did, hats off to our coaching staff. We went out there and stepped up to the challenge."


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