MADISON, Wis. — No. 8 Wisconsin has developed quite the pass rush.
Michigan State got overwhelmed last week in a 30-6 loss to Wisconsin. Now the Badgers (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) get to go after another tough opponent on Saturday at No. 4 Michigan.
“A lot of people want to overlook Wisconsin,” outside linebacker Vince Biegel said. “We’re going to continue to have the same approach. It doesn’t matter what people are saying about us.”
Wisconsin’s defense held Michigan State without a touchdown, just the second time the Spartans have been kept out of the end zone at home since 2000. The pass rush recorded four sacks and seven hurries, and the defense had three interceptions.
It was quite a performance by the Badgers and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, who took over after Dave Aranda left after the 2015 season for the same job at LSU.
“We have a lot of trust in them. That’s probably the thing that helped us out the most on offense,” quarterback Alex Hornibrook said Monday. “When we didn’t have a good drive, they’d get a turnover and give us the ball right back. You love that about a defense.”
The Badgers have surrendered just three offensive touchdowns through four games and rank seventh in scoring defense at 11.8 points per game.
“When we’re playing good defense it’s because every guy is doing their one-eleventh, they’re doing their job,” coach Paul Chryst said. “It’s as simple as that. The guys are doing their job.”
Biegel is acknowledged as the heart of the defense, but fellow outside linebacker T.J. Watt is making a strong impression after beginning his collegiate career as a tight end.
Against Michigan State, Watt recorded career highs of 3 1/2 tackles for loss and 2 1/2 sacks. Watt also had a couple quarterback hurries and broke up a pass. He was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.
“Defensively as a whole we’re still improving, we’re still scratching the surface and the sky’s the limit,” said Watt, who leads the Big Ten with 4 1/2 sacks for the season.
NOTES: Hornibrook was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week. He was 16 of 26 for 195 yards and one touchdown with one interception against the Spartans, making his first career start. … OL Jon Dietzen (right leg), K Rafael Gaglianone (back) and RB Bradrick Shaw (right shoulder) are listed as questionable for the Michigan game.