In ASU, Badgers facing first true test

BIG BADGER: Wisconsin junior running back John Clay has rushed fr 260 yards and four touchdowns behind one of the nation's most skilled offensive lines. Clay is also the reigning Big Ten Conference offensive player of the year. (Photo Courtesy of Megan McCormick)

Most football teams play with five offensive linemen.

The No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers (2-0) start six.

One however, just so happens to carry the ball. And he’s technically considered a running back.

UW junior, and reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year, John Clay is listed at 6 feet 1 inches and 255 pounds.

One look at the Heisman Trophy candidate reveals he probably weighs closer to 275.


State Press Television
By Andrew Boven

“Anytime you’re the Big Ten player of the year as a sophomore is a true feather in your cap,” UW coach Bret Bielema said. “But he’d be the first to tell you it was because of the people around him and the people in front of him.”

Blocking for Clay is a group of Badger linemen that all weigh at least 313 pounds and have starting experience from last season.

Even though the Badgers have rushed for a total of 490 yards through two games, Bielema thinks lining up against ASU (2-0) Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium might be a different beast.

“Defensively, they are big up front, it will be the biggest test for us since Miami for sure,” Bielema said. “They’ve got big bodies up front. They’re big, they’re athletic [and] they’re quick. They remind you a lot defensively of some of the other teams in our league, as far as the way they play and the schemes that they use.”

Surprisingly enough, the Badgers might be even more weary of the Sun Devil offense.

“They are as fast as any huddle we’ve ever seen,” Bielema said. “They just try to snap the ball as fast as they can, averaging over 85 snaps a game. It’s a unique preparation and difficult challenge for our defense, but I know they’ll be excited to do it.”

In an attempt to simulate the ASU no-huddle offense, UW is cranking up the tempo in practice to tremendous lengths.

“We’ll have two different offensive huddles that come out of our offense,” Bielema said. “So one will go, [while] the other [offense] will be getting the play so that they run out right after [the first play is over]. So we’ll actually run at a faster pace than actually Arizona State can physically do. You exaggerate the pace so that hopefully what we do [on] Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, [makes] Saturday [seem] a little bit slower.”

For UW, Saturday will be the second time the school has seen ASU redshirt junior quarerback Steven Threet.

In 2008, Threet orchestrated a 27-25-comeback victory for Michigan over the Badgers.

“It’s a pretty unique deal,” Bielema said. “He’s 1-0 against us. He’s got a lot of talent. He’s very tough to bring down. You can tell he’s a good competitor. He seems to have good composure relatively early in his career there at Arizona State. All the reasons he was recruited to Michigan, all the reasons he’s at Arizona State; he’s a good quarterback.”

Leading the way through the air for UW is redshirt senior quarterback Scott Tolzien.

Although the signal-caller has thrown two interceptions and fumbled three times in two games, Tolzien has the arm to burn ASU if it focuses solely on the run.

“[With] Scotty, as great of a competitor as he is, I think you’d be lying to yourself if you don’t think that he’s feeling that and wants to make it happen,” Bielema said. “He and I had a discussion [Tuesday] to let the game just happen. [I told him] `You’re so smart, you know the reads, you know the reactions, you know people’s abilities, you don’t have to press, you just have to let the game come to you.”’

Reach the reporter at tyler.emerick@asu.edu