Blitzing Henry keys Wisconsin’s defensive domination

first_imgBEN CLASSON/Herald photoOn Iowa’s third play from scrimmage, the Hawkeyes faced a third-and-six from their own 30 yard line. In the game, as an extra defensive back for the third-down play, freshman cornerback Aaron Henry came hard on a blitz, sacking Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen.It was a sign of things to come, as the Badgers routinely hassled the Hawkeyes’ sophomore quarterback and stifled the Iowa offense on third-down attempts.Wisconsin utilized a third-down package with three down linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs, mixing in blitzes by Henry and linebacker DeAndre Levy to put pressure on Christensen.”When you have a quarterback who’s in the beginning tenure of his career … we wanted to make him make decisions, instead of letting him pick his decisions,” UW head coach Bret Bielema said. “I thought the defensive coaches in particular did a great job of changing up what they do based on what we thought could give us a strength.”Henry was especially successful at getting to Christensen, earning two-and-a-half sacks and a quarterback hurry. Coming into the game, the game plan called for Henry to blitz some. As the game progressed, though, Henry said he was surprised by just how much he was blitzing.”I kind of figured I would have a couple opportunities, but not as many as I did,” Henry said. “My hat goes off to the coaches for giving me an opportunity. I was just trying to go out there and execute like I did in practice. You come screaming off the edge free, you really don’t know what to do sometimes.”Despite flying around like an experienced blitzer, the trade is actually a new trick for the true freshman.”That’s the most sacks. … I mean, I’ve never blitzed in a game, let alone get a sack,” Henry said.With Henry and company putting pressure on Christensen, the quarterback was only able to complete 17 of 37 passes and was forced to scramble out of the pocket often and make throws on the run.”That’s always a boost,” cornerback Allen Langford said. “We look for someone to get to the quarterback, and that’s great on [the defensive backs]. … All week, that was the focus.”All told, the Wisconsin defense held Iowa to 2 of 16 on third-down conversions, including snuffing out the Hawkeyes’ first seven attempts to convert a third down and all five second-half tries.”That’s something the coaches emphasize,” Levy said. “We want to get off the field on third down. … Just getting off the field on third down makes a big difference in the game.”Not only does good third-down defense keep the unit fresh, it also helps the offense get in a groove and avoid sitting for extended periods on the sidelines.”It’s a two-way street,” quarterback Tyler Donovan said. “They did a great job [Saturday] stopping those guys. Obviously, the first half, we were shooting ourselves in the foot at times, they were stepping up for us. Come the second half, we were going to come up big for them.”Outside of the third-down success, the Wisconsin defense played its best game of the season against a quality opponent. In what turned out to be a defensive slugfest, Wisconsin held Iowa to 228 yards of total offense, only 59 of which came on the ground.”Our defense finally came out and played. We toughed up, and we did most everything right,” defensive tackle Nick Hayden said. “There were a couple critical errors made, but it was hard-nosed football, just the way we like it.”Just the way the coach likes it also.”I thought our defense came with an attitude, tackled well and attacked the ball,” Bielema said. “That’s the way we want it to be,” Hayden said. “Just fix the little mistakes and now just keep getting better and better.”last_img

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