Rose Bowl Preview

January 2, 2012 by staff 

Rose Bowl Preview, Where: The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif. Time: 4:10 p.m. Monday.

TV: ESPN. Radio: AM-620. Tickets: Sold out. Line: Oregon by 6.

Series: UW leads, 3-1. Coaches: Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema (60-18); Oregon’s Chip Kelly (33-6).

Television – ESPN with Brent Musberger (play-by-play), Kirk Herbstreit (analysis) and Erin Andrews (sideline).

Radio – AM-620 in Milwaukee and a state network with Matt Lepay (play-by-play) and Mike Lucas (analysis).

NICKEL FOR YOUR THOUGHTS: Few defenses have been able to contain the plethora of speedy playmakers Oregon has at multiple positions. UW’s defensive coaches normally prefer to remain in their base 4-3-4 whenever possible, even against spread teams. That probably won’t work against the Ducks, who have more overall speed than any team UW has faced this season. Cornerback Peniel Jean was solid in the nickel package (4-2-5) during the regular season, but UW’s best alignment would be Antonio Fenelus and Marcus Cromartie at cornerback, safety Shelton Johnson in the slot and Aaron Henry and Dezmen Southward as the deep safeties.

Johnson has played cornerback and safety and played well down the stretch. He is tied for the team lead in interceptions (four) and is fourth on the team in tackles (51). He had an interception in each of UW’s last three games.

NO QUICK STRIKES: Oregon uses a breakneck pace and big plays to get defenders out of position and ultimately wear them down. Of the Ducks’ 75 touchdown drives, 41 have lasted two minutes or less. That includes 13 drives of one minute or less. “Guys start standing up a little more, stop bending their knees,” UW defensive tackle Patrick Butrym said when asked to identify signs of fatigue in defenders. “(They) don’t run to the ball as hard.”

When Oregon reaches the red zone, UW’s defense must force field-goal attempts. The Ducks have scored on 86% of their red-zone chances (54 of 63), but the percentage of touchdowns drops to 76% (48 of 63). By comparison, UW has scored touchdowns on 87% of its trips into the red zone (61 of 70).

STAY OUT OF THIRD AND LONG: UW quarterback Russell Wilson can anticipate the blitz before the snap and avoid pressure with his feet. However, Oregon is third nationally in sacks per game (3.3). The last thing UW needs is to put Wilson in obvious passing situations and allow the Ducks to ignore the run.

The Ducks use multiple fronts and use a variety of blitzes, including complex zone blitzes, to confuse linemen and the quarterbacks. They often blitz two defenders through the same gap, one after another, to outman blockers. It will be essential for the linemen, as well as Wilson, to make precise pre-snap reads to identify the potential blitzers. Communication among the linemen and tight ends must be consistent.

“Definitely stop them on first down and make it second- and third-and-long,” Oregon linebacker Michael Clay said of the Ducks’ plan to stop UW. “And take a lot of their key bread-and-butter plays out so they have to go to the high passing game. I think with our defensive line we’ll pin (their) ears back and get to them if they have to go third-and-long.”

FORCE MISTAKES: UW wasn’t able to force a turnover in the Rose Bowl loss to TCU last season. The Badgers must take the ball away from Oregon, which has suffered 18 turnovers (12 fumbles and six interceptions). UW has forced 24 turnovers (15 interceptions, nine fumbles), with 21 coming in the last nine games. The Badgers have turned 17 of those 21 turnovers into touchdowns.

“I think it all starts with pursuit and attitude,” linebacker Chris Borland said. “When you’ve got guys running to the ball and hitting hard, the ball seems to pop loose. It’s all positive when you have guys running to the ball and being aggressive.”

The Badgers are 6-3 in bowl games against teams currently in the Pacific 12. The last bowl loss for UW against a team in the Pacific 12 was the 1963 Rose Bowl. Top-ranked USC defeated No. 2 UW, 42-37.

This is the fifth meeting between UW and Oregon but the first since the 2001 season and the first in a bowl game.

The 2000 and 2001 games were entertaining and went down to the wire, with the first game in Madison and the rematch in Eugene.

In 2000, UW tailback Michael Bennett introduced himself to the nation by rushing for 290 yards in a 27-23 victory.

Quarterback Brooks Bollinger scored the winning touchdown with 5 minutes 25 seconds left after a long run by Bennett.

Cornerback Jamar Fletcher sealed the victory with an interception, his third of the game against Joey Harrington.

Harrington led the Ducks to a 31-28 victory in 2001. Harrington passed for 278 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another, the game-winner with 4:03 left.

Jim Sorgi, who completed 16 of 32 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns, drove UW to the Oregon 47 in the final minutes. However, Sorgi threw four consecutive incompletions and the Ducks held on for the victory.

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