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Badgers welcome in South Florida for final non-conference game

first_imgAfter one of the most impressive wins in recent memory against Bowling Green, the Wisconsin football team will close out the non-conference portion of its schedule when they take on the South Florida Bulls (2-2, 1-0 AAC) Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.The UW offensive attack against Bowling Green proved to be a record-setting one, as the Badgers (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten) set a school record–and a modern-era Big Ten record–for rushing yards (644) and another school record for total yards (756). Despite an early tie at seven, Wisconsin scored 44 unanswered points en route to a 68-17 victory.However, one aspect of the offense–the passing game–was absent against Bowling Green. While it wasn’t needed, as running backs Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement as well as dual-threat quarterback Tanner McEvoy ran the ball at such a successful rate, completing more passes is something offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig wants to see improve going forward, starting with South Florida. While the rushing attack is a large part of the offense, Ludwig knows they can’t rely on on it to put up the gaudy numbers it did this past Saturday.“We want to throw the ball better,” Ludwig said. “Complete more passes, protect the passer better and get open on the perimeter. Be a little bit more balanced, but it’s hard to argue with what the ground game produced the other day. It’s going to be difficult to do that day in and day out.”McEvoy heads into Saturday’s game against the Bulls as the top-ranking rushing quarterback in the Football Bowl Subdivision, averaging 9.73 yards per carry. But the coaches want to see Wisconsin develop more of a down-field threat through the air and a more reliable receiver overall. Currently, redshirt junior Alex Erickson is the only wide receiver with more than one catch on the season.For the run game to continue to be effective for UW, head coach Gary Andersen said a more reliable deep threat will compliment and open things up for the run game.“Definitely a priority, without question,” Andersen said of finding a deep threat at a wide receiver. “But our ability to take those deep shots, when you want to be who we are and run the ball, has not changed. And your inability to be able to really throw it down [field] a few times a game and take the top off the coverage has to. If you don’t have that, it definitely is going to cause your offense to not be as effective as it could be.”One such wide receiver could be redshirt sophomore Reggie Love, who has just one catch for two yards this season but did score a 45-yard rushing touchdown against LSU in the season opener. He sees the wide receiving group as one that needs to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to them while getting open to help out the quarterback.“When the opportunities come to us, we have to make the most of it,” Love said. “We have to do our best to get open, getting more separation for the quarterback, painting a better picture for him and when the ball comes to us, it just has to be ours.”For South Florida, they enter Saturday’s game against the Badgers coming off of a 17-14 win over fellow American Athletic Conference opponent Connecticut. Their other win this season came in their opener against Eastern Carolina, but they have since lost two games against Maryland and North Carolina State.Arguably the best player for the Bulls on offense is freshman running back Marlon Mack. Mack enters Saturday’s game as South Florida’s leading rusher with 502 yards, which is also good for seventh best in the country. He has scored five touchdowns this season and is averaging 125.5 rushing yards per game.South Florida doesn’t pose quite the threat through the air as they do on the ground, however. Starting quarterback Mike White is averaging only 97 passing yards per game and has just a 39.3 completion percentage through four games this season.Unlike Bowling Green, who ran a very up-tempo offense, South Florida’s offense, which is much slower, is somewhat reflective of the offense the Badgers run. Much like UW, the Bulls want to run the ball effectively and hope for the passing game to open up through play action.“South Florida, huddle up team, have plenty of time in between snaps this week, whether they have the ball or we have the ball, so that’ll be a big difference from a week ago,” Andersen said. “I think that they’re a physical run team. They want to establish the run, play action pass. They will get into different personnel groups on the offensive side of the football and have some fly sweeps and try to get the ball to the perimeter with their wide receivers.”On defense, the Bulls will present the Badgers with a tough test as they try to find their niche in the passing game. When asked about the defense for USF, both Ludwig and Love were quick to point out their athleticism, especially in the secondary. That athleticism will certainly test the Badgers wide receivers as they look to become more involved in the offense.“Their defensive backs are really athletic,” Love said. “Both great players, really athletic. But we have to go out there and give them the respect that they deserve and really get after them. They just aren’t any other team, they’re coming in to beat us.”Saturday’s game will be the first ever meeting between Wisconsin and South Florida. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. from Camp Randall Stadium.last_img

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