Wisconsin defense vows to get better

September, 7, 2011
9/07/11
11:15
AM ET
This week, Wisconsin defensive tackle Patrick Butrym is putting his own spin on an old coaching cliché.

You know, the one that talks about what happens to teams between the first and second games.

"We want to be the most improved defense in the country from Week 1 to Week 2," Butrym told ESPN.com.

The Badgers defense left plenty of room to improve after its opening performance.

Perhaps the only group of people who left Camp Randall Stadium fuming last Thursday night -- other than the UNLV rebels, of course -- were the members of Wisconsin's defense. Although the Badgers thumped UNLV 51-17, making a strong statement on national TV, the defense looked a bit shaky.

Wisconsin surrendered only three points in the first 42 minutes, but UNLV should have had more. The Rebels mounted three drives of nine plays or more in the first half but had just a field goal to show for their efforts. UNLV finished the game with 292 yards and had perfect balance (146 rush, 146 pass).

Although the game's outcome was never in doubt because Wisconsin's offense scored on its first eight possessions, the defense didn't look like an elite unit.

"We just didn't tackle very well," Butrym said. "That was the most disappointing thing. That's what our focus is this week in practice."

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema noted that UNLV showed formations and personnel groupings the Badgers hadn't seen in their game last year in Las Vegas or throughout the 2010 season. The Rebels came out in the pistol formation and quarterback Caleb Herring and running back Bradley Randle found gaps in the field.

"It took us a little bit of time to adjust," Bielema said, "and in the second quarter it got away from us a little bit. And then we were up 51-3 or 51-10. The game got out of hand and our guys got a little sloppy in the late third, early fourth quarter."

Butrym acknowledged that UNLV "didn't do anything we expected" but maintains it's no excuse for Wisconsin's poor tackling.

The Badgers should have a better idea of what to expect from Oregon State on Saturday. Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst held the same post for the Beavers in 2003-04 and remains close with Oregon State coach Mike Riley.

"They run a lot of the same stuff, not identical, but there's a lot of carryover from Oregon State to us," Butrym said. "It's very nice going against those guys on our offensive line this week because it's a very similar offense."

Oregon State dropped its opener to FCS Sacramento State, and while Beavers standout receiver James Rodgers is still working his way back from knee surgery, Wisconsin knows it will be tested. Freshman running back Malcolm Agnew recorded 223 rush yards and three touchdowns in his collegiate debut last week.

Complacency remains the No. 1 concern for a Wisconsin team that looks equipped to compete for a Big Ten title and possibly more. Bielema shouldn't have any worries this week with his defense.

"We all know what we need to do," Butrym said. "We won, but we expect a lot out of ourselves. We're taking a very businesslike approach. If we can continue to do that, hopefully we can have success."

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