Thursday, September 1, 2011
Russell Wilson dazzles in Wisconsin debut
By Adam Rittenberg
You couldn't have scripted a much better Wisconsin debut for quarterback Russell Wilson.
The NC State transfer led eight Wisconsin possessions, all of which led to scores and seven of which ended in the UNLV end zone. He completed 10 of 13 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns, numbers that would have been even better had he hit two open tight ends in the first half. And while Wilson showed mobility in the pocket and the ability to extend plays, he also took off twice, recording a 46-yard touchdown and a 16-yard scramble. With this offensive line, Wilson shouldn't hesitate to run the ball when he sees fit.
Although UNLV's defense is bad, Wilson's accuracy bodes well for Wisconsin, which figured to see a drop-off after losing Scott Tolzien (72.9 percent completions in 2010). The Badgers also had more explosion plays than I expected, especially with passes and long runs after catches by Montee Ball, James White and Bradie Ewing. Wilson definitely can check down the ball and expect big gains.
Wilson certainly earned the right to wear a headset before the end of the third quarter as Wisconsin cruised to a 51-17 win. Just a terrific debut for a guy who looks like an excellent fit for a Big Ten title contender.
The concerns for Wisconsin coming out of tonight's game rest with the defense. The Badgers struggled against the run in the first half and allowed two sustained touchdown drives after halftime. There didn't seem to be enough sustained aggressiveness.
The Badgers didn't have a shut-down defense in 2010, but they made big plays. Top playmaker J.J. Watt is gone, so who fills the void? Chris Borland would seem like the top choice, but he might not be as effective at middle linebacker than he was on the outside as a freshman in 2009. Wisconsin could really benefit from a lineman taking a big step like Watt and O'Brien Schofield did the past two seasons.
There's a lot of time to work things out on defense, and coordinator Chris Ash will demand a better effort when Oregon State comes to Madison on Sept. 10.