Passing game showing signs of life

first_imgMichigan, the nation’s top rush defense, was at it again, shutting down UW’s running game. UM allowed Badgers back P.J. Hill only 54 yards on 20 carries and sacked John Stocco four times, surrendering just 12 net rushing yards to UW on the day.The Badgers managed to stay in the game by an unconventional manner. Stocco and the UW passing game have been stuck in neutral since losing 98 percent of last year’s completions (196 of 200 catches) to either the NFL Draft or graduation. Last week, Badger head coach Bret Bielema said the passing game was still “taking baby steps.”That’s not to say all the problems have been aired out, but those baby steps got a little bigger Saturday as Stocco hit on 22 of 42 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort.”I think, in some ways, we did [get better today],” Stocco said. “I thought we started off the game very well and did some good things at the end there.”Stocco started out with as solid a quarter as he’s produced all year, completing each of his four passes for 53 yards in the first 15 minutes. The strong stanza was capped by a 29-yard touchdown pass in which Stocco snaked his way out of a blitz and calmly delivered the ball to Hill for the score.”He was on rhythm,” said Bielema of Stocco’s first quarter. “I like the fact that he was able to do some things at the line of scrimmage today as well. Coming into this game, we hadn’t done a lot of that in the heat of the battle, and he was able to take advantage of some looks of their defense.”Although the offense failed to capitalize on the opportunity of participating in a close game (10-10 at halftime) in the third quarter, the passing offense showed some more strength late in the game as Stocco completed six consecutive passes at one point and led the Badgers to 105 yards in the final four minutes.UW wide receiver Paul Hubbard, who left the game in the fourth quarter when he re-aggravated a shoulder injury, said he felt the passing game improved immensely from prior, mediocre games.”A lot of the guys went out there and they capitalized on the opportunities that they were given,” Hubbard said. “That’s what you do in big games, and it shows a lot for our passing game. Other games, we were all right, but we came into the Big House … and we were able to throw on them a few times.”The running backs and tight ends combined for 14 catches and 158 yards, led by five receptions and 64 yards for Hill. On the other hand, UW wide receivers tallied just eight catches for 78 yards.Bielema said that during the late surge of offense, Stocco began to look for tight end Travis Beckum, the converted defensive end who has become one of Stocco’s favorite targets.”It was apparent to me that John started looking to Travis a little bit after he made that catch on the sideline,” Bielema said. “He probably just saw him being able to catch the football.”Hubbard has made his name as a track star at Wisconsin and is still trying to sort out a struggle to hold on to the football. The other starting wideout, Luke Swan, has made few mistakes, but at 6 feet, 196 pounds has not posed a threat to opponents in terms of size.”We’ve still got a long season left. There were some good things we can be proud of today,” Stocco said. “We’ve just got to look at the things that we didn’t do well and clean those up this week.”We’re not far off. It’s just an adjustment here and there, and then we’re going to be right on track.”last_img read more