Badgers open Chryst era with a thud
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Wisconsin, even at full strength, would have needed a tremendous effort to upset No. 3 Alabama on Saturday night and give Paul Chryst a victory in his Badgers head coaching debut.
ARLINGTON, Texas - Wisconsin, even at full strength, would have needed a tremendous effort to upset No. 3 Alabama on Saturday night and give Paul Chryst a victory in his Badgers head coaching debut.
With safety Michael Caputo (head) gone for the night on the fourth play of the game and inside linebacker Leon Jacobs hobbled with an apparent foot injury for much of the game before leaving in the second half, Wisconsin was hamstrung defensively.
The loss of Caputo was huge, as Alabama had success attacking the middle of the field. Coupled with Wisconsin’s inability to run the ball, the Crimson Tide ground out a 35-17 victory before 64,279 fans at AT&T Stadium.
In short, the Chryst era opened with a thud.
“We gave up too many big plays and offensively just never got into a rhythm,” Chryst said. “We struggled running the football.”
What Chryst and his assistants learned Saturday was that the Badgers’ offensive line was no match for Alabama’s front seven and the defense wilted and gave up too many big plays, both on the ground and through the air.
Wisconsin, which averaged 320.1 rushing yards per game last season, had to rely on the arm of quarterback Joel Stave against the Crimson Tide.
That worked for one half as Stave completed 14 of 16 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown in the first two quarters to keep the Badgers within 14-7. Alabama’s defense took away Wisconsin’s short and medium routes in the second half.
Stave completed 12 of 23 passes for 80 yards in the second half. Wisconsin finished with 268 yards, including just 40 rushing yards on 21 attempts.
“We couldn’t run the football with any consistency,” Chryst said. “We had a couple of runs but nothing consistent.
“I think it is a really talented defense and we just didn’t make enough plays.”
Tailback Corey Clement, who made his first college start, entered the night with 1,496 career rushing yards and a per-carry average of 7.0. He was held to 15 yards on seven carries in the first half and had one carry for 1 yard in the second half. In the fourth quarter, Wisconsin officials announced he was out with a groin injury.
According to Chryst, Clement suffered the injury during the week.
“It had been bothering him a little bit,” said Chryst, who said the injury was the sole reason for Clement’s limited use. “Give him a lot of credit. This game was important for him.”
Alabama entered the night having allowed just 15 individual performances of 100 yards or more since the 2005 season, the best mark in the nation.
“We kind of dominated the line of scrimmage,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We were able to stop their run. I thought we played really well defensively.”
After Wisconsin lost Caputo, the Crimson Tide took advantage by working the middle of the field.
Quarterback Jake Coker started and completed 15 of 21 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. Tailback Derrick Henry rushed 13 times for 147 yards and three touchdowns. His scoring runs covered 37, 56 and 2 yards. Reserve tailback Kenyan Drake added 77 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
“I thought Jake played pretty well,” Saban said. “Obviously Derrick Henry had a nice game. I thought the offensive line did a decent job. Wisconsin has a very good defensive front.”
Henry helped the Crimson Tide take a 7-0 lead with 5 minutes, 54 seconds left in the first quarter with a 37-yard run up the middle on fourth-and-1.
Nose tackle Conor Sheehy had a chance to bring down the 6-foot-3, 242-pound Henry near the line of scrimmage. But Henry slipped through Sheehy’s arms and there were no linebackers or safeties in the middle of the field to slow Henry.
Wisconsin countered with an impressive 63-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter to forge a 7-7 tie, Stave finding wide receiver Alex Erickson for a 6-yard score on third-and-goal with 11:06 left in the half.
The Crimson Tide took advantage of Caputo’s absence with an eight-play, 88-yard drive on the next possession and then got a bit of luck on the final play of the half to maintain a 14-7 lead.
Coker completed passes of 33, 13, 11 and 17 yards on the final four plays of the touchdown drive. He found Drake for 33 yards on a screen on second-and-22 and hit wide receiver Robert Foster on a crossing route for a 17-yard touchdown with 6:39 left in the half.
Wisconsin had a chance to score late after a 20-yard punt but sophomore kicker Rafael Gaglianone, who made his final 14 attempts last season and finished 19-for-22, missed from 34 yards when the ball caromed off the right upright.
Alabama’s defense controlled the third quarter and Henry broke free for another long touchdown run as the Crimson Tide expanded the lead to 21-7 and eventually to 35-10.
“We could have finished the (first) half with some points.” Chryst said. “And then we didn’t start well in the second half.
“They were opportunistic.”
Wisconsin was not.
ALABAMA 35 WISCONSIN 17
Wisconsin 0 7 3 7- 17
Alabama 7 7 14 7- 35
ALA-De.Henry 37 yard rush (A.Griffith kick), 5:54.
WIS-A.Erickson 6 yard pass from Stave (Gaglianone kick), 11:06.
ALA-Ro.Foster 17 yard pass from Coker (A.Griffith kick), 6:39.
ALA-De.Henry 56 yard rush (A.Griffith kick), 11:42.
ALA-De.Henry 2 yard rush (A.Griffith kick), 5:17.
WIS-Gaglianone 43 yard field goal, 1:05.
ALA-K.Drake 43 yard rush (A.Griffith kick), 8:02.
WIS-Wheelwright 3 yard pass from Stave (Gaglianone kick), 4:42.
First Downs 17 27
Rushes-Yards 21-40 37-238
Passing 228 264
Sacked-Yds Lost 3-24 3-26
Comp-Att-Int 26-39-1 22-29-0
Return Yards 99 101
Punts 7-37.1 4-36.8
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 5-50 11-120
Time of Possession 28:55 31:05
RUSHING-WIS, A.Erickson 1-25, C.Clement 8-16, Deal 6-14, Ogunbowale 3-9, Stave 3-(minus 24). ALA, De.Henry 13-147, K.Drake 10-77, Dm.Harris 9-23, C.Bateman 2-4, Coker 3-(minus 13).
PASSING-WIS, Stave 26-39-1-228. ALA, Coker 15-21-0-213, C.Bateman 7-8-0-51.
RECEIVING-WIS, A.Erickson 6-73, Ogunbowale 6-39, D.Watt 5-22, A.Traylor 3-39, C.Clement 2-19, Wheelwright 2-18, J.Peavy 1-14, Deal 1-4. ALA, Ro.Foster 4-50, Ar.Stewart 4-44, O.Howard 3-37, Ridley 3-22, K.Drake 2-48, Mullaney 2-38, De.Henry 2-12, Flournoy-Smith 1-17, Dm.Harris 1-(minus 4).