Top foes, injuries can't slow Wisconsin's stout defense
(AP) While injuries have sapped No. 7 Wisconsin of key players, the losses have barely slowed down the Badgers’ defense.
The Badgers (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) have persevered through the adversity, ranking fifth in the FBS in scoring defense (13.8 points per game) and 11th in total defense (302.8 yards).
“We’re a group that’s confident in ourselves and controlling what we can control,” safety Leo Musso said. “That’s been the (plan) this year, a lot of guys going down with injuries, but the next man’s been stepping in and we haven’t been missing a beat, which is good.”
Wisconsin has lost starting inside linebackers Chris Orr and Jack Cichy for the season to injuries. Starting nose tackle Olive Sagapolu will miss his fourth straight game Saturday when the Badgers host Illinois (3-6, 2-4).
Yet with the toughest part of the schedule behind Wisconsin, coach Paul Chryst isn’t worried about the Badgers taking anything for granted the rest of the season.
“That’s what I like from this group. They do a nice job of locking in on the task of the week. They’re a group that’s smart,” he said.
“We all know the season’s a journey and you want to enjoy that and embrace that, and at the end of the year you earn the right to get whatever it is that you get.”
For the Badgers, that includes the opportunity to win the Big Ten West with victories against the Illini, Purdue and Minnesota.
T.J. Edwards, who replaced Orr earlier in the season, said it will continue to be business as usual for the Badgers no matter who is in the lineup. Ryan Connelly and Leon Jacobs have helped to replace Cichy.
“Whoever the backups are, they’re next-man-up ready,” said Edwards, who ranks second on the team with 56 tackles. “They’re always locked in, mentally ready in practice. When Connelly and Leon got their chance to step up, they did with ease because they were ready.”
NOTES: Besides Sagapolu (right arm), only two other players were on the Badgers’ injury report. OL Jacob Maxwell and FB Austin Ramesh are both questionable with right shoulder injuries.