CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Wisconsin is coming off its’ first shutout victory in nearly two years and has momentum for the second half of the season.
After all, the Badgers executed on defense and snapped a two-game losing streak. Now the players are feeling rejuvenated, especially linebacker Jack Sanborn. He put Wisconsin’s 1-3 start in the rearview mirror after the road victory over Illinois and wasn’t surprised by the performance from the defense.
It was an intense and physical week of practice that paid off for Sanborn and his teammates. The Illinois native was in awe of how a team with a losing record responded to adversity. All of the players rallied behind each other and delivered something worthwhile for Badger fans.
“Playing great defense and being one of the best defenses in the country is an expectation here,” Sanborn said. “It’s the standard, so I think every time we step on the field as a defense we want to make a statement.”
Wisconsin ranks first in the Big Ten in rushing and total defense. Not to mention the unit has only allowed two touchdowns on the ground all season. Stopping the run is going to be vital as Wisconsin hosts an Army team that ranks No. 2 in the FBS in rushing offense.
Something has to give in a strength on strength matchup. Sanborn believes the Black Knights are catching the Badgers at the wrong time. The team is highly motivated following their win and battle-tested. Having that confidence is going to help the Badgers when it comes to slowing down the Black Knights’ ground attack.
“You want to keep that momentum with you, but every week presents its’ own challenges,” he said. “Army is coming into Camp Randall and obviously they present challenges, not a team or an offense we usually see, so it’s a whole new week.”
The former four-star prospect takes pride in setting the tone for Wisconsin’s defensive front seven. The rest of the unit usually feeds off his energy and that’s when they’re at their best. Having an enforcer in the middle, who can fly from sideline to sideline is hard to game plan for.
Sanborn tallied five solo tackles and a sack against Penn State. The six-foot-two, 236-pounder also recorded a game-high, 13 stops against Michigan.
Sanborn already has 26 total tackles this season, but his production is bound to increase over the next seven games. The Badgers still have a lot to play for and the Big Ten West is full of parity. Getting the shutout was like hitting the reset button on the season and now the fans are wondering what Wisconsin (2-3) can do for an encore.
“There’s a long road ahead and we just got to battle each week,” the All-Big Ten defender said. “I’m extremely happy and so proud of this team, obviously the first four games were tough on us, none of us were happy about that.”
Army (4-1) will be a great measuring stick for Sanborn and the defense. Most importantly, the matchup will determine rather last week’s success from the group was a fluke or not.