MADISON – T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly didn’t enjoy the video review of Wisconsin’s loss to BYU.
Mistakes aplenty were made in the 24-21 loss Sept. 15, but the two senior inside linebackers were particularly displeased with what they saw on the big screen.
“We struggled against BYU,” said Edwards, who has started 43 games and played in 44 at UW. “We missed plays. We missed gaps. I think he would say the same.
“I think we both put that behind us.”
Connelly, who has started 18 games and played in 45 at UW, offered a blunt personal assessment.
“For me personally, it just comes down to the fact that I wasn’t practicing the right way,” he said. “I wasn’t finishing. I was like: ‘Oh yeah, I’ll make that play in the game.’
“I lost touch with how I had practiced the last couple years so I just tried to get back to that.”
With Edwards and Connelly leading the way, UW’s defense performed better one week later in the 28-17 victory over Iowa.
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Yes, Iowa hit some big pass plays. Yet UW made two key red-zone stops and Edwards ended any potential drama with 38 seconds remaining.
“I thought Ryan and T.J., as leaders, were kind of like a lot of guys felt,” UW coach Paul Chryst said as his team prepared to host Nebraska this week. “I was proud of the response.
“Those two have played a lot of football and played a lot of really good football. So when things don’t go the way you would like, they’re going to take it personally.
“And what you appreciate as a coach is that they’re going to put that into action.”
Edwards finished with five tackles, including one for loss, and the critical interception in the victory over Iowa. That gave him eight interceptions in 44 games at UW.
The ball bounced off the right hand of wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who was running a shallow crossing route, and into the air.
Edwards crowded the line of scrimmage before the snap, as if he planned to blitz. But he drifted back into a zone and was in perfect position to catch the deflection.
“I thought going into Iowa the game plan was really sound and really clean and we knew we just had to do our thing, do our 1/11th,” Edwards said. “And as long as we did that our defense would be fine.”
Connelly recorded six tackles, tied for the team lead with safety D’Cota Dixon.
He had one tackle for loss, on a huge third-down play early in the third quarter.
Iowa had driven from its 25 to third and goal at the 2 and appeared ready to break a 7-7 tie with a touchdown.
Tailback Ivory Kelly-Martin took a pitch from quarterback Nate Stanley and started to his right, with fullback Brady Ross leading the way.
Connelly was lined up in the end zone, even with the right guard, at the snap. He flowed quickly to the right side of the Iowa formation and shot into the backfield. With one dive he defeated the attempted block of Ross and took down Kelly-Martin for a 4-yard loss. Iowa settled for a field goal and a 10-7 lead.
“I just needed to make sure I was outside of the fullback,” Connelly said. “I just tried to shoot the outside and it just kind of happened, to be honest.
“I was just trying to get a good shot on the running back. If you watch, Chris Orr and T.J. are flowing over the top.
“I know they were going to clean up what I don’t get.”
The play by Connelly was largely the result of detailed preparation in practice.
“Their preparation was outstanding and I think it is great examples of how, regardless of whether you won or lost, how you’ve got to prepare each week,” Chryst said. “Those two set a great tone and a lot of people can learn from it.”