Handling Badgers' O-line a tall order


POSTED: Thursday, December 03, 2009

Looking for a shady spot? Head over to where the Wisconsin offensive line is hanging out.

All standing 6-foot-4 or taller and averaging a tad over 317 pounds per man, Wisconsin's starting offensive line casts quite a shadow.

The Badgers' front, reinforced by two tight ends, has plowed a path for sophomore John Clay to run to Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and provides protection for quarterback Scott Tolzien.

All of which creates a formidable task for Hawaii's defensive front seven as the Warriors try to extend their season to Christmas Eve and the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

“;This is the best O-line we've seen,”; Hawaii defensive line coach Dave Aranda said. “;They're the most physical inside and their tackles are very long and very athletic. If you take the best of each O-line that we've seen and put them together, it's what these guys are.”;





        Where: Aloha Stadium

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday




Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM




The Warriors (6-6) close the regular season on Saturday at Aloha Stadium and will have to quickly shift gears to counter Wisconsin's power running game a week after containing Navy's option offense.

“;Last week those guys were smaller, more quick and finesse,”; defensive tackle Rocky Savaiigaea said of Navy, whose heaviest lineman weighed in at 273 pounds. “;These guys will stay on their feet and go man-on-man and try to impose their will. It's going to be different, it's going to be real physical.”;

Holding their ground at the line of scrimmage becomes even more challenging when facing the double teams the Badgers (8-3) often employ to open a hole.

“;That's close to 700 pounds,”; UH tackle Vaughn Meatoga said. “;You just have to stay low. Our pad level's going to be key for this game. Technique, pad level, being aggressive.”;

Of course, getting past the line is just the first step. Then comes the task of bringing down the 6-foot-1, 248-pound Clay. The sophomore leads the Big Ten with 111.3 yards per game and 13 rushing touchdowns.

“;They're a power team ... and you can't arm tackle this guy, you have to take him on,”; said UH head coach Greg McMackin, who repeatedly voiced that emphasis during team drills yesterday.

Wisconsin's power game could lead to a more prominent role for middle linebacker Jake Heun as the Warriors' second level works to reinforce the line.

Badgers' left Tackle Gabe Carimi (6-foot-7, 325 pounds) and guard John Moffitt (6-5, 320) both earned All-Big Ten recognition. Freshman Peter Konz (6-5, 315) starts at center. Kevin Zeitler (6-4, 317) and Jake Bscherer (6-7, 310) hold down the right side.

While the Badgers pose a formidable presence up front, it's a challenge the Warriors have grown familiar with during the season.

“;They're going to be big, but it's not like we haven't played bigger guys before,”; Meatoga said. “;Our line is undersized so we always play bigger guys up front. They're real physical and real sound up front so it'll be fun.”;


Playing a role

This week's opponent has given Antwan “;Tua”; Mahaley a chance to revisit his roots as a receiver.

Mahaley, a reserve defensive end, is playing tight end on the scout team, standing in for Wisconsin's Garrett Graham.

Mahaley signed with UH as a receiver in 2005 and made some tough catches during yesterday's practice as the Warriors defense prepared for a Badgers' passing attack that complements the running game with 205 yards per game. Graham leads Wisconsin with seven touchdown catches.

“;Coach Mack always says you have to find your role on the team and I realized that my role is to be a scout guy to be able to give our defense a look,”; said Mahaley, one of 23 seniors to be honored Saturday night. “;I just try to go out there and do my job. If everybody does their job then the team will succeed.”;

Mahaley was moved to defensive end two years ago, and has made most of his contributions on special teams. His signature moment came last season when he blocked a potential game-winning field goal in UH's win at Fresno State.

“;I give God all the praise and glory for giving me the opportunity to do that,”; Mahaley said.


Big bang theory

A torn labrum in his shoulder forced Kenny Estes out of action early last week and will sideline him for Saturday's game. But before suffering the injury, the backup safety was credited for setting the tone for UH's win over Navy.

On the opening kickoff, Estes plowed into the Navy's wedge to allow the coverage unit to stop the Navy kick returner at the 15.

“;Nobody picked me up and I was just free to the wedge,”; Estes said.

“;He did a great job of bringing it and took out three of the four guys and set everybody else up to make a big play,”; special teams coordinator Chris Tormey said.