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MADISON - For the second straight season, David Gilbert will not start when
Wisconsin plays Nebraska in the Big Ten opener.
After missing last season’s contest due to a broken foot, being forced to watch Wisconsin’s 48-17 beating of Nebraska from the Camp Randall sidelines, Gilbert’s comment to ESPNMadison.com that Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez’s passing motion looks ‘like he’s skipping rocks out there’ has cost him his starting spot.
“He’ll be skipping rocks on the sidelines with me for the first play,” UW coach Bret Bielema said Thursday. “He will not start the game. I want to make him understand that, that’s just not who we are or what we are.”
Gilbert started the first four games last season before his injury knocked him out for the remainder of the season. After starting slow to begin the season in his first extended playing time since the injury, Gilbert has made 10 tackles in the last two games, including a career-high seven tackles against Utah State two weeks ago.
Spending the summer working on his passing mechanics, Martinez has taken advantage of a lighter nonconference schedule to rank first in the Big Ten in passing efficiency (180.93), numbers that obviously didn’t impressive Gilbert.
“I was taken aback because that’s just not (the) norm (for Wisconsin).” Bielema said. “That still doesn’t give the right to throw those things out. I think Taylor Martinez is a Heisman-type guy, the numbers he is having - if they continue to put those up there. He has made tremendous strides.”
According to Bielema, Gilbert will not play the first play, if not more. Gilbert was delivered the news by defensive lineman coach Charlie Partridge.
“Charlie preached a strong statement to him.” Bielema said. “I’m a head coach and you hold accountability first within the position groups. Charlie wanted that opportunity to tell him. I think he called me this morning at 6:30 a.m., and told me what popped up on his twitter. And I’m like, ‘Really? Come on.' The kid is going to learn. As head coach I have to remind guys all the time; the things that we say and the things we put in front of the media - you said it, now you have to play it.”
Tyler Dippel and Konrad Zagzebski will start at end for UW, which will be without ends Brendan Kelly (hamstring) and Pat Muldoon (thumb).
Ball is Ready
After being knocked out of Saturday’s game with a concussion sustained at the start of the second quarter, senior tailback Montee Ball has been cleared to play and is expected to start.
“Montee got out there in practice today,” Bielema said. “He’s been cleared 100 percent. He looked good out there during the last rep of practice so unless something changes overnight he’s clear for the football game.”
Muldoon is said to be cleared next week, and has been eager to get back in the game.
“For the last two weeks, every Sunday he’s in my office begging with me to talk to the doctors,” Bielema said of Muldoon. “And of course I can’t do anything there. It’s strictly the doctor’s decision. He should be cleared to go next week.”
“From that standpoint we are healthy,” Bielema added. “I thought the guys had a great week. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday probably our best workweek we have had since the season kicked in. I’m very excited about the way they handled that and today was no let down at all. I’m excited to get to the weekend.”
Kicking, specifically kickoffs, has been a recent issue for the Badgers from sophomore Kyle French. After switching to true freshman Jack Russell last week, Bielema plans on starting Russell … unless another issue comes up.
“Jack will be the guy out of the gate,” Bielema said. “Kyle hit the ball really, really well this week and hit it again today very, very well. As is the case when Kyle was the guy and Jack was right there, one thing both of them have suffered from is if they have a bad kick the next one is really bad. That’s something we are aware of. Kyle put that first one out of bounds. We made the decision to go with Jack and didn’t waiver on that. The same thing will be true for Jack going into this game.”
Even in tough situations, redshirt freshman Joel Stave has kept his cool and hasn’t let pressure get to him. After seeing Stave manage the offense in the last two games, Bielema is putting his faith in Stave for a second straight start.
“Just from the time I’ve known Joel - over the last two to two and a half years of knowing him - every day is the same,” Bielema said. “He doesn’t get too high or get to low. He has that innocence to him where something happens it’s just like, ‘Oh, OK, that happened.’ And I don’t see that changing. I saw a great quote from Travis (Frederick) that he was the same in the huddle when we were up by four points and needing to score as we were in the second quarter when things got rolling.”
The new uniforms have also been a hot topic coming into the Nebraska game, sporting an old-school version of the Badgers outfits. The new look is going over well with the team as they have been practicing all week in them.
“The kids have been really enjoying them,” Bielema said. “They have been wearing the shoes and the helmets all week. We put them in the jerseys. What’s nice is that its two premier Adidas schools - Nebraska and us. I spoke for Adidas last spring and it really jumped out to me when I went to their headquarters; how much of a brand Wisconsin was for them. It’s really a key matchup game for them.”
Bielema on Nebraska’s receivers
“They are all vertical threats but each one of them has their own little rules, their little points of emphasis. I believe it’s No.18, he’s kind of the fifth wheel guy. I think (Martinez) has really done a nice job where they have some down the line run games which opens up some vertical passing games. They’ve been able to capitalize on that so that’s what is making the threat. I think their group of receivers, by far, are the most physical and most gifted players we have faced at this point.”