Defensive Line Shines In Defeat

The Morning News/Razorback Central
Posted Jan 2, 2007


ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Capital One Bowl's Most Valuable Player leaned toward a microphone and complimented the same Arkansas players who often made him familiar with the Citrus Bowl stadium turf on Monday.

John Stocco finished his Wisconsin career by throwing for 206 yards and two touchdowns, yet the senior quarterback had nothing but praise for the Razorbacks.

"That's a great defense, top to bottom," Stocco said. "If not the best we've seen, (they're close). I don't know if Michigan was better."

There's one difference, though.

The No. 6 Badgers lost to Michigan, the lone blemish on a 12-1 season for first-year coach Bret Bielema. Wisconsin managed to squeak past Arkansas 17-14 despite withstanding the best all-around performance by the Hogs' defensive line this season.

Arkansas combined to tie a season-high in sacks (six) and set a season-high in tackles for loss (11).

In the first half, as Wisconsin strangely relied on Stocco's arm more than the legs of burly freshman running back P.J. Hill, the Hogs defensive line frequently chased Stocco.

On the Badgers' first series, tackle Keith Jackson Jr. and end Jamaal Anderson hurried Stocco into errant throws. On Wisconsin's next possession, Jackson and Anderson each recorded sacks.

"We worked on it all week," Jackson said. "Our ends, with their speed, were making it easier for me and (tackle) Ernest Mitchell on the inside. There were lots of opportunities to get to the quarterback because he had to step up (in the pocket) a lot of the time."

By the end of the first half, Mitchell had hurried Stocco twice and Jackson picked off a Stocco pass after end Antwain Robinson tipped the ball into the air.

All the while, Arkansas stuffed Hill, the bruising 242-pounder who posted a regular-season total of 1,533 yards.

Anderson, a 6-foot-6, 280-pound junior, said the outstanding performance was a result of collective chemistry and friendship.

"We noticed in the spring that we really came together as a group, and we really put this team on our shoulders," Anderson said. "And we really played well. There was just a couple of big plays in the first half that hurt us."

In the second half, Anderson took over, knocking down three passes, hurrying Stocco two more times and recording two more sacks.

Anderson's performance could've fueled rumors about his possible jump to the National Football League. His three sacks put him at 14 for the season, good enough to tie Steven Conley and Henry Ford for the school record.

Anderson hoped to quell that talk by stating after the game that he planned on being back for his senior season to avenge this season-ending three-game slide.

"I mean, it's frustrating but the defense isn't going to point fingers at anybody," Anderson said. "We felt like if we didn't given up 17 points in the first half, this could have been a different game."



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