ASU QB burnt Badgers before
MADISON The win had barely sunk in before senior safety Jay Valai already had turned the page on to the University of Wisconsin’s next football opponent.
It’s typical protocol for the 11th-ranked Badgers (2-0), who don’t let a win—like the 27-13 victory over San Jose State last Saturday—get them too excited, or a loss get them too down.
This week has something extra-special mixed in, however, for Valai. Not only will the Badgers be facing their toughest test of the young season, but Valai finally will get a chance to wipe the awful memory of Steven Threet celebrating a shocking victory over UW.
“I haven’t forgotten,” said Valai, who knew Threet’s name from being prompted by the reporter. “When we went to Michigan two years ago … I can remember (Threet) putting his hands up and coach Rodriguez hugging him. That thought has never left my mind.”
UW fans might say same in recalling the day the Badgers blew a 19-0 halftime lead at Ann Arbor, Mich.
“When we broke down in the locker room,” Valai said of this week’s anticipation, “that’s the first thing I said: ‘Remember who we are playing, because it’s the same kid we played against at Michigan.’
“The second half, they came out and basically turned that whole season from what it was supposed to be into what it was, which was 7-6. We’ve got a lot of redemption on our minds.”
Threet was far from the hero the day he quarterbacked Michigan in its dramatic 27-25 comeback victory over UW in the 2008 conference opener, but he has developed into the central figure for Arizona State, which will face Wisconsin on Saturday at Camp Randall.
Threet has come a long way since his Michigan days, and his numbers prove it. In the upset, Threet completed 12 of 31 passes for 96 yards a touchdown, and he had two interceptions. He did have his plays—a 26-yard touchdown pass and a 58-yard run that set up another. But he was unhappy with the spread offense he was forced to operate.
After sitting out a season (as mandated by he NCAA) since his transfer to Arizona State, Threet has found a level of comfort in his first two games.
“He’s got a lot of talent, he’s tough to bring down, and you can tell that he’s a good competitor,” UW coach Bret Bielema said. “He seems to have good composure relatively early in his career there at Arizona State.
“All the reasons he was recruited to Michigan, and all the reasons he’s at Arizona State—he’s a good quarterback.”
Opening the season with two wins, the redshirt junior has completed 67.1 percent of his passes (47 of 70) for 630 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. More importantly, Threet is spreading the ball around, as 13 players have caught a pass and five have at least four receptions.
“I remember basically every game, so I remember all of it,” Threet said of the ’08 game upset of Wisconsin. “We were able to come back and get the win in the second half. There are some of the same guys, and I’ve played against Wisconsin before.”
The key for Wisconsin is which guys will step up and contribute. The Badgers’ secondary consisting of Valai, Aaron Henry, Niles Brinkley and Antonio Fenelus weren’t the main contributors in that game, but they have separated themselves as the starting secondary.
Through two games, the group has committed only two penalties and been indirectly responsible for only three scores.
But it has made glaring missteps or missed tackles that have led to big passing plays, which San Jose State’s meager passing offense took advantage of in rolling up 252 yards.
Helping the pass rush will be the return of starting sophomore linebacker Chris Borland. After getting four sacks in the opener against UNLV, the Badgers didn’t have Borland (shoulder) in the lineup against the Spartans and didn’t register a sack, allowing the San Jose State offense more time to torch the UW secondary.
“You really saw the loss of No. 44 out there pressuring the passer,” Bielema said. “Hopefully, we get that element back. That’s something we can all benefit from.”
More importantly, it will give UW a chance to correct one of the greatest wrongs in Bielema’s tenure.
“He’s 1-0 against us,” Valai said of Threet. “We have a chance to change that.”