MADISON — A new-look secondary hopes to build on a successful debut for No. 4 Wisconsin.
The Badgers broke in seven new defensive starters in their season opener, including Scott Nelson at safety, along with sophomore Caesar Williams and Faion Hicks at cornerback.
Nelson and Hicks, both redshirt freshmen, also made their collegiate debuts in the 34-3 victory last week over Western Kentucky. Next up is a visit from New Mexico on Saturday.
“They’re maturing but at the same time, it’s only one game,” senior safety D’Cota Dixon, a three-year starter, said Monday about the trio. “You don’t get too excited with it. You’ve got to stay even and keep playing the game.”
The secondary helped hold the Hilltoppers to three points in four trips into the red zone. Dating back to the start of the 2017 season, the Badgers have allowed just 11 touchdowns on their opponents 39 trips inside the 20-yard line (28.2 percent).
Nelson especially played well and showed the promise of being an instinctive, hard-hitting safety. He tied for the team lead with seven tackles, including two for loss, and chipped in with two pass breakups.
“He was flying around, I know that,” coach Paul Chryst. “He’s a good player. It means a lot to him so he’ll certainly grow.”
In a sign of a maturity, Nelson is also learning to quickly own up to mistakes.
“Overall, I think it was good,” Nelson said Friday of the unit’s performance. “We had a couple of mental mistakes, a couple of slip-ups. We can definitely tighten it up. We’ll get things straightened out and come back next week.”
Dixon was also impressed with Nelson accepting blame for a 48-yard pass-play that set up Western Kentucky’ only points on a 25-yard field goal in the opening minutes of the third quarter.
“I told him before the game that you’re going to make mistakes,” Dixon said. “For the rest of the season you’re going to make mistakes. Give yourself grace, keep improving. It happens, especially when you’re playing the game at a high level.”
NOTES: DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (left knee) has been cleared to practice and could possibly see action against New Mexico, Chryst said. ... TE Zander Neuville (right leg) and S Reggie Pearson (left leg) are listed as questionable. ... TE Luke Benzschawel (right leg) and ILB Mike Maskalunas (right leg) were ruled out after getting hurt against Western Kentucky.