After rolling up 404 yards rushing in its season-opening victory over Akron last week, No. 11 Wisconsin plans to keep running until somebody stops them. But the Badgers' latent passing game is expected to receive a major boost for Saturday's game against Marshall.
Tight end Travis Beckum missed the opener because of a hamstring injury but returned to practice for the Badgers (1-0) this week and is expected to play against the Thundering Herd (1-0).
The 6-4, 235-pound Beckum is a highly regarded NFL prospect but returned for his senior season at Wisconsin with big goals in mind.
``To win a national championship and to win a Big Ten championship,'' Beckum said. ``That's my goal, and I'd be a liar if I didn't say it was.''
His return will provide a new dimension to the Badgers offense, which relied almost exclusively on its running game to win the opener.
``I think he will help us, not just in the red zone but everywhere,'' Badgers offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said. ``That's a good football player that we're not playing.''
Wisconsin wanted to ease new starting quarterback Allan Evridge into the lineup on Saturday. While the Badgers didn't shake free from Akron until the third quarter, their dominant running game delivered a victory while Evridge threw only 10 passes.
Badgers coach Bret Bielema expects defenses to adjust.
``A little bit is what we do, but a little bit will also be dictated off of what our opponents try to do in defending those type of situations,'' Bielema said. ``But I would say that we'll run the football until someone says we can't.''
Marshall is coming off a season-opening victory over Illinois State, a win that Thundering Herd coach Mark Snyder said provided confidence going into a game against a team that seems able to deliver on its smashmouth reputation.
``After looking at them on film, it's the Wisconsin of old,'' Snyder said. ``They have not changed one iota, just very solid.''
Badgers bulldozer P.J. Hill and two talented backups, Zach Brown and John Clay, run behind an offensive line featuring five starters who weigh more than 300 pounds each.
``Their offensive line is huge,'' Snyder said. ``They get on you and try to hurt you. It will be a good challenge for our defensive line and our defensive front in general. There will be no tourists on this trip - our DB's are going to have to tackle this week.''
Hill rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns against Akron, while Brown and Clay each came close to turning in 100-yard rushing performances of their own.
``It was a meaningful thing to rush for 400,'' Badgers center John Moffitt said. ``We all were kind of jacked up about that. But the bottom line is we want to be able to move the ball on the ground. I don't see the line or the coaches getting too caught up in going for this much a game. I think what we're getting caught up in is moving the ball on the ground.''
Tackle Kraig Urbik said having fewer days to prepare for Marshall will be a challenge.
``We had a lot of days to prepare for Akron,'' Urbik said. ``We looked at a lot of things that they did, blitzes and looks and what-not. We had a lot of good package plays and a lot of good running plays called for certain looks, so we were able to maximize the opportunities. That's why we had a lot of big hits.''
While Evridge wasn't asked to deliver a big passing performance in his debut as the starter, Bielema said he did a good job with his checks at the line of scrimmage.
``He was able to put us in the correct situation over 98 percent of the time,'' Bielema said. ``And that, to me, shows that he knew and was clued into the game. He was five for five on his first five passes, you know, and it just showed me that he understood.''
But the Badgers' offense is likely to be challenged by a Marshall defense with more size, something Bielema said made them a little closer to the kinds of tests they'll face in conference play. Defensive end Albert McClellan had two sacks against Illinois State.
On offense, Marshall's main threats are wide receiver Darius Passmore and its own three-dimensional stable of running backs, Darius Marshall, Terrell Edwards and Chubb Small.
Snyder praised the poise of redshirt freshman quarterback Mark Cann, but said it wouldn't necessarily be easy for him to adjust to the speed of Wisconsin's defense.
``Hopefully he makes that jump from game one to game two, but he's going against a lot faster players than he went against last week,'' Snyder said. ``There's more speed on this defense than what he faced last week, so it will be another transition for him.''

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