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September 17, 2010Jay Valai still remembers seeing Steven Threet extend his arms in jubilation following Michigan's stunning come-from-behind victory over then No. 7 Wisconsin in 2008.
What turned out to be the 500th win inside the 'Big House' did nothing but leave an empty feeling inside many of the Badger players for the remainder of the season. In all actuality, that loss may have been the beginning of the end of a season that failed to live up to lofty expectations.
When UW plays host to Arizona State Saturday afternoon, guess who will be leading the charge once again.
"I haven't forgotten," Valai said. "I can remember him putting his hands up and coach Rich Rodriguez hugging him. That thought has never left my mind. When we were breaking the locker room that's the first thing I said. Remember who we're playing, it's the same kid we were playing at Michigan.
"In the second half they came out and basically turned that whole season from what it was supposed to be to what it was, which was 7-6."
Wisconsin fans know full well the pain that was associated with that loss because it was about as stunning as any defeat the Badgers have suffered in recent memory. Having controlled the entire first half to the tune of a 19-0 lead at the break, everything looked like it was lining up a Badger victory, the first in Michigan Stadium since 1994.
But then Threet found a way to get the momentum rolling with a 58-yard scamper that really opened the floodgates.
"I remember the long run," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "I remember that whole day very well. I reminded our guys of that on Sunday. It's a different team for him but you see a lot of the same characteristics. He's grown as a player. You can see he's physically grown, too.
"He's a lot bigger and he's tough to bring down."
So far, in his first season as the starting quarterback for the Sun Devils, Threet is off to a roaring start. In two games, Threet has completed 67 percent of his passes for 630 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. His nine-yards per attempt tally helps boast a passing attack that ranks No. 7 in the country by averaging more than 350 yards passing per game.
While the competition hasn't been as stiff as it will be inside Camp Randall this weekend for the Sun Devils (ASU has wins over Division 1-AA foes Portland State and Northern Arizona), Threet still paces an offense that will test the Badgers defensively.
Trying to run 80-100 plays throughout the game, the ASU offense tries to hurry to the line and get the snap off with 15-plus seconds remaining on the play clock.
"They're high tempo," UW middle linebacker Culmer St. Jean said. "They've got great skill guys, a great offensive line and a great quarterback. We played him at Michigan and he's a good quarterback. We've just got to do what we have to do to prepare."
In an attempt to simulate game speed, the UW coaching staff has made it a point to pick up the pace during scout team work. At certain points throughout the week, there have even been two huddles so the defense is constantly trying to ready itself for a quick hitting offense.
"One will go and the other one will be getting the plays so that they run out (immediately)," Bielema said. "So we'll actually run at a faster pace than Arizona State can physically do just because they'll sprint to the line of scrimmage.
"So you exaggerate the pace so that hopefully what we do Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday will be a little bit slower."
In a battle of drastically different styles, Wisconsin's defense could help seize control of the game should they frustrate the Sun Devils by forcing a couple three and outs. In doing so, the Badger defense would force the ASU offense off the field while the UW offense has an opportunity to wear our the Sun Devils defense.
"I think depending on how well we do this is a good match up for us because our offense will keep their defense out there for hopefully five-plus minutes," UW sophomore linebacker Chris Borland said. "Then hopefully we can get a three and out and their defense has to go back out.
"It could work to our advantage."