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Zack Baun  UW vs. Michigan State

Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun tackles Michigan State running back Elijah Collins in the second quarter of the Badgers' 38-0 win over the Spartans on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. The shutout was the Badgers' fourth in the first six games this season. 

Afterward, Zack Baun explained the way of thinking for a University of Wisconsin football defense that essentially has sucked the oxygen out of opposing offenses over the first half of the 2019 season.

“Our motto is don’t let them get anything,” said Baun, a senior outside linebacker. “We’re a gritty defense and we’re really stingy.”

How stingy? The No. 8 Badgers produced their fourth shutout in six games Saturday afternoon, this one a 38-0 blanking of Michigan State that put Baun and Co. in some rare company.

The four shutouts are the most in the modern era of the program. The Badgers (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) haven’t had this many in a season since they recorded five shutouts in 1930.

Plus, UW became the first Football Bowl Subdivision team to record four shutouts in its first six games since Oklahoma in 1967, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

“It’s fun to have a shutout,” sophomore cornerback Faion Hicks said. “That’s something we pride ourselves on. If we let somebody score, we feel like we failed for the game.”

Michigan State (4-3, 2-2) went 2 of 14 on third down and finished with 149 total yards. It didn’t hit triple figures until there was 1 minute, 33 seconds remaining in the game.

Seven of the Spartans’ 11 drives ended in three-and-outs, including one in which Baun picked off a pass and returned it 34 yards for a score early in the fourth quarter.

If you’re scoring at home, that’s the fourth touchdown scored by UW’s defense this season. That matches the number of touchdowns it has allowed through six games.

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The Spartans’ longest play of the game was a 20-yard run on a fake punt early in the third quarter. That put the Badgers on their heels — at least momentarily – but senior inside linebacker Chris Orr and junior defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk had sacks on back-to-back plays to end the Michigan State threat.

“That’s just adversity,” Baun said. “How are you going to respond, what are you going to do? We weren’t pressed, our backs weren’t against the wall at any point. It was just what it is, and we know we’ve got to make plays.”

The only other scoring threat produced by Michigan State came late in the game after backup quarterback Rocky Lombardi completed three consecutive passes against the Badgers’ backups to set up the Spartans with a first down at the UW 20.

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Preserving the shutout was so important to Hicks, he said, that he and sophomore cornerback Rachad Wildgoose inserted themselves back into the game. Two plays later, Wildgoose picked off a pass to keep the Spartans at zero on the scoreboard and was mobbed by teammates once he reached the sidelines.

“It was very important,” Orr said. “We take pride in that. I feel like it just shows everybody how dominant our defense is. Whenever you can shut anybody out, it’s obviously a dominant display of defense. We take pride in that, for real. The Goose Egg Gang.”

When told Orr had come up with a potential nickname for the defense, Baun said he didn’t want any part of it.

“That’s not a thing,” he said with a smile. “Don’t let him start that. Don’t let him do that. We don’t need a nickname.”

Bucky!

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