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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Derek Landisch is developing a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Wisconsin has another playmaker emerging at linebacker with Big Ten play on the horizon.
The in-state product has turned into a key piece on a defense that has provided a steady presence for the Badgers while the offense finds its way.
"I wouldn't say there's more pressure," Landisch said when asked about how the team's slow starts on offense affects the defense. "We just have to focus on what we're doing. ... Sometimes the offense is going to pick us up. Sometimes we're going to pick the offense up."
Lately, it's been the defense that has held its ground while the offense catches up. Wisconsin hopes for a faster start in its conference opener Saturday at Northwestern.
The Badgers (3-1) moved up two spots to No. 17 in the AP Top 25 poll released Sunday, a day after a 27-10 victory over South Florida. The offense struggled in the first half before scoring touchdowns on the first two drives in the third quarter of a game tied at 3 at halftime.
Star running back Melvin Gordon rushed for 181 yards and those two scores. The offense listened when Gordon and right tackle Rob Havenstein implored teammates in the locker room at the half to play better.
There didn't seem to be the same level of motivational talk on the defensive side — not that it was needed. The Badgers gave up a few big plays, but they did hold the Bulls to just a field goal in the first half.
Landisch helped lead the way.
When South Florida quarterback Mike White was whistled for intentional grounding, Landisch got credit for the sack after applying the pressure in the backfield.
When a pass bounced off a South Florida receiver, there was Landisch close by to snare the ball out of the air for an interception.
"Yeah, I'm not the most athletic guy, not the prototypical size. That's why I have to study hard and use the teammates that I play around to my advantage," the 6-foot senior said.
Coach Gary Andersen views Landisch's role a little differently.
"He becomes stronger and stronger. His presence is felt on the field, his presence is felt in the locker room more every single day and every single week, and you can see it on Tuesday just as well as you can see it on Saturday," Andersen said.
Two weeks ago, Landisch had two sacks in a 68-17 victory over Bowling Green. He's making the type of impact that star linebacker Chris Borland used to make every week for the Badgers.
Landisch downplays such comparisons. He said that no one player can replace Borland, a Wisconsin great who is now a rookie with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.
To Andersen at least, Landisch is a role model for the younger Badgers.
"And there (are) some of those kids that are out there playing right now that need to continually learn how to prepare consistently," Andersen said, "and they should follow Derek Landisch."
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