By TOM LEA
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The end around isn’t something tight end Jacob Pedersen is entirely familiar with, but when the coaching staff decided to install that play during practice leading into Wisconsin’s game at Purdue the junior tight end was all for it.
Though it was the first time he’d carry the ball since high school, he thought it would be worth a shot.
It turns out his 10-yard run in the third quarter was just one juke away from going for a touchdown.
“I was in the coaches ear all game,” Pedersen said after UW’s 38-14 win, a crucial victory in the Big Ten Leaders division race. “Call it, call it, call it. I had the one guy (left to beat). I should have broke it.
“I think I should have gone with a stiff arm, but hey, it was fun.”
Pretty much every part of Pedersen’s performance against the Boilermakers could be classified as fun. He caught four passes for 77 yards, including his 21-yard touchdown reception early in the first quarter, his first such score since the Badgers week two loss at Oregon State.
His receptions went for 21, 23, 14 and 19 yards respectively.
“(Best game) this year for sure and as a blocker,” UW head coach Bret Bielema said of Pedersen’s performance. “I really thought he did some good things in the blocking game. Ped took it as a challenge and I think really prepared well this week.”
Pedersen, who was targeted a total of six times, said he needed to start living up to the expectations and standards he set for himself. Quite frankly, he was disappointed with the way he had been playing through the first half of the regular season.
“I was not playing to my expectations,” he said. “I took it hard on myself. It was a lot of extra work after practice and stuff just trying to get my confidence back and everything. It was good to see.
“It felt good.”
Bielema has mentioned Pedersen’s struggles as a blocking tight end throughout various occasions this season, something the seventh-year head coach said he had to learn because he no longer has a veteran, poised blocker like Jake Byrne flanking the other side.
So Pedersen’s key block during Montee Ball’s 67-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was a monumental moment for the junior tight end, mostly because it signified great strides in that regard.
“I just had a back block on the defensive end,” Pedersen said. “He came out pretty hard on that play. Montee made a nice play and bounced it outside for me. That was a lot more on Montee than it was me.
“If Montee, James and Melvin hit a big run off one of my blocks it feels as good as if you catch a touchdown.”
Maybe that’s why the coaches rewarded him with that end around package.
“I was joking with him throughout the course of the week,” Bielema said. “I asked him why he was selected to run that play and he claimed he was the fastest person in the upper peninsula (Michigan).
“So he beat out 80 other people.”
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