Clay impressive in first Badger bout

first_imgBEN CLASSON/Herald photoThe wait for John Clay to make his first regular season appearance finally ended Saturday when the running back came in on the Badgers’ third series of the game.After redshirting last season, the highly-ranked recruit out of Racine was met with a loud cheer from the crowd after rushing for a one-yard gain late in the first quarter.“It feels good being a hometown,” Clay said of the warm reception. “It feels good having the support from my fans and my family.”The back finished the game with 71 yards on 12 carries, capped by a 9-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.“He is big, athletic, he can run,” Bielema said. “He is a crowd favorite; everybody has been hearing about him for a couple of years at Wisconsin. I’m excited about what he brings to the table.”After the score, Clay celebrated a little too much for the liking of Bielema, however.“I got so emotional, that was my first touchdown,” Clay said. “I apologized to the ref and told [Bielema] it was a one-time thing and it would never happen again.”Clay ran with a bruising style of play the Akron defenders had difficulty stopping, and this style will be used in short-yardage situations in the future, according to Bielema.“They wanted me to pound the ball, so I was just doing what they asked me to do,” Clay said. “If they want me to pound it, I’ll pound it. If they want to me to go out there and catch, I’ll catch.”While his first performance was a good one, there’s no telling whether Clay will see as much action once the Badgers start meeting tougher opponents, but the freshman is content with whatever role he’s given.“It’s possible,” Clay said of seeing more playing time. “But I’m not in [any] rush. If they’re going to give me the carries, they’re going to give it to me.”Gilreath has up and down daySophomore receiver and return man David Gilreath saw plenty of action considering the Badgers’ lack of passing attempts Saturday.After fielding two punts for a disappointing total of -3 yards, last season’s Big Ten punt return average leader found his rhythm, returning a kick 64 yards that moved up another 15 when a facemask penalty was tacked on, giving the Badgers a starting position at the Akron 18 yardline.Later in the second quarter Gilreath had a reception knocked from his hands in the end zone after it appeared he made the catch. The ball was ruled incomplete, prompting Bielema to challenge the call. After reviewing the replay, the call on the field was upheld.“I let one go today,” Gilreath said. “I should have held on to that. I thought I caught it, took a couple of steps and he hit me. Obviously the replay overruled that.”Defensive backs making stridesWith starting cornerback Aaron Henry out, the Badgers were left with little experience in the secondary, but Bielema saw progress made by his players on the field.“Our young corners played halfway decent,” Bielema said. “I know they gave up some plays there at the beginning that were overthrows by [the Akron quarterback,] so they got a break.”The lack of game experience for the unit showed itself, but the game offered the group an opportunity to take a step forward.“[We’ve got] a lot to work on going into next week,” strong safety Jay Valai said, “but I think we’ll be able to fix these mistakes and get ready for next week.”Beckum, Pressley both sitAfter having their statuses both listed as questionable for the game, neither tight end Travis Beckum nor fullback Chris Pressley saw action in the win Saturday.Beckum was the Badgers’ leading receiver last season after catching 75 balls for 982 yards and six touchdowns. The senior has been dealing with a hamstring injury. Pressley, known more for his blocking than his rushing, started nine games last season.last_img