When sophomore inside linebacker Chris Orr went down with what turned out to be a torn ACL on the first defensive play of the game, Wisconsin fans had to have been on edge. Last season’s leading tackler T.J Edwards was already ruled out, and the depth looked thin. Wisconsin couldn’t possibly slow down Leonard Fournette and LSU’s offense without their two starting inside linebackers, right? Wrong.
Redshirt sophomore Ryan Connelly, a former walk-on, entered the game and immediately rose to the occasion, shoving Fournette out of bounds on his first defensive snap. Connelly was excellent all game, finishing with a career high seven tackles. Senior captain and outside linebacker Vince Biegel had high praise for the sophomore.
Biegel on Ryan Connelly: Give Ryan Connelly an extreme amount of credit for being prepared.
— Benjamin Worgull (@TheBadgerNation) September 3, 2016
Connelly’s most impressive play of the game came on a 3rd and 8 with Wisconsin trailing 14-13 in the 4th quarter. LSU threw a screen to Leonard Fournette, and it looked like he would easily get the first-down. But Connelly came out of nowhere to shed a block and make an outstanding open field tackle on one of the hardest players in college football to bring down. That play preceded an LSU punt and Wisconsin’s game-winning field goal drive. Without that tackle, Wisconsin doesn’t win the game.
Lot of big plays on defense for Wisconsin, but this was the biggest, IMO. Remarkable by @rconnelly12. pic.twitter.com/1h87R0leBw
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) September 4, 2016
With Edwards still listed as questionable heading in to the Akron game and Orr out for the season, depth is certainly an issue. However, seeing Connelly go off like he did against a team like LSU and a running back like Fournette…well, that has to give the coaching staff confidence going forward.