MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin center Tyler Biadasz grinned as he pondered the question:
How many linemen would offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph use on one play if allowed?
“Nine,” Biadasz said. “And a QB and running back.”
Rudolph fell one short of that mark during Wisconsin’s 35-14 victory over Michigan in the Big Ten opener when he debuted the “Hippo” package, which had been dormant in the playbook for more than a year.
“I think our whole team was excited,” Biadasz said. “I think pound for pound we have – no disrespect to any of our tight ends and wideouts – when we’ve got to get down and dirty we are there for it.
“If we need to get that yard, we’re going to get that yard.”
The package features eight linemen, quarterback Jack Coan, tailback Jonathan Taylor and tight end Jake Ferguson.
Cole Van Lanen (71) and and the Wisconsin “Hippo” package are making a big difference for the offense. (Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
From left to right, the line was tackle Cole Van Lanen (312 pounds), guard Kayden Lyles (321), Biadasz (321), guard Josh Seltzner (327) and tackle Logan Bruss (310). Cormac Sampson (280), who is working at tight end because injuries have decimated the depth, lined up on the right and left side of the line. Jason Erdmann (328) and tackle David Moorman (307) lined up in the backfield, with Erdmann behind the right guard and Moorman behind the right tackle.
For those keeping score at home, that is 2,506 pounds of linemen.
“That’s a lot of beef,” Taylor said.
Rudolph deployed the “Hippo” package on the third offensive play of the game with Wisconsin facing fourth and 1 from its 34.
Biadasz and Erdmann got tremendous push in the center of the line and Taylor dived over the top for a 3-yard gain. That turned out to be the key play in a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive.
“The more O-linemen on the field for us the better,” Bruss said. ‘
UW used eight linemen three more times on the drive – on first and goal from the 3, second and goal from the 2 and third and goal from the 1. The only change came on first and goal, when Erdmann lined up behind left tackle and Moorman lined up behind right tackle.
“We were all excited,” Sampson said. “Let’s put everybody in the box. Let’s get a few yards. Let’s score a touchdown.
“I think it is something we should be able to run on the goal line every time and just hit teams in the mouth.”
Wisconsin also used the package to score its third touchdown, a 1-yard sneak by Coan.
The Badgers faced fourth and goal, hoping to build on their 14-0 lead. With Erdmann and Moorman on the right side of the formation, it appeared UW would run the ball to that side.
Yet Michigan’s alignment left a seam between Biadasz and Lyles on the left side. Coan sneaked into the end zone to that side, almost untouched.
“That was all Coach Rudolph,” Moorman said, noting that Rudolph suggested the sneak to that side based on how Michigan had lined up in previous games. “He is a great offensive mind and he trusts us to get that 1 yard and he trusts Jack to shove it in there.
“When you get that close to the end zone, it is get it in however you can.”
UW deployed linemen as jumbo tight ends when coach Paul Chryst was the offensive coordinator and Bob Bostad coached the offensive line from 2008-11.
Matt Canada, UW’s offensive coordinator in 2012, used the “Barge” to take advantage of the team’s surplus of blockers.
That package featured seven linemen, two tight ends, tailback James White in the Wildcat and one running back or receiver.
“We got some mileage out of it,” Rudolph said of the “Hippo” package. “The kids jumped in and believed in stuff and I think that is half the magic to everything you do.”
How did Rudolph come up with the package? A trip to the zoo?
“Sometimes you look at some things and you can’t figure out how to block it,” he said. “So you look at it and you go: ‘I don’t know what to do here.’
“That is how it popped up.”