MADISON - Shortly after Wisconsin dismantled UNLV to the tune of a 51-17 final score, UW head coach Bret Bielema told the media that freshman quarterback Joe Brennan was a bit wide-eyed when he got the call to go in.
For a freshman quarterback making his debut that is entirely understandable. The good news is that Brennan was able to gain some valuable reps in a game that was already well in control.
There was really nothing he could lose during his time under the Camp Randall lights.
"It was huge, huge, huge for him to get in there," Bielema said. "And to be in a situation where the game wasn't on the line and to get some quality reps."
Brennan finished his Badger debut 1-of-2 passing for three yards. It wasn't anything special, but the experience he gained will be valuable as the season progresses, especially if Jon Budmayr is going to be out for an extended period of time.
A few other young players got a taste of their first Badger game experience. Freshman tailback Melvin Gordon rushed seven times for 38 yards. His long came on a 12-yard scamper of left tackle.
Jeff Lewis, a redshirt freshman, was able to see his first action as Badger. He received five carries and rushed for 24 yards. Those two seem to be the two running backs waiting to make their Badger breakthrough, much like James White did a season ago.
"Every year I've been here we've needed three running backs, and sometimes four," Bielema said. "To get these guys experience right now all you have to do is look at last year with John Clay, Montee and James. Now that we've kind of got their feet wet I think Melvin and Jeff can be really good special teams players for us.
"They are very, very, very fast."
Kenzel Doe made his first appearance at UW. He received one kickoff and returned it 24 yards. He also saw time at wide receiver, and caught Brennan's only pass completion.
Fred Willis also played. He did not log any catches, though.
On the defensive side of the ball, Derek Landisch got some playing time late. He recorded his first tackle as a Badger defender.
By jumping all over the Runnin' Rebels the way the Badgers did several of the UW reserves, key or not, were able to get some ultra-important game experience. No matter how hard a team tries to simulate that type of environment, nothing is capable of truly emulating a game like the actually thing.
That will be beneficial down the stretch for the Badgers.
"To see some of those young players out there, some of our second-team offensive line (was good)," Bielema said. "Finally on that third series at the end of the game we had some positives. I don't think we had any turnovers which was good, especially for that first game."