Wisconsin's Carimi tops Iowa's Clayborn in high-profile matchup

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IOWA CITY — The premier one-on-one matchup Saturday pit Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn against Wisconsin left tackle Gabe Carimi in a battle of possible first-round NFL draft picks.

Carimi, who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 327 pounds, handled Clayborn for most of the game, something the Iowa senior All-American admitted afterward.

“It was a good battle the whole game, but he got the upper hand,” Clayborn said. “They won the game.”

Carimi said he had planned for Clayborn since last year’s game in Madison. In that game Clayborn battered Carimi for two tackles for loss.

“I’ve been preparing since last year, since my injury last year against him and he got the better of me,” Carimi said. “I got the better of him (Saturday).”

Carimi told Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema in a side conversation that he could beat Clayborn at the line of scrimmage and to run the ball directly behind him. Bielema heeded those words on a fourth-and-1 play at the Iowa 2-yard line. Wisconsin running back John Clay blasted behind Carimi and burst into the end zone.

“That (conversation) was at halftime,” Carimi said. “I said, ‘Hey the first drive I drew Clayborn back eight yards on that zone to the left.’ I knew that I could keep on zoning on him.

“I was ready for it. I was pumped all week.”

Bielema declined to reveal everything about their conversation saying only Carimi “had a pretty strong statement to me.”

“He was very confident he was going to play well today,” Bielema said. “Basically he was telling me to come to the left side whenever I felt I needed to.”

Clayborn finished with five tackles — including one solo stop. He was credited for one sack when he ran by Carimi in the first half and knocked the ball out of Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien’s hand.

“That was the one play that got away from me,” Carimi said. “Clayborn just lined up right; he’s a great player and he was able to outreach right when Scott was pulling back on the pocket. If’s a split second later or earlier ... he runs past it.”

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