Badgers pass final test before Big Ten play

first_imgOn just nine carries, sophomore running back James White (20) rumbled off 95 yards, including a 49-yard sprint to the endzone in the first half. Wisconin’s talented stable of running backs ran amok Saturday, with four of them scoring at least one touchdown.[/media-credit]So much for looking ahead.With the hotly anticipated game against Nebraska waiting one week away, Wisconsin (4-0) easily dispatched their Football Championship Subdivision foe South Dakota (2-2), 59-10, Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers were carried by several big plays, including many by wide receiver Nick Toon, who caught seven passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. The seven receptions tied Toon’s career-high, and it was his second career game with at least 100 receiving yards. Quarterback Russell Wilson also continued the stellar beginning to his Badger career, completing 19-of-25 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns.In total, the Wisconsin offense compiled 612 total yards, while the defense held South Dakota to just 173. 267 of UW’s yards came on the ground, as running back James White led all rushers with 95 yards and one touchdown on nine carries (10.6 yards per) and Montee Ball finished with 88 yards on 15 attempts (5.9 yards per).“What I like about our offense is, more so than any other time since I’ve been here, is that you really have to respect the run and the play-action game,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “They look so much alike, and there’s so much similarity between the two. It’s really difficult for defenders, especially the secondary support guys, corners, safeties, linebackers, that are trying to fill the run and [then] we pass.”For an offense that scored at least 49 points in two of its first three games, Saturday’s game unfolded slightly in a somewhat more deliberate manner – for about five minutes. After South Dakota won the coin toss and elected to defer, Wisconsin gained only seven yards and was forced into a three-and-out on its first drive.South Dakota, which had defeated the defending FCS champion and then-No. 1 Eastern Washington two weeks earlier, hung around early Saturday. Wisconsin led only 10-0 after the first quarter, and its third-down defense especially seemed to indicate that the game could unfold much closer than expected. South Dakota completed four of its first six third down attempts, and for the game, the Coyotes finished 6-for-16.“Defensively, today, there were some frustrating things a few times on third down, hopefully something we’ll improve on,” Bielema said.But after forcing the Coyotes into a three-and-out on their first drive, the Badgers’ onslaught began at the 8:25 mark, when a five-yard run by Ball capped an eight-play, 60-yard drive that consumed 3:25. Kicker Kyle French added a 25-yard field goal five minutes later after a 10-play, 73-yard drive that lasted 4:32.The Coyotes got on the board in the second quarter, when after a 13-play drive, kicker Kevin Robb converted a 24-yard field goal. But two plays later, White broke loose on a 49-yard touchdown run that put the Badgers ahead, 17-3.“We just try to go out there and execute our offense, and whoever touches the ball, they’re going to try to make a big play,” White said. “If it’s over 600 yards, then that’s what happens with our offense.”The Badgers final three scores in the second quarter all came on drives that lasted less than two minutes, an indication of the team’s remarkably big-play potential. White’s 49-yard run capped a two-play, 61 yard drive in 39 seconds, while Toon caught a pass from Wilson off a bubble screen, broke loose from one tackle and raced down the right sideline for a 59-yard score. That three-play, 78-yard drive lasted only 1:12.Three minutes later, with just 12 seconds remaining in the half, Toon dove to catch a two-yard pass from Wilson that capped a nine-play, 74-yard drive that lasted 1:45. That long drive was accelerated largely by the hurry-up offense, but also by a 45-yard pass from Wilson to Toon.By halftime, Wisconsin’s lead was extended to 21-3. South Dakota did not score again until 6:44 remained in the game, and by that point, the Badgers led 52-10 and the game was well out of reach. A 41-yard run by freshman running back Jeffrey Lewis put Wisconsin in the endzone with 2:06 left in the game and raised the score to 59-10.“When I came here, I knew that we’d have a great offense,” Wilson said. “Week to week, we have to prove ourselves and get better every single week. I think that shows in practice.”Aside from the stunning proficiency of the offense, Saturday’s game buoyed Wisconsin’s confidence in its defense’s ability to produce turnovers and sacks. Both of those areas had repeatedly been identified as areas that the defense could stand to improve on.The Badgers entered Saturday with seven sacks on the season and just one turnover, a fumble recovery by Jordan Kohout against Oregon State in Week 2.But against South Dakota, Wisconsin forced two turnovers – both interceptions on consecutive Coyote drives. Safety Shelton Johnson had it easy, as he essentially let a poorly thrown pass from USD quarterback Dante Warren fall into his hands at UW’s 18-yard line with 7:43 remaining in the first quarter. Johnson exited the game in the first half with a leg injury and did not return. Bielema said after the game it appeared that someone had stepped on Johnson’s knee or calf, and the trainers were concerned regarding the amount of internal bleeding. But after the game, Bielema said tests showed the injury wasn’t as serious as expected and Johnson should be fine, though he might spend the night in a hospital as a precaution.Nearly seven minutes after Johnson’s interception, Chris Borland intercepted Warren and returned it 29 yards back the other way. However, Wisconsin was unable to capitalize, as French was short on a 50-yard field goal that ended a four-play, three-yard drive.Borland, a former kick returner in high school, wound his way downfield on the interception return, breaking several tackles in another example of UW’s sudden big-play ability.“We were in man coverage, and I was the cutter, as they say, I was the free man underneath to read the quarterback and pick off any [under-thrown passes],” Borland said. “I saw [Warren] look down his receiver, and I got a good break on it.”“I would’ve like to have had more turnovers, as far as interceptions go, but also turnovers in general,” safety Aaron Henry said. “I think we’re starting to peak at the right time, definitely going into conference play. We had two interceptions today, probably should’ve had a fumble recovery, but it’s definitely a great feeling going into conference play with a win like this, and hopefully we can continue to put things together like this as we move forward in the next couple of weeks.”last_img

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *