With 1:50 remaining in Saturday’s 83-20 romp over Indiana (4-6, 0-6), a new Bucky emerged from the Wisconsin sideline to celebrate the Badgers’ latest touchdowns with a set of 83 pushups. The scene of a mascot in relief was fitting, as the Badgers (9-1, 5-1) put their foot down early and never let up, scoring on every possession and like the two mascots, utilizing a total team effort.
After a one-yard Montee Ball touchdown run capped off a five-play, 65-yard opening drive, Wisconsin’s offense made it clear that they had come to play. Later in the second quarter, the score was even at 10-10 and it seemed as though the two teams would grind it out all afternoon. But then it was Ball again, finishing another long drive from one yard out and making it 17-10 with 9:27 in the second quarter. Ball was UW’s leading rusher for the second week in a row, compiling 167 yards and 3 touchdowns on 22 carries, 7.6 yards per.
“We’re a very, very good football team,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “We’re a good team that stays focused. If we do play poorly, we know how to get it back. There’s a lot of maturity with these guys.”
After Ball’s second score, the close game turned into a landslide. Indiana went scoreless until 6:37 in the third quarter, while Wisconsin scored 42 unanswered points. Quarterback Scott Tolzien was lethally efficient, completing 15 of 18 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns. Tolzien found eight different receivers on the day and was sacked only once, a credit to a Badger offensive line that absolutely dominated the Hoosier front seven.
“The concepts and the reads by our offensive line to get on blocks and maintain them – our guys are big, and I get it, everybody wants to quote their size – but they’re athletic,” Bielema said. “They do a nice job of staying on their feet and maintaining their blocks.”
Defensively, Wisconsin tightened up after making a few early mistakes that allowed Indiana to briefly stay in the game. After going three-and-out on the game’s opening drive, IU quarterback Ben Chappell led the Hoosiers on a five-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown pass to Tandon Doss. However, Chappell injured his knee in the second quarter and Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker played the rest of the game.
The Badgers notched only one sack, but forced two fumbles (both were recovered) and an interception. Defensive end Louis Nzegwu (also with two tackles for loss) and defensive backs Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith led Wisconsin with five tackles apiece. Smith was especially impressive; the junior had been struggling since sliding on the depth chart after preseason, but came up with a big tackle on the Hoosiers’ second scoring drive that kept the score to 10-10 in the second.
“We gave up 20, so we did some things wrong, so we need to clean those up,” Watt said. “But it’s a fun day to be a Badger, that’s for sure.”
“Our defensive coaching staff, their gameplan was ridiculous,” safety Aaron Henry, who returned a fourth quarter interception 37 yards for a touchdown, added. “I can only take so much credit being on the back end…our coaching staff put our secondary in a position to go out there and make plays.”
Special teams also significantly contributed to the Badgers’ dominance Saturday, as David Gilreath averaged 42 yards on his two kickoff returns and took a punt 22 yards, while Jared Abbrederis had a 52-yard kickoff return. Punter Brad Nortman never took the field, but kicker Phillip Welch was perfect from 32 and 41 yards and excelled on his 13 kickoffs with two touchbacks.
“I thought our guys took a very aggressive mentality,” Bielema said. “It was the last thing I talked about in the locker room, we’re going to be the aggressors today in all phases.”
“I think the entire team truly made a statement,” Henry said. “That’s something we’ve been talking about all week, really locking in. …We hadn’t been home in a while, they say there’s no place like home and this team came out on fire.”