Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Badgers escape menacing Panthers

It was 4th-and-two at the Wisconsin 41. The Wisconsin football team was holding onto a 26-21 lead, but its defense was struggling and Northern Iowa was threatening to take the lead with just under three minutes left in the game.

As UNI redshirt freshman Sawyer Kollmorgen released his pass on fourth down, redshirt junior defensive tackle Ethan Hemer stretched and in the air, tipping the ball and ending the threat. Wisconsin escaped the menace of a season opening upset.

Wisconsin (1-0) dominated early, jumping out to a 13-0 lead at the half. But Northern Iowa stayed in the game and picked apart UW’s secondary, losing 26-21.


While it was widely expected the Badgers were going to thump the Panthers by a large margin a la 2011’s team, head coach Bret Bielema admitted he preferred this outcome to a blow out.

“From my point of view as a head coach, in my twisted mind, it couldn’t have worked out any better,” Bielema said. “We’ll take these corrections and move forward.”

“We get a lot better out of this than a 42-0 blowout.”

While the score didn’t necessarily reflect any sort of domination in the end, the Badgers still outstripped the Panthers statistically for the most part.

Led by senior Montee Ball’s 32 rushing attempts for 120 yards and one touchdown, UW amassed 168 rushing yards on 47 attempts. UNI only managed 41 yards on 20 attempts. The Badgers racked up 387 total offensive yards over 70 plays and controlled the clock for 39:05. A second half surge by the Panthers brought their total yardage up to 306 yards over 54 plays and a possession time of 20:55.

The difference – though a small one – is found in the quarterbacks. Kollmorgen went 18-34 with 265 passing yards and three touchdowns. Junior transfer quarterback Danny O’Brien went 19-32 for 219 yards and two touchdowns.

“We’ll take it,” O’Brien said. “It’s a win. There is no such thing as a bad win. I think there are some things that I have to clean up, but for the most part, I think we did a pretty good job in the passing game and the running game, and like I said, you take a win anytime you can.”

UNI’s reshirt sophomore running back David Johnson led all receivers with four catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns – one of which was a 53-yard heave in the fourth quarter. Junior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis led the Badgers with six catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Wisconsin had held Northern Iowa at bay, only allowing one score. O’Brien set up on first and ten from his own 47, lobbing the ball 55-yards deep to a wide-open Jared Abbrederis top put the Badgers on top 26-7.

“That was a good play action,” Abbrederis said of the play. “James White had the fake in the backfield and Danny threw the perfect ball. I like to get behind the defense whenever I can.”

Northern Iowa didn’t even have their say yet. Only four plays later, Kollmorgen connected with Johnson for a 55-yard scoring pass, cutting UW’s lead to 12. About three minutes later on their next drive the Panthers continued to pick apart the Badgers’ secondary and move the chains through the air. They scored one more touchdown before that fateful fourth down tip.

“Focus,” redshirt senior defensive end Brendan Kelly said of the difference for the defense in the fourth quarter. “That’s what it comes down to, focus. If you take one play off, if you do one thing little thing wrong, it gives the other team momentum. … If you start losing focus and not doing your job, the next thing you know it’s going to keep on happening.”

Despite leading the Panthers in almost every category statistically at the half, the Badgers only managed one touchdown for a 13-0 lead.

Regardless of the score, Bielema was still pleased with how his team was executing on the field.

“At halftime, I think we had (42) snaps to their 15, that’s Wisconsin football,” Bielema said. “If we snap the ball 80 to 90 times offensively that usually means we’re playing our kind of football.”

Wisconsin dominated time of possession in the first half, controlling the ball on offense for 23:25, compared to UNI’s 6:53. But on only three drives in the first half, UW only found the endzone once.

While most people probably expected the Badgers to open their season with a Montee Ball touchdown, O’Brien found Abbrederis deep in the corner of the endzone for a 10-yard scoring pass at the end of the first half.

The potential of that touchdown was in jeopardy three plays earlier when UW faced third and 22. O’Brien took a sack on first and ten to set up second and 18. Ball got the call, but was wrapped up in the backfield for a loss of four yards. Things were looking bleak on third and 22 as O’Brien took the snap, but he found junior tight end Jacob Pedersen up the left side for a 22-yard pass and the first down. Aided by a Ball 14-yard run up the middle two plays later, Wisconsin quickly and finally found the endzone at the 50 second mark of the second quarter.

It may have taken some time to find the endzone or to see the offense make those big plays, but folks need to remember that this 2012 squad is different from what they experienced last year.

“We’re not last year’s team, we’re this year’s team,” Kelly said. “Maybe we’re not where we were, where we ended last year, but we’re going to keep on getting better and we’re hoping to get better than we were last year.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

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