Seventy points. Six hundred and eighteen total yards. Three hundred and eighty-five push-ups for Bucky.
Those were the numbers for the No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers (4-0) and their unfortunate mascot Saturday afternoon, as UW demolished Austin Peay (2-2) 70-3 at Camp Randall Stadium.
Many starters were pulled at the end of the second quarter or shortly thereafter, but the first half featured plenty of scoring – 49 points to be exact -with 35 coming in the second quarter. In total, Saturday’s effort was a modern-era record for Wisconsin, with the previous high being 69 against New Mexico State in 1962.
“During the course of the week, what we really preached to the kids was to play the game the way it needs to get played,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “It doesn’t matter what your opponent is. Respect all, fear none. Get them to play a four-quarter game no matter who was in there.”
Austin Peay won the opening coin toss but elected to defer to the second half, opening the figurative floodgates from the start. After a nine-play, 68-yard drive, fullback Bradie Ewing scored his first touchdown of the season on a seven-yard run up the middle.
“That inside belly play was something we hadn’t really shown yet this year, so I think that caught them a little off guard,” Bielema said of Ewing’s touchdown. “It was good to get that on film.”
Five minutes later, running back James White scored from 18 yards after taking the ball from quarterback Scott Tolzien and bouncing it outside around left tackle. The freshman sensation scored four touchdowns on the day and rushed for 145 yards on 11 carries after leapfrogging Montee Ball on the depth chart as the No. 2 running back.
“It gives you a lot of confidence,” White said of his performance. “But you have to keep that pride and confidence inside of you and just keep it in your head, don’t be going around talking about things like that. It helps you do better and I got better today and I’m just going to have to keep getting better each day.”
The Governors’ only points on the day came on a 51-yard field goal by Stephen Stansell early in the second quarter. Four plays later, White scored again, this time taking the ball 66 yards to extend the score to 21-3. After another punt from APSU – UW forced nine on the day – tight end Lance Kendricks improved on his already stellar season with a seven-yard touchdown grab from quarterback Scott Tolzien. Kendricks led all players with six catches for 103 yards, and Tolzien was a masterful 15-of-17 for 217 yards and three touchdowns.
Wisconsin played without its top two receivers in Nick Toon (turf toe) and David Gilreath (concussion), as well as star linebacker Chris Borland (shoulder), but with the burgeoning Tolzien-Kendricks connection firing on all cylinders, the absences were of little consequence.
“This week, I got a lot more work,” Kendricks said. “They tried to get me the ball a little bit more as a single receiver. That’s paid off, though, just in case [the receivers] go down in the game, I’m real comfortable in doing that.”
With Austin Peay unable to mount any offense – the Governors finished with 157 yards on the day – Wisconsin was able to score quite rapidly. With 6:12 remaining in the first half, Ewing hauled in a three-yard pass from Tolzien for his second touchdown of the game.
Three minutes later, star running back John Clay finally found the endzone on a 12-yard run. Clay finished with 15 rushes for 118 yards. Later, with only 35 seconds left until halftime, Tolzien stayed calm in the pocket and lofted a beautiful touch pass to backup tight end Jacob Pedersen in the back of the endzone for a 10-yard touchdown.
“Continuing to put the pressure on like that, that was the nice part about today,” Tolzien said. “Just kind of keeping the gas pedal down.”
That pedal stayed down in the third quarter, as backup quarterback Jon Budmayr replaced Tolzien and finished six for seven with 55 yards. After a rough fall camp, Budmayr’s efficient performance Saturday should give the Badgers confidence in their backup quarterback situation moving forward.
White added to his touchdown total with two in the third quarter, one from 11 yards out and another from 19. That last score marked the ninth consecutive scoring drive for UW. The Badgers’ last score came with 4:15 remaining the game, as Ball took it in from 10 yards out. Overall, Ball rushed for 65 yards on 11 carries.
While the offensive free-for-all will grab the headlines, the most impressive aspect of UW’s game might be the clean effort put forth. After beginning the season with three sluggish, mistake-ridden performances, the Badgers did not turn the ball over Saturday and had only one penalty for 15 yards. In addition, Wisconsin improved on its red zone scoring, putting touchdowns on the board all nine times the team was inside the 20-yard line. Previously this season, UW had scored on only 75 percent of redzone opportunities and produced touchdowns only 56 percent of the time.
The Badgers now head in to the Big Ten portion of their schedule, which they will kickoff next weekend at Michigan State (4-0).
“Everybody’s drinking the same Kool-Aid,” Bielema said. “I think everybody’s buying into what we do around here will have success if you go out and do the things we ask you to do.”