Take a look at the passing numbers and seeing Wisconsin threw for only 41 yards, red flags normally would pop up all over the place. With senior Curt Phillips – essentially the team's third-string quarterback - making his first career start and Indiana being woeful against the run, the Badgers coaching staff didn't need to put much on his shoulders.
Phillips only attempted seven passes, but tossed his first career TD pass, a 2-yard strike to TE Arneson in the first quarter. Phillips finished 4-of-7 for 41 yards and also ran the ball seven times for 68 yards.
"He played great," said left guard Travis Frederick. "He had a lot of good runs. (Playing is) something he's really wanted and really strived for. Coming back from those ACLs is tough."
Wisconsin needs to throw the ball more in the final four games of the season, but the Badgers will do whatever it takes to win.
Phillips admitted to some mental busts in the first half that got the team behind the chains slightly, but it was good work for a quarterback that may get another start this weekend.
Wisconsin averaged 8.8 yards per carry on its 64 rushing attempts, just missing the school record of 8.91 yards per game verse Hawaii on Nov. 30, 1996. Had UW not knelt down three times to the end game, UW would have averaged over nine yards per carry. The Badgers will have to settle for the school rushing mark as the consolation prize.
Indiana's 107th-ranked rush defense never stood a chance against Wisconsin's running assault of Montee Ball and James White. Both Ball and White went over 100 rushing yards in the same game for the third time in the last four games and for the sixth time in their careers.
It is the third time this season a pair of tailback teammates rushed for at least 150 yards in the same game; impressive considering Indiana tried to load the box to no avail in the second half.
Finishing with 198 yards, Ball is just the third player in the Big Ten since 1996 (using STATS, Inc. database) to run for at least 100 yards against the same team four times in a career. The other two were Wisconsin's Ron Dayne (vs. Purdue, 1996-99) and Michigan's Mike Hart (vs. Michigan State, 2004-07). In four games against Indiana, Ball rushed 90 times for 622 yards and scored 11 TDs.
More importantly, Ball found the end zone three times, giving him 77 for his career and setting the stage to tie or break the NCAA record on senior day this Saturday against Ohio State.
"It'll be cool if we can get that at home," said Groy. "It's something that's really special to us as an offensive line. It's really special to him. It's special to our team."
UW's running attack looks in good hands in 2013 with White, who ran for 161 yards on 14 carries (11.5 ypc) with the two TDs. White scored on a 69-yard run late in the second quarter and a 50-yard run in the fourth quarter. The 69-yarder was the longest run of his career and the longest run by a Badger since John Clay's 72-yard run against Fresno State on Sept. 12, 2009.
Melvin Gordon got plenty of work in the second half and made the most of it. He averaged a game-high 12 yards per carry, rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown and had the 17-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter that broke the school rushing record.
"I don't know if we had a player the last two weeks practice harder than Melvin Gordon," said Bielema. "He's got the live bolt. It's on … Melvin is going to be a tremendous football player here."
Even Jeff Lewis contributed, scoring his second career touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Hard to judge an offense that only threw the ball seven times, creating limited opportunities for receivers to make play. UW had four receivers catch one pass, but two were timely plays.
The tight end pop pass off the tailback dive was a great call and execution with Arneson wide open in the back of the end zone after UW ran the ball up the middle the play before. It was Arneson first career touchdown catch and only the second catch of his career.
Derek Watt's key fourth-down catch set up another touchdown, a total effort between Phillips standing in the pocket and taking a hit from the linebacker and Watt turning up field for a 17-yard gain.
Wisconsin did a lot of movement prior to its formation with its tight ends to disguise different plays. It worked well because of the solid blocking up front by the tight ends.
"Earlier in the week, I heard their coaches talk about how we got a lot of window dressing with our offense, so we wanted to give them plenty of it," said Bielema. "It created some gap advantages for us."
Wisconsin set a school record with 564 rushing yards, going over 400 yards rushing for the 17th time in school history (third time against Indiana and second time this season) and over 500 for the third time in school history.
"We knew if we could get (Ball and White) to the second and third level they were going to be able to break some runs," said junior Travis Frederick. "They set some goals. I think their goal was 200 yards after contact. We set a goal of wanting to rush for 400 yards. We definitely knew it was obtainable."
Ricky Wagner returning to the lineup was huge for Wisconsin to get that chemistry back heading into the final two games of the regular season. Wagner and Groy were huge in neutralizing the center of the Hoosiers' defensive line, which was the strength of the team.
"When I made that change, those guys had been reped through spring and fall camp to do it a certain way," said Bielema. "When Bart (Miller) took over, he kind of cleaned it up. He's really done a nice job. Each week they've got better."
It's hard to get pressure on an offense that a) was hardly on the field and b) threw a lot of quick screens, so the fact Wisconsin didn't get any quarterback sacks won't be held against them. The Badgers' front four made Indiana's running game not existent, as the Hoosiers ran for 61 yards on 23 carries (2.7 per attempt).
Junior LB Chris Borland recovered an Indiana fumble in the second quarter, his third fumble recovery of the season and sixth of his career. He also added eight tackles to tie for the team lead and a half tackle for loss. Wisconsin's linebackers were stellar, as three of the top four tacklers on Wisconsin's roster were linebackers (Ethan Armstrong and Derek Landisch had five).
Mike Taylor usually is a tackling machine, but Indiana's ineptness on offense only gave him three opportunities to make a play. Taylor made 22 tackles against the Buckeyes last year, the most by a UW player since 1998.
Conor O'Neill made good use of his repetitions in the fourth quarter, registering his first career interception, returning it 53 yards and setting up a Wisconsin touchdown.
Marcus Cromartie and Devin Smith led a solid effort by the defensive backs. Cromartie had eight tackles (seven of the solo variety) to tie for the team lead while Smith recorded his third interception of the season in the fourth quarter.
Both Cromartie and Smith along with senior safety Shelton Johnson handled the quick screens well in the first half when Indiana tried to gash the Badgers for long gains.
"I thought Devin and Cromartie have quietly played very well," said Bielema. "I told Devin (Saturday) at breakfast that they (Indiana) were going to give you one … They are well coached. I think Ben Strickland really does a nice job with those guys."
Prior to being held scoreless in the first quarter by Wisconsin's defense, Indiana had scored in each of its last 16 quarters.
Kyle French was like a surgeon on his kickoffs, tucking a couple just inside the pylon for a touchback. Of his nine kickoffs, six went for touchbacks and he finished with a 63.8 average. French also made both of his field goal attempts, connecting on a 24-yard attempt in the second quarter and a 37-yarder in the third quarter. He is now 10-for-13 on field goals this season.
Jack Russell came in during the fourth quarter to kick a pair of extra points and two kickoffs, none of which were downed for a touchback.
Going against one of the top kickoff return units in the conference, Wisconsin held Indiana to only an 18-yard average on the five kicks it did return, none going longer than 26 yards.
"Those are the ‘Bad News Bears' running down there," said Bielema. "That isn't Borland, Taylor, Armstrong. Kenzel Doe is our middle lane runner. You have Lance Baretz, Jake Stengel, Derek Watt. They have a lot of pride."
Drew Meyer was only needed three times (all in the second quarter), but used his Aussie-style kick on a short field to pin the ball inside the three-yard line, getting a big assist from Doe at the one-yard line.
"He handled the poise," said Bielema of Meyer.