After going unbeaten through their first eight games, the Badgers did not pick up where they left off following a bye week. They were better. ... much better.
Despite a solid running game and the No. 1 scoring defense in the country, the Badgers appeared to have a hole in their game. They lacked a consistent passing game, and were the least explosive team among the nation's elite.
That deficiency hurt them a bit in the rankings, because the Badgers found themselves behind California — a splendid offensive team with one loss — in the BCS ratings.
Barry Alvarez told all who would listen that he was not the least bit concerned with polls, ratings or anything other than going 1-0 every week the Badgers had a game scheduled, but the evidence begged to differ. When the Badgers came out against Minnesota, the jumped out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead ... and they did it with the passing game.
QB John Stocco had been largely mediocre this season. While he showed some leadership ability and made plays on occasion, quarterback was viewed as one of the few soft spots on the Badger roster.
That was before the Badgers dominated the Gophers in a 38-14 victory. Stocco completed 19-of-26 passes for 297 yards and he had one TD pass. Stocco also ran for two more scores. He has plenty of ability. He was one of the nation's top QB recruits after the 2001 high school season.
"He was unbelievable," running back Anthony Davis said after the Minnesota game. "I've never seen him play like that before."
Wisconsin wanted to show the rest of the Big Ten and the college football world in general that there was more to its offense than Davis running the football.
The Badgers met their goals. They finished with a season-high 525 total yards and also connected on 11-of-17 third-down attempts — a season-best mark. By playing solid defense and versatile offense, the Badgers held on to the ball for a mind-boggling 44:31.
"Everything we scripted, it went according to plan," said wide receiver Brandon Williams. "And whenever that happens, it's just a great feeling."
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB John Stocco — The Badgers say they don't want to impress the pollsters, but they did just that by showing off a passing game against Minnesota. Stocco had his best game of the year as he completed 19-of-26 passes for 297 yards and a TD pass. He also ran for two scores. Wisconsin jumped California in the AP poll, moving to fourth.
KEEP AN EYE ON: WR Brandon Williams — He caught a team-high five passes for 87 yards. Williams has 132 receptions for his career and is the team's No. 2 all-time leading receiver. Williams passed Al Toon, who caught 131 passes between 1982-84.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I remember I looked up on the scoreboard and it was 21-0 and we had taken six (defensive) snaps. That does two things. It gives us a chance to get over on the sidelines and correct anything we need to talk about and it keeps our guys fresh." — Badger defensive coordinator Bret Bielema on what having a well-rounded and somewhat explosive offense does for the defense.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: The Badgers are 9-0 with two regular season games to go, but the good news is that the team appears to be getting better. The defense has been dominant all season, and the running game has been very impressive since Anthony Davis recovered from his early-season eye abrasion. Now that John Stocco has shown some significant improvement in his passing skills, the Badgers are truly dangerous.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: The Badgers are not a perfect team, but they played a near-perfect game in the 38-14 win over Minnesota. Not only did they find the explosive offense that had been missing, they held a monstrous 44:31-15:29 advantage in time of possession. If that's not enough, they were called for just one penalty for five yards. With everything going so well, all the Badgers need to do is repeat the performance two or three more times.
ROSTER REPORT: DE Erasmus James played briefly in the first half and looked fairly good following his ankle injury. However, the coaching staff did not want to risk further injury and took him out after Wisconsin built a big lead. James believes he will be 100 percent this week against Michigan State.
BCS Motivates Badger Blowout
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