Consider it another new offensive wrinkle courtesy of offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Duckworth are the only receivers returning with major game experience, as sophomore Kenzel Doe played mostly in mop-up duty. Redshirt freshman Jordan Fredrick made his debut starting opposite of Abbrederis and redshirt freshman A.J. Jordan also received significant reps in the game.
Abbrederis, Doe and Fredrick were the only three receivers to pull down a reception with Abbrederis leading the way with six catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. If there was any concern if Abbrederis could step in for departed senior Nick Toon, Abbrederis eased them.
"Catching the football I did pretty well today," Abbrederis said. "I had a couple of touchdowns but it's not always about the stats. My blocking downfield could have been better but I thought their defensive backs did a good job in coverage."
Abbrederis' second touchdown proved to be the winning score, as quarterback Danny O'Brien was able to connected with the junior on a 53-yard play-action pass in the second half to put the Badgers up 26-7.
"James (White) did a good job of selling the fake on the play action and the safety came down," Abbrederis said. "We were able to get it over the top (and) that's how I was able to get five yards behind the defender."
Doe hauled in three catches for 21 yards, but got the all-important first catch under his belt on the Badgers' first drive. With the offense facing a third-and-10, O'Brien was able to connect with Doe over the middle to pick up the first down.
"It felt good catching my first ball of the season," Doe said. "Me being a small person and going across the middle, catching the ball and getting the first down for my team was a good feeling to me. I was like, ‘I'm officially out on the field playing in front of 80,000 some fans.'"
Doe chose to not redshirt last season with the idea of making an impact as a freshman. While he fell short of that impact, Doe thinks playing sparingly last year was beneficial for him and will help him as the season progresses.
"It was good to get that little bit of game experience last year," Doe said. "I was able to carry it over to this year and I was like just go play football, if the ball comes to you catch it, and see what you can do with the football."
Although the receiver group is young and inexperienced, Abbrederis thinks the group has a chance to be progress down the stretch.
"I thought the receivers played good," Abbrederis said. "Both Fredrick and Doe made a couple of first-down catches. Duckworth was in there doing a good job. I'm pretty excited about this group."
"I thought we played pretty good," Doe added. "It was nice seeing some of the other receivers getting in and getting some more experience. We can do a better job of finishing the blocks. Keep on them and just continue to drive them backward."
Battle of RG Continues
One would think that all camp position battles would be settled by the season opener, but it appears redshirt junior Zac Matthias and redshirt sophomore Kyle Costigan are still battling for the position.
Both Matthias and Costigan saw snaps at the right guard position, rotating throughout the game on different drives, while Matthias received his first career start.
"Matthias handled the week a lot better then he had been with the detail that you need so I think it was good to get him in there," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "I don't remember a play looking bad while either of them were in there."
Center Travis Frederick was also pleased with how the two played against Northern Iowa.
"I thought both of them played well," Frederick said. "It's hard to know how each played until we watch the film. I think Matthias got a few more reps then Costigan. But when Costigan was in the game, he was really pushing guys off the line, which we need. I think the battle will continue to wage on and we'll see from here."
Derek Watt Makes College Debut
The younger Watt had a solid debut at fullback, as the redshirt freshman had two catches for 14 yards and one tackle on special teams.
"I thought Derek was going to have a big day today," Bielema said. "He dropped that one pass he's going to be hard on himself but I couldn't be happier with Derek and where he's at right now."
Watt was pleased with how he played but he's eager to view the game film to see where he can improve before he can grade himself on the game.
"It was a good first experience," Watt said. "Had my first collegiate play on special teams and I got my first catch out of the way. Despite that drop I thought I had a pretty good game. I have to continue to look the football in but I know I've got to keep getting better."
In the first half, Wisconsin held a time of possession average of 23:25-6:35. The Badgers ran 42 plays compared to just 15 for Northern Iowa. The Panthers managed just 47 yards of total offense.
Northern Iowa's 15 plays in the first half were the fewest run by a Badgers opponent in a half during the Bret Bielema era (2006-present).
Wisconsin held UNI to just 41 yards rushing on 20 carries (2.0 avg.), marking the lowest total for a UW opponent since Oregon State ran for just 23 yards on 24 carries on Sept. 10, 2011.
Senior RB Montee Ball has scored at least one touchdown in each of his last 21 games (NCAA record is 27).
Ball's touchdown was the 62nd of his career overall and the 55th rushing TD of his career, moving him into a tie with Michigan's Anthony Thomas for fourth all-time on the Big Ten career list. Ohio State's Pete Johnson is third on the list with 56 rushing touchdowns.
Abbrederis has 13 career receiving TDs, putting him in 10th place all-time in UW history. He has caught a TD pass in four straight games, dating back to last season.