Arizona State's first points came on a 97-yard kick return by Omar Bolden late in the first quarter, and the Sun Devils would have returned another kick for a touchdown had Badgers sophomore Shelton Johnson not tackled Arizona State's Kyle Middlebrooks after a 95-yard return just inches from the goal line as the first half expired.
And Arizona State had an 80-yard return by Kerry Taylor erased by two blocks in the back late in the second quarter.
"The kickoff coverages that broke were fundamental breakdowns and fortunately, for us, we've been pretty good at that," said Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, whose team had averaged a net of 49.3 yards on kickoffs heading into the game.
"(The Sun Devils) found a weakness, and (exploited) it. The part about kick coverage is if one guy breaks down, everybody suffers. We'll definitely take a look at what we're doing."
In fact, the kick coverage was so bad for the Badgers in the first half that the entire stadium erupted when Bolden was held to only a 23-yard return on the opening kickoff of the second half.
"It's something that's got to be corrected," Wisconsin junior defensive end J.J. Watt said. "I know the coaches are going to have that corrected. It was just kind of a fluke thing. There are no issues with it."
On the contrary, Arizona State was tops in the Pac-10 in kickoff returns entering Saturday, having averaged 26 yards per return.
Bielema told reporters he didn't know what specifically went wrong on the coverage, but he'll know more after watching film.
"They were breakdowns in coverage, but I can't talk about the specifics because I really haven't seen it other than the replay," he said.
Defense shaken up
Injuries plagued the Wisconsin starting defense once again.
Sophomore outside linebacker Chris Borland (shoulder), Watt (quadriceps) and senior middle linebacker Culmer St. Jean (ankle) all sustained injuries or re-aggravated previous ones during Saturday's game.
Borland, who underwent surgery on a torn labrum in the offseason and sat out a week ago, re-injured his left shoulder in the middle of the first quarter and didn't return.
Bielema admits he is uncertain about the extent of the injury, but hopes to learn more soon.
"We've done some tests in the past," Bielema said. "He rehabbed it the last two weeks and obviously had an issue there. I don't really know all the answers yet. We'll just kind of take that as the day comes along and figure out where we're going forward with him."
Bielema also mentioned the possibility of redshirting Borland. According to Bielema, a player is eligible for a medical redshirt if he plays in fewer than 30 percent of the team's games, and Borland has played in only two so far.
"We definitely want to do what's best for Chris," Bielema said. "That's an important part. The fortunate thing is he does have a redshirt year available."
Borland, who registered two tackles before leaving the game, doesn't know how long he'll be out.
And as for the possibility of redshirting?
"I don't want to do that," said Borland, who was relieved in his duties by senior Blake Sorensen. "It may be what I have to do. We're listing it as day by day."
Watt suffered what Bielema called a "quad contusion," and required medical attention twice during the game. Watt, who led the team with three tackles for loss in the first two games, recorded just one tackle, but still played most of the way.
"I was getting extremely frustrated," Watt said. "I took a helmet to it twice in two different locations, and my quadriceps really just locked up completely. It was tough for me to get back out there, but it also showed me that I could play through it."
St. Jean re-aggravated an ankle injury, but he returned to the game.
Trio of Badgers sit out
Junior wide receiver Nick Toon (turf toe) missed his second straight game, while senior wide receiver David Gilreath (concussion) and junior right tackle Josh Oglesby (knee) sat out because of injuries they sustained in last Saturday's win over San Jose State.
Ricky Wagner made his first career start in place of Oglesby.
Gilreath was carted off the field and rushed to a Madison-area hospital a week ago after he was sandwiched by two Spartans players during a punt return. Freshmen James White (averaged 23.3 yards in four returns) and Kyle Zuleger (a 21-yard return) returned kicks in Gilreath's absence, while freshman Jared Abbrederis (two returns for 22 yards) handled the punt returning duties.
Wisconsin's streak of 13 consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher was snapped after Arizona State freshman Deantre Lewis piled up 125 yards on just nine carries.
Fresno State's Ryan Mathews, now the starting tailback for the NFL's San Diego Chargers, ran for 107 yards against the Badgers Sept. 12, 2009.
Wisconsin also allowed a team to rush for more than 100 yards for the only the second time in the past 13 games after the Sun Devils racked up 169 yards on the ground. Wisconsin surrendered 112 rushing yards to UNLV in the season opener Sept. 4.
Taylor makes first start
Sophomore outside linebacker Mike Taylor registered two tackles in his first start since Oct. 17, 2009, when he tore his ACL in Wisconsin's 20-10 loss to Iowa.
Taylor, who recorded a pair of tackles last week in limited action, missed the season opener while recovering from knee surgery.
Bielema Gives Props
Bielema called the Wisconsin student section "unbelievable" Saturday.
He called out the fans earlier in the week for showing up late to games, but he believed they played a huge role in the win.
"They definitely influenced the game," Bielema said of the fans. "(They) made it tough (for Arizona State) to communicate at the line of scrimmage. That was a huge, huge part in the game, so I appreciate everything from the Badger fans."
While Bielema admits he hears negative things about student-athletes constantly, he had nothing but positive things to say about his team during his post-game press conference.
Bielema gave Friday's practice as a glaring example.
"We had a young man that came to practice on Friday," Bielema said. "He had been brought to us from the American Family Children's Hospital. He's been battling some cancer issues for the past two years, and the way every one of my kids handled him, and the reaction from him and his mother, I can't say in words how awesome that is to witness. That's bigger than winning (Saturday). The mother basically said thanks to our players for understanding the bigger picture and to never take anything for granted. I know it means something to them. It's not just verbage."
Extra points: Wisconsin is now 1-2 all-time against Arizona State (the Badgers lost to the Sun Devils in 1967 and 1968) ... Wisconsin once again split the reps at right guard evenly between Bill Nagy and Kevin Zeitler, and Bielema told reporters offensive line coach Bob Bostad would eventually like one of them to take the position over ... the Badgers have won 27 straight nonconference regular season games…Wisconsin is 14-0 in nonconference home games under Bielema