Yet, after the tone of the Wisconsin football team's first three wins all had a "yeah, but…" quality to them and with the Badgers finally putting together a no-doubt old-fashioned beat down of a small-school opponent, the relaxing feeling seems appropriate. It was the first game of the season Wisconsin faced minimum adversity, a reassuring win to players and fans alike heading into Big Ten play next weekend.
The Badgers played a clean game in all three phases, didn't turning the ball over and took just one penalty. The result was a single-game school record for most points in the modern era (since 1946), nudging the previous record of 69 points from 1962 into the No. 2 spot on Wisconsin's books.
In what amounted to a pre-Big Ten exhibition game, UW scored touchdowns on 10 of its 12 drives, including the first nine of the game. Six different players scored for the Badgers as the offense racked up 618 yards of total offense over just 32:06 of possession time.
Like a true exhibition game, the starters played for the first two quarters before giving time to the backups on the depth chart, who in turn ceded snaps to the third stringers by the time the game was coming to a close.
"The biggest thing I can take out of this, is I really thought after the game got out of hands scoring wise and we started rolling people through in all phases — offense, defense, special teams — they continued to play really clean," Bielema said.
For a look at clean play look no further then the UW trenches.
Several offensive lineman bemoaned during the week that the UW run game was leaving yards out on the field, despite averaging over 200 a game through the first three contests. Not finishing blocks was preventing good runs from becoming touchdown runs, senior and captain John Moffitt said.
Saturday, Wisconsin punched the ball in the end zone seven times on the ground, several of which the running back went untouched. James White — who scored four touchdowns on the day after just missing his first career score in the prior three games — waltzed towards pay dirt untouched on two of his scores. He also added the Badgers longest run of the season with a 66-yard score off a power toss in the second quarter.
White finished the game with 145 yards on 11 carries and became only the second freshman in Wisconsin history to score four touchdowns in a game. The other? Ron Dayne in 1996.
"I wasn't expecting that," White said. "I was just running out there, trying to gain yards and just happened to break a couple times, somehow ended up with four touchdowns."
"James is a very gifted football player with great speed," Bielema added. "And because he is not out there every down, he comes in with fresh legs and it benefits everybody."
On defense, the UW athletes just simply overmatched Austin Peay's personnel.
The Badgers picked up ten tackles for a loss on the day, with eight different players chipping in at least one each. The Governors managed only eight first downs and 157 yards of total offense.
Aaron Henry will likely see his name on Sports center, as the free safety delivered a blow in the second quarter that shook the stadium like Jump Around was playing. Austin Peay receiver Ashlon Adams made the mistake of venturing over the middle and quarterback Jake Ryan didn't put enough zip on the ball to do him any favors. The ball and Henry met Ashlon at the same time.
The hit was the biggest of the season for the Badgers and marked an impressive turnaround for Henry. Playing safety for the first time this season after spending his first two years as a corner back, Henry was known as more of a finesse player in the past. With a series of jarring hits in the first four games and improved tackling, Henry as documented on tape that punishment is waiting receivers who dare to venture over the middle.
With strong safety Jay Valai's reputation as a big hitter already cemented, it gives the Badgers a nice intimidation tandem over the middle in time for Big Ten play.
"That felt pretty good, actually, that felt real good," Henry said.
"I think people kind of have their head on a swivel for Valai. And nobody really knows too much about me back there, so if I can get some I am definitely going to get my opportunities and take advantage of them."
Through the first three games the Badgers were scoring about 50 percent of the time they reached the red zone. After Saturday, that number gets boosted up to 72 percent.
Starting quarterback Scott Tolzien was absurdly efficient, going 15-for-17 for 217 yards and three touchdowns — with one of the incompletions a dropped ball that hit John Clay right in the hands. Once again, tight end Lance Kendricks was Tolzien's favorite target, with the senior tight end putting up his second consecutive 100-yard receiving game and third touchdown of the season.
"It feels good," Tolzien said of the red zone performance. "The biggest thing is that we played a clean game. A lot of times, games like this, guys get complacent, but I though today we maximized our opportunities. Guys came out ready to play and embraced the opportunity."