Anytime an offense racks up over 600 (618 – sixth most in program history), set a modern-era record for points (70) and score a touchdown on its first nine drives of the game, something has to be going right. The running game will get a lot of credit, but Scott Tolzien engineered the attack and deserves a lot of the credit.
After starting the season off slow, Tolzien has drastically improved over the past two weeks. Not only were his numbers good (15 of 17 for 217 yards and three touchdowns in the first half) but for the second straight game, Wisconsin's offense had no turnovers.
The last time the Badgers went at least two games with no turnovers was the beginning of the 2007 season.
"I thought the game plan was really good, the game plan Coach Chryst called and also guys, it's amazing guys executing their routes and the details," Tolzien said. "We really only stop ourselves."
In getting his first game action of his career, Jon Budmayr completed his first six passes, finishing 6 of 7 for 55 yards. Not a bad debut for him and Nate Tice, who also got to work his first series as a member of the Badgers.
Beating himself up after fumbling at the goal line against San Jose State, James White missed a blitz pickup on the game's fourth play that led to a seven-yard sack. That's about the only thing White did wrong all day.
White became the seventh Badger in school history to rush for four TDs in a game and the first since P.J. Hill had four against The Citadel (another FCS opponent) in 2007. The four scores also tie a UW freshman single-game record, held by Ron Dayne.
"I was just going out there trying to gain yards and happened to break a couple times and end up with four touchdowns," White said. "I was probably touched twice on all of them.
White had touchdown runs, in order, of 18, 66, 11 and 19 yards. His 66-yard run was the Badgers' longest play from scrimmage this season. It was a toss play, and White got to outside in a flash and simply out ran two tackle attempts as he sprinted down the left sideline.
"James is a very gifted football player with great speed," UW Coach Bret Bielema said. "Because he's not out there every down, he comes in with those fresh legs and it really benefits everybody."
Junior John Clay ran for 118 yards on 15 carries (7.9 ypc.) with a 12-yard score, extending his nation-leading 100-yard streak to 10 games. He has also scored a TD in 10 straight contests. If UW really wants Clay to have a legit shot at the country's top award, it would have been nice to see him get a couple more scores.
With the opponent UW was playing, the Badgers got a chance to try some new-look running plays and fullback Bradie Ewing was the benefactor. His first carry of the season resulted in a seven-yard score and the first of many Wisconsin touchdowns. He also added a 3-yard TD reception in the second quarter, the first receiving TD of his career. The last UW player to have a rushing and receiving TD in the same game was senior Isaac Anderson against Northern Illinois in the 2009 season-opener.
"We don't give out any carrots," Bielema said when asked if the play call was to reward Ewing. "It was a play we hadn't really showed this year."
In mop-up time, Montee Ball had 11 carries for 64 yards and a score, but appears headed for third-string duties during the season … a credit to the amount of depth the Badgers have at running back.
With Wisconsin's first three drives featuring the run, it was obvious that the Governors forget about the passing game, primarily Lance Kendricks. After Tolzien hit a wide-open Kendricks over the middle for a 17-yard gain on the first play of the fourth drive, Kendricks was wide open one play later in the flat, good enough for 23 yards to get UW in the red zone. How fitting that he scored the touchdown, going in motion, getting a good receiver block from Jared Abbrederis and breaking a tackle for an easy seven-yard gain.
He was done by halftime, catching six passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. Kendricks is the first Wisconsin player to have back-to-back 100-yards receiving since Travis Beckum in 2007, and gives him 13 catches for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's proven to be a go-to guy, and that's the way we want it and the way Lance wants it," Tolzien said. "Everyone we play from this point forward is going to be that much better, and that's good. Lance has to be that much better, myself and all the pieces because the competition is going to get stronger."
With Nick Toon (turf toe) and David Girleath (concussion) still out another week, Abbrederis (3 catches for 38), Jeff Duckworth (3 for 32), Kyle Jefferson (2 for 26) and Isaac Anderson (2 for 23) all contributed to the cause.
The catch of the day goes to Jacob Pedersen. Under pressure, Tolzien lofted a pass to the back of the end zone, putting it where only Pedersen could reach it. After an athletic jump and seeing the ball just clear the defender, the redshirt freshman had his first career touchdown.
A week after allowing an opponent to rush for over 100 yards, Wisconsin's front four was back to its usual tricks. The Governors – despite having a decent running attack – could only manage 42 total rushing yards, no run longer than 12 and a 1.3 yards per rush average.
David Gilbert had a solid game with four tackles and a sack, Patrick Butrym added a sack, J.J. Watt added 1.5 TFLs and Louis Nzgewu added a TFL. Even with the second string in, the Badgers still brought the pressure. In the fourth quarter, Austin Peay had minus-2 rushing yards and only 12 passing yards.
"Everybody is drinking the same Kool Aid," Bielema said. "I think everybody is buying into what we do around here will have success. I really like the way they approached the game day. This was a game where we were very, very banged up at a lot of positions, and we were able to rest today at a critical point in the season."
With Borland out and freshman defensive lineman Tyler Dippel attending the funeral of his grandmother in California, Bielema was left desiring another outside rusher. So Bielema turned to Manasseh Garner, and injected plenty of information into his head over the last two days, even diagramming play for Garner on a wristband so he knew exactly what to do.
"I just threw it out there because Manasseh, we've seen him do things on high school film," Bielema said. "He's so athletic. You can see right away that he has good instincts pass-rush wise. He's an energy kid that hopefully can get us more."
Garner, who also lined up at receiver in the second half, was not credited with any tackles in his collegiate debut., but was part of the effort that held the Governors to just two of 13 third-down opportunities.
The position that needed the most work on Saturday got plenty of players rotated through, hopefully giving the coaching staff an idea of who can replace Chris Borland in the lineup. Mike Taylor took another step in his ACL recovery, leading the team with seven tackles (1.5 for loss).
Kevin Rouse and Ethan Armstrong, two players expected to see playing time increase during the Big Ten season, responded well, each adding five tackles while Armstrong had two tackles for loss to lead the team. Kevin Claxton also added a tackle for loss, which gives UW a variety of options to attack Michigan State with on Saturday.
On a rollout pass in the second quarter, AP quarterback Jake Ryan connected with Ashlon Adams but Aaron Henry came flying in, threw his shoulder into his chest, decleated him after two steps and knocked the ball out in the process. It's a play that is becoming the norm for Henry and a play that fired up the entire defense one drive after Austin Peay's passing offense marched down the field and registered a field goal.
The UW secondary gave up just 81 yards the rest of the game.
"That stuff shows up on film," Bielema said of Henry's hit. "Maybe those receivers are starting to think about where (Henry) is."
Henry finished with four tackles and three pass breakups, helping UW give up only 115 passing yards. The only downgrade for UW, no created turnovers, something that will have to happen during conference play.
With Gilreath still out, Wisconsin experimented with a number of returns on Saturday.
Abbrederis took five punts for 45 yards, including a long of 25, but he did muff two punts. That allowed Henry to make his debut as a punt returner in the fourth quarter, taking back one punt for a game-high 30 yards.
"I gave him the green light," Bielema said. "He put a nice little move on and had a smile from ear to ear."
White also took UW's only two kickoff returns for 43 yards, including a long of 27. A week after getting torched in the return game, the biggest return UW gave up was 31 yards and held Austin Peay to 1 12.8 yard average on 11 returns.
Brad Nortman averaged 60.5 yards on his two punts, including a 76-yarder that was downed at the Governors' 1-yard line on the game's final play. Philip Welch's eight kickoffs went for an average of 59.9 yards while Alex Lerner got his first taste of college football, kicking the last extra point and the last three kickoffs, averaging 54.7 yards.