Despite new faces at quarterback, tight end and the offensive line, the Badgers accumulated 499 yards of total offense on just 53 plays in their 51-17 victory over UNLV Thursday. It's a figure that computes out to 9.42 yards per play, the second-best mark in the country behind Georgia Tech's 10.34 yards against Western Carolina.
Wisconsin's first-team offense scored seven touchdowns and one field goal on its first eight possessions, and exited midway through the third quarter with the Badgers comfortably ahead 51-3.
"I think Paul (Chryst) and our offensive staff do an outstanding job," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said on Monday. "A lot of those guys work well together … I think everybody understands what their roles are. Everybody practiced really clean during fall camp and that led to hopefully some very good. Good news is I think we can be better."
Scoring at least 37 points in the first half of its last three home games dating back to last season, Wisconsin has averaged 57.7 points per game in its last six home games.
From the Infirmary
After undergoing hernia surgery in the early parts of fall camp, wide receiver Manasseh Garner is expected to return this week, as the sophomore has been itching to return.
"I saw him running last Wednesday when he wasn't cleared for practice and he was running faster than anybody else," said Bielema of Garner, who is currently listed behind sophomore Jared Abbrederis on the depth chart. "He made a play over the middle, probably a 40, 50-yard gain, where he just went up and got it. That's the thing I think he can bring. Now you've got this big joker that can run and he's excited to be out there as well."
While the Badgers are expected to get back Garner, Wisconsin likely won't have sophomore left guard Travis Frederick, as he suffered a slight MCL sprain late in the UNLV win. Frederick (left knee) was not listed on the depth chart released Monday by UW and redshirt sophomore Ryan Groy was listed in his place.
Groy started two games last season but both were at fullback. Even so, Groy worked plenty with the No.1 offense during fall camp when senior right guard Kevin Zeitler was nursing an ankle sprain and is regarded as the team's sixth starter, much like senior Bill Nagy was a season ago.
"If you want to have an enjoyable moment, turn on James White's screen play and watch Ryan Groy," Bielema said. ‘For about 20 yards, White was drafting off of Ryan, going stride for stride. I said this to (offensive line coach Bob Bostad) the last week of camp. I have just been so impressed with Ryan how he's handled everything, not getting uptight about not being the starter (and) jockeying around (at different positions. I think he's going to really benefit from that."
Jon Budmayr had surgery on Friday and his timetable for when he can return and start throwing the football is dependent on how the nerve the doctor's relieved in his throwing arm reacts.
"It could be two weeks, it could be two months," Bielema said. "He's a tremendous kid of faith. Once he started to find out more information, he stated to get a lot better. You finally saw the guy that I know smiles and talks. It's been kind of good because now he knows the path and now he knows the direction. It's kind of still a waiting game … because the nerve is independent of your body."
Junior quarterback Curt Phillips had another successful knee surgery and is in the process now of keeping off his knee as much as possible to limit the swelling.
"He's been very upbeat and very positive," Bielema said. "He's in a stage now where he's really trying to stay off it and keep the swelling down. I know nobody is going to tell him that he's not coming back. These next 6-to-8 weeks will be very critical to see how the swelling holds up and how his body reacts. If he can't get involved in spring ball in its entirety, in some capacity he could."
A Better Borland
Just like Groy, Chris Borland's football career has been constantly in motion. As a high school player at Archbishop Alter in Kettering (OH), Borland was a safety and a running back. In his first season at UW, he was an outside linebacker being told what the calls were, meaning Thursday's game was his first live action as the quarterback of the defense.
Although Borland gave himself a ‘C' grade for his team-best seven-tackle performance, Bielema was encouraged by his sophomore's first live performance in almost a year.
"He had a couple scrimmage plays but nothing to extend of what you'd see game-speed wise," Bielema said. "For the first time, he was making all the calls … If was a new experience for him and hopefully now he's through that and can continue to move forward."
Preparing for Oregon State
The first of two scheduled meetings with the Beavers is already off to a rocky start. One of two teams to lose to a FCS school in college football's opening week, Oregon State is expected to get some key players back when it travels to Wisconsin this Saturday for an 11 a.m. kickoff, hoping to wash the taste of a 29-28 overtime loss to Sacramento State out of its mouths.
"They have two quarterback that look like they both can throw the football pretty well, a couple of running backs that did an outstanding job, their tight ends (and defensive ends) were a little banged and expected to be back," Bielema said. "It's going to be a very tough challenge for us and one our kids will be excited to play in."
One game equals one conference award for quarterback Russell Wilson. After completing 10 of 13 passes for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns while running for 62 yards and another score, Wilson was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week following his debut performance.
The North Carolina State transfer became just the second UW quarterback to throw for 250 yards and rush for at least 50 yards in the same game -- and the first Badgers signal caller to do so since 1979. Wilson's 317 total yards was the best-ever mark by a Badgers QB in his debut, as were his pass efficiency (292.5) and completion percentage (76.9).
"I've been around since the start of fall camp in early August, but Russell is a unique situation in so many ways," Bielema said. "Very few kids are playing college football today that have signed a professional baseball contract (worth) thousands of dollars. He's been in a very unique situation at N.C. State that he overcame while being a professional baseball player.
"To come in now and be in an environment that he's never been in, and offense he's never played in, to go out and do what he did last Thursday … if you know him, it's status quo."
With so many offensive performances to choose from, the Wisconsin coaches awarded co-offensive MVP awards to Montee Ball (130 all-purpose yards, four touchdowns) and James white (181 all-purpose yards, one touchdown).
Defensively, the coaching staff awarded the complete-game performance of Ethan Hemer, who Bielema is hoping to put on scholarship no later than January. Bradie Ewing was awarded the special teams MVP for his work on all four scout teams.
"He's done an exceptional job," Bielema said of Ewing. "He's taken a leadership role there for us."
"Derek is extremely talented, goes 100 miles an hour and I am extremely excited about his future," Bielema said.
Extra Points: Bielema reiterated that redshirt freshman running back Jeff Lewis and true freshman running back Melvin Gordon are probably the two fastest guys on the team, and is hoping to use both players in UW's special teams coverage units … Due to last week's unique schedule, Bielema said he was able to send eight coaches out on the road recruiting on Friday … The Badgers are 32-2 under Bielema when holding their opponents under 20 points.