With the Badgers having a quarterback like Russell Wilson, the stories seem to write itself.
After seemingly showing the country what a top-notch quarterback he is through the first five games, Wilson showed the 80,732 in attendance he's got skills as a receiver, too, catching a 25-yard touchdown pass from junior running back Montee Ball late in the second quarter that was the highlight of Wisconsin's 59-7 thrashing over Indiana at Camp Randall Stadium.
There was little doubt the Badgers (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) wouldn't run away with their fifth home game in seven weeks. Entering the game as 40-point favorites against an Indiana (1-6, 0-3 Big Ten) team that hasn't beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent this season, Wisconsin didn't need heroics to put up 50-plus points and 500-plus yards for the third time this season.
Just because they didn't need them doesn't mean offensive coordinator Paul Chryst can't spice up the playbook a little bit. Adding the halfback pass earlier in the week and with Wisconsin already up 14-0 thanks to a couple rushing touchdowns by Ball and sophomore James White, Wilson handed off to Ball on a sweep right and took off around the end.
After a couple steps, Ball halted his progress and had little trouble targeting a wide-open Wilson. Two weeks after Stanford quarterback and Heisman candidate Andrew Luck got praise for his tiptoe catch along the sideline, Wisconsin's Heisman candidate did him one better, as the quarterback jogged into the end zone for a 25-yard score, his third career reception and first career touchdown.
The only thing wrong with the throw itself wasn't it didn't grab many style points.
"It was terrible because he was wide open and I was nervous when I let the ball go," said Ball, who ran the play twice in high school but never for a touchdown. "I knew it was going to work, but I knew that I had terrible form. It was ugly … It looked like a duck up there."
It didn't look so bad to Wilson, whose mom and sister traveled from Virginia to see Wilson for the first time this year. Confidently saying he knew he was going to catch it, Wilson was able to give Ball some good natured ribbing when the running back admitted his nerves were getting the best of him.
"He goes, ‘It's a lot harder to throw during the game,'" said Wilson, who added 166 passing yards to his day. "I told them, ‘now you see how I feel every week.'"
It was the Badgers' first touchdown pass by a non-quarterback since Al Toon threw a 40-yard TD pass to Jeff Nault against Illinois on Oct. 23, 1982. The play between Ball and Wilson was a perfect 10-for-10 in practice and adds another new wrinkle to Wisconsin's offense.
"It makes people adhere to, ‘Hey, he might be running a pass play,'" Head coach Bret Bielema said. "It draws the backside safety (or) corner to him, which maybe will allow Montee Ball or James White to have a big hit on the front end … If you show that, it makes people respect that the entire game."
When Ball wasn't throwing the ball, the junior continued enhancing his gaudy rushing numbers against the conference's worst rushing defense. With Indiana giving up an average of 210 yards per game, Ball had little trouble racking up 142 yards on the ground on 14 carries (10.1 ypc) and three scores.
Ball also had a 46-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter that finally injected some life in the crowd after a stagnate 9-plus opening minutes, setting himself up for his first touchdown run and helping him finish with 213 yards of total offense.
Throw in the work of James White – whose 87-yard day was highlighted by a 15-yard first quarter touchdown – and the Badgers piled up 332 yards on the ground. Entering the game averaging 5.49 yards per rush, Wisconsin ran for 7.9 yards per carry against the Hoosiers.
"They do some creative, really nice stuff," said Indiana coach Kevin Wilson. "They basically have four really good running plays and executed them well. Then off of that they have some great pass action. Bottom line, if they get out in space, those two backs are pretty good … They had a bunch of eight-, nine-, 10-yard runs, and then some big ones."
Thanks to Wisconsin's defense, the offense got plenty of opportunities. Other than a couple lapses in the run game, such as Stephen Houston's 67-yard touchdown in the second quarter which was Indiana's lone highlight, the Badgers' defense shut down the passing game to the tune of 64 passing yards.
Indiana sophomore Edward Wright-Baker entered the game completed 62 percent of his passes but could get no rhythm going against a Badgers pass rush that registered eight tackles for loss and two sacks.
"Indiana is probably the most challenging as far throwing the ball (because) they do a lot of spacing routes," said junior linebacker Mike Taylor, who registered 13 tackles but still couldn't catch sophomore Chris Borland (team high 15 tackles and three TFLs). "We were going to bring some pressure on them and that's what we did and I think we threw them off."
It got so bad that even when Wright-Baker didn't have pressure, he still rushed himself, a decision that resulted in a lofted pass that senior safety Aaron Henry easily picked off and returned to the Indiana 39. With 50 seconds left in the half, it was more than enough time for Wilson and the offense, which punched in another score on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Pedersen.
Adding to Wright-Baker's misery was when his punt team failed to go for a fair catch down 52-7 in the fourth quarter, instead letting the punt being downed at the 1-yard line. Immense pressure two plays later caused Baker-Wright to fumble and freshman Derek Landisch to recover in the end zone for the final punctuation point.
A perfect 6-0 for the first time under Bielema and the first time since 2004, Wisconsin will finally get to see where it ranks tomorrow when the first official BCS standings are released. The upperclassmen also know that their first true road test waits, and it's against a Michigan State team that dealt them its only regular season loss last year.
"We feel like we owe them from last year and we do owe them," Ball said. "We're going to make sure we practice extremely hard and go in there confident."