Senior kicker Philip Welch, who had been handling field goals and PATs prior to UW's 62-17 victory over Purdue, took over the responsibilities of kickoffs from redshirt sophomore Alec Lerner, but the results didn't mimic a change.
Welch's first two kicks made it on average to the Boilermakers 10-yard line and Purdue return man Raheem Mostert took the two kicks 49 and 74 yards, leading to 10 first quarter points.
"They had two basic returns one in the boundary and one in the big field," coach Bret Bielema said. "It was kind of the last kick a week ago. Missed tackles kill you. You just can't have the missed tackles on kickoff coverage. I think we will have to evaluate our personnel and also look at what we're doing with our alignments and our coverage rules."
The kickoff Bielema referred to was Jordan Hall's 42-yard return following Wisconsin taking a 29-26 lead. The Badgers missed five tackles on that kickoff, allowing Hall to get to the OSU 48-yard line, setting up the Buckeyes' winning touchdown.
"In order for us to succeed on kickoff coverage we have to tackle better," senior safety Adam Hampton said. "There weren't many adjustments made. We just made sure we did our assignments, get down there, find the ball, hold the gaps and do our job."
Not good enough apparently, as the crowd booed the kickoff unit after they gave up the second long kickoff return on the day to Mostert.
"We hear it, we love our fans and we don't want to do anything to upset them," defensive tackle Ethan Hemer said. "It happens but what it comes down to it, it's us on the field and it's our job on the field to make it right."
After the first two kickoffs, Welch found his leg strength, something he'd been searching for since suffering a quad injury prior to fall camp.
In addition to averaging 65.9 yards on kickoffs with two touchbacks, Welch was able to connect on a 52-yard field goal to end the first half to put the Badgers up 38-17, his longest kick of the season. With Welch playing in just his fifth game, the UW coaches dispelled the senior late in the fourth quarter, giving redshirt sophomore kicker Kyle French a chance to make a 29-yard field goal in the second half.
Wisconsin's offense was effective enough where Brad Nortman only had to punt three times in the game, giving the Badgers shaky punt team a week off. Nortman was able to land his first punt on the Boilermakers 10-yard line and pinned another one of his punts inside Purdue's 20-yard line.
Spreading the Wealth Around
Quarterback Russell Wilson showed the amount of playmakers he has at his fingertips. A total of seven players caught a pass from Wilson and nine players finished with a reception.
"Going through his reads and Coach Chryst drawing up different plays to get everybody involved and he finds the open receivers," said wide receiver Jeff Duckworth, who caught a career-long 66-yard reception in the first quarter. "It kind of makes it easier on us."
Senior Nick Toon led the team in receptions with three catches for 35 receiving yards. Duckworth ended the game with two catches for 78 receiving yards, a career high for the Ohio native.
Wilson ended the day going 15-of-21 for 204 passing yards and two passing touchdowns along with a rushing touchdown.
"It felt good majority of the yards came on one pass but it felt good to get going again," Duckworth said.
Henry Gets Injured
Aaron Henry suffered a mild ankle sprain in the second quarter and ended up not returning.
"Aaron is negative on the x-rays and he thinks he'll be able to go on Tuesday's practice," Bielema said. "I doubt very much if he's not ready."
"I thought those two guys handled the game really well," Bielema said of Johnson and Southward.
Southward was pleased with his performance but he knows he could've made some more plays on defense. Johnson however would like to see his play improve.
"I think I played pretty well. But there are always things I could do better I missed a couple of tackles that I wish I could go back and make but all of my calls were right," Southward said. "It's just a little few intricacies that I could've done better."
"I think I played really average. I don't think I was that big of a factor in the game," Johnson added.
Extra Points: Wisconsin has won 15-straight home games, tied for the third-longest streak in school history … The Badgers have scored at least 50 points in four games this season. In two others they scored 48 and 49 points … UW has scored at least 30 points in each of its last 11 home games, averaging 55.4 points over that span … Wisconsin's 62 points scored is its highest total this season and ties as the sixth-highest scoring output in school history … The Badgers' 605 yards of total offense ties for the 10th-highest single-game total in school history and marks UW's third 600-yard performance of the season.