With rain and wind pelting the field throughout the entire game, Wisconsin, for all intensive purposes, abandoned the passing game. As a result, Joel Stave threw eight passes in the first half, seven in the second half and finished with 122 yards.
"It was difficult out there throwing the ball, for both sides, when you were going into that wind," said Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen. "It was fairly dramatic, and it took away our opportunity to spin the ball down the field for the offensive shots."
Stave did most of his damage on first down – completing 4 of 8 passes for 80 yards, including a 61-yard hit to Jacob Pedersen that was thrown into the wind that got Wisconsin down to the Indiana 2. UW had to settle for a field goal, however, after back-to-back incompletions inside the 8-yard line. Stave also went 3-for-4 on second down, but was 0-for-3 on third down: missing on two third-and-8 and one third-and-18. He was also took his only sack on third down.
Again, tough day weather wise, but Stave didn't play great.
The Badgers rushed for 554 yards on 50 carries (11.1 ypc.). That's the second-best total in school history and the most by an FBS team this season. What more needs to be said?
The Badgers got production from every tailback that touched the ball against Indiana: James White (career-high 205 yards), Melvin Gordon (146 yards and an 11.2 average) and Corey Clement (108 yards and two scores). Even receiver Jared Abbrederis got into the mix with three carries for 86 yards, which included a 32-yard and 49-yard touchdown that were the first two of his career.
UW had seven rushes of at least 30 yards. That's more than 73 FBS teams had on the SEASON entering Saturday.
Praise should be heaped all around, but Wisconsin set the tone from the very first snap when White took the handoff, went around the right tackle and was in the clear for a 93-yard touchdown run; the longest in school history.
Everything went right for Wisconsin even when it went wrong, like Gordon recovering his own fumble after it was stripped from him early in the third quarter. Gordon has never lost a fumble and White has only lost two in four years. Remarkable.
Tight end Jacob Pedersen's senior season started off slowly for many reasons; the former Big Ten tight end has gone through three different offensive coaching changes in the past three seasons.
"Going through all the different offenses is always a challenge," Pedersen said.
Pedersen started the season with a dismal two reception, 15-yard performance. That seems like a distance memory with offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig adjusting to his personnel and Pedersen adjusting to the scheme.
On a day when the passing game was not really needed, he was the primary target for Stave. Pedersen led UW's receivers with three catches for 92 yards, including a career-long 61 yard reception to set up a field goal. He now has had at least three receptions in all but one game this year.
"I think coach (Andy) Ludwig has done a great job of incorporating everybody in this offense, getting a lot of different guys involved. I just need to keep making the plays when they come my way and hopefully everything else will take care of itself."
His role in the offense is still to be Joel Stave's security blanket, but he also has been a strong run blocker. That has carried through to the rest of the team with Jordan Frederick, Abbrederis (who was held without a catch for the first time in 36 games) and even White all registered key blocks that sprung big plays.
"Those kids block like crazy and they do it every week, and it's important to them," said Andersen. "It's a credit to them and Coach Beatty and the offensive staff and the way they continue to take pride in that, because it's not easy for a wide receiver to sit out there and say, I'm going to block like crazy."
Wisconsin finished the game with 676 yards of total offense, second-highest total in school history and the 17th time the Badgers have gone over 600 yards. It's almost comical, but five of those performances have been again Indiana, including three times in the last six meetings. UW's school record of 705 total yards came vs. Indiana in 1999.
"It's hard to look at that and say we did something bad," said center Dan Voltz. "We obviously made mistakes, but we played really well."
One of the small side stories of this game was going to be the play of Indiana true freshman defensive lineman Darius Latham, a one-time Wisconsin commit who flipped to Indiana before the coaching upheaval. Latham was barely mentioned throughout the game, finishing with four tackles and a half TFL, as UW's offensive line did a good job containing him.
"We just executed," said Voltz. "I don't think it's anything they did. We just played really well. We could have done that against any team we played this year."
Wisconsin didn't register a sack in the game and the defensive line only registered a half tackle for loss, but it can't be discounted how much this group helped alter Indiana's offensive flow. The Hoosiers' run game was nonexistent without Tevin Coleman, as Stephen Houston's 61 yards on 15 carries barely made a dent (his longest run was only 12 yards).
UW entered the game tied for the national lead, allowing opponents to score touchdowns on just 39.1 percent of its red zone trips. Indiana went 0-for-1 on TDs inside the red zone, thanks in large part to Wisconsin's linebackers.
Indiana had first down at the one, but Houston was stopped for no gain by Ethan Armstrong filling his gap assignment. The same thing happened on second down, except it was Chris Borland and Derek Landisch combining for no gain. After Indiana's third-down pass fell incomplete and the Hoosiers had to settle for a field goal, the Badgers improved their number to just nine touchdowns on 24 red zone trips (37.5 percent).
"They took great pride in the 3 points that they gave up today against the offense," said Andersen. "It was a tremendous accomplishment for them, and for them to buck up in the red zone in that situation was a big time defensive stop."
Borland recorded a team-high 10 tackles, his 17th career double-digit tackle game and his fifth this season (He added 1.5 tackles for loss and has a team-high 7.0 on the season), and Brendan Kelly recovered a gift fumble off a bad quarterback-running back exchange to create a short field for UW's offense, which quickly cashed in a touchdown.
Conor O'Neill looked healthy and physical, Michael Caputo continues to make strides and this unit is one of the best in the country.
Sojourn Shelton was the odd-man out against BYU when the Badgers went to five defensive backs and altered some personnel. For a competitor like Shelton, that certainly motivated him going up against an Indiana offense averaging 43.1 points and 527.1 yards of total offense, both in the top 10 in the country.
"He wants to play every single snap, and the way he competes, he will do that in checkers, horse, whatever he's doing," Andersen said of Shelton. "He will want to win."
Shelton certainly won against the Hoosiers. He registered his team-leading fourth interception on the first drive of the game, giving the ball back to Wisconsin's dangerous offense at the Wisconsin 7-yard line. He also added two tackles and a pass breakup.
Not only was Indiana held to 224 total yards, none of the five receivers who have 1,000 yards on the season did anything of note or create major damage.
"He's a competitive young man," said Andersen. "He's handled his freshman year unbelievably well now to be at this point 10 games in and play as much as he's played, stay steady and not hit the walls has been impressive. It was good to see him be out there and have some success."
With Tanner McEvoy (five tackles) and Dezmen Southward (three) leading the unit, Wisconsin busted two coverages the whole day, impressive against 30 pass attempts by the Hoosiers. Neither one of their two quarterbacks threw for over 100 yards.
It wouldn't seem like a blistering, rainy afternoon would be a day for a kicker to have a career day. Then again, when has anything seem to make sense or go according to script in Wisconsin's kicking game? After going 2-for-2 against BYU, Russell extended his streak to five straight makes after knocking in kicks from 31, 36 and 26 yards.
"I've built up some confidence over the last couple games and I am just hitting it really well," said Russell. "(Saturday) was the best I have hit in a long time, every ball."
Andrew Endicott was equally impressive on his nine kicks, averaging 61.8 yards per attempt and putting three into the end zone. A unit that was once in disarray, Endicott and Russell has provided some stability to the group.
"When I am able to do my job it helps the team out," said Russell. "I am happy with that."
Wisconsin didn't have a chance for a kick return and Drew Meyer barely punted (three times, one inside the 20, one touchback), but the punt return game continues to be a concern. After two shaky weeks, Kenzel Doe was finally yanked from the job after he let a punt go off his chest and nearly cause a turnover. Abbrederis replaced him and ended up having a 21-yard return, but Andersen is continually to stick by Doe.
"Kenzel is a prideful, prideful young man," said Andersen. "I want him to be back there, I feel good about him being back there, and he will be back there and continue to run in those situations. But you get in that spot, and we weren't going to get a return. We wanted to fair catch it and Abby makes good decisions and Kenzel does, too, and this game it just went Abby's way back there."