Forever 1-0

Badgers keep same focus in win over Northwestern

The theme of the Wisconsin football team has been the same all year—stay 1-0 every weekend. After upsetting Purdue last weekend and with a bye week on the horizon, the Badgers managed to stay focused on the goal and went 1-0 for the eighth straight game in Saturday's 24-12 victory over Northwestern.

"I just say that our guys have bought into it and no one believes that," Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez said regarding his 1-0 philosophy. "Well how are they going to do it next week? They just keep doing it because we have all bought into it. Everything that we talked about and everything we put up, it's 1-0 and staying focused on the next game. As corny as it may sound to everyone else…our guys have bought into it and that's the important thing."

Staying 1-0 has always been a tough task against Northwestern. The Badgers had a similar scene set up last season; they came off a big victory against Ohio State and a heart-breaking loss the week before against Purdue before heading into Northwestern. The Wildcats went on to give the Badgers an embarrassing 16-7 loss, and kept Wisconsin out of the top of the Big Ten for the rest of the season. Coming into the game with two key victories against Ohio State and Purdue, Wisconsin did not want to lose their spot on top the Big Ten with a repeat of last season.

"[Northwestern's] a good team," Alvarez said. "They are a good football team. And if you take a look at their team, you have seniors on both sides—their lines are big and physical guys. They do things offensively that you don't see. They run different schemes, and it's hard to simulate those in practice. They always come up with another different wrinkle. So I think that'd be the case, but they're a good team. I think they are a very good team."

The game started out with both teams struggling to put points up on the scoreboard. Badger kicker Mike Allen attempted a 31-yard field goal early in the first quarter but failed to break the 0-0 score. Later in the quarter, Allen got another chance and this time nailed a 29-yard attempt.

The second quarter started off shaky for both teams. In the first play, Wisconsin quarterback John Stocco fumbled the ball to Northwestern after his pass was deflected by junior defensive end David Thompson. Two plays later though, Wisconsin regained possession when junior linebacker Dontez Sanders intercepted a pass from Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez.

The interception put Wisconsin at its own 28-yard line but 11 plays later they were in the Wildcat end zone. Wisconsin used the duo of senior Anthony Davis and sophomore Booker Stanley to plow down the field with the rushing game but it was a 4-yard touchdown catch by Owen Daniels that put Wisconsin up 10-0.

The next possession had similar results for Wisconsin but this time it was Davis' turn. Davis' 7-yard scoring run made it 17-0 before halftime. Davis also tallied the final Badger touchdown of the day on a 1-yard run on the first drive of the second half.

The 24-0 score made it seem as though Northwestern was down and out for the day but the Wildcats were not ready to be shut out. Wildcat kicker Brian Huffman attempted a 32-yard field goal but he failed to get Northwestern on the scoreboard. On the Wildcats' next possession though, the momentum quickly switched to their side. Nortwestern relied upon senior running back Noah Herron for a majority of the day but for the Wildcats' first points of the game, Basanez found junior wide receiver Mark Philmore for a 29-yard touchdown reception. Northwestern opted to go for the two-point conversion and walked away empty handed.

Northwestern then came right back to give the Badgers another scare. Kicker Joel Howells surprised the Badgers with a 16-yard onside kick to give the Wildcats possession at Wisconsin's 49-yard line. Northwestern took advantage of this opportunity and ended the drive on a 14-yyard rushing touchdown by Herron. Basanez tried to find Herron for the two-point conversion but again came up short.

While Northwestern did manage two touchdowns, Wisconsin's defense continued to dominate; even with a few new faces in the lineup. Senior defensive ends Erasmus James and Jonathan Welsh both sat out due to injuries from the Purdue game. This then gave reserves like redshirt freshman Jamal Cooper and sophomore Joe Monty the chance to fill in. Sophomore linebacker Reggie Cribbs was also out for the second consecutive game. True freshman Andy Crooks filled in for a majority of the time.

"I thought defensively, especially with three starters out, a middle linebacker and two senior defensive ends not playing, a number of young guys out there stepped up and performed and down the line guys did what they had to do to keep a team like that in check for three quarters," Alvarez said. "That's pretty impressive. I thought our defensive staff had a great plan and the kids really performed well."

On the offensive end, Davis once again led the way for the Badgers. He had 31 carries and tallied 117 yards to give him his third 100-yard rushing game on the season.

"I really thought we would do a better job against the running game than we did," Northwestern head coach Randy Walker said. "That was kind of our goal coming into this week. I don't think it's any secret that Wisconsin's going to try to rush the football and take it to you. The secret of our success a year ago with this football team was that we played well against the run, and we couldn't stop their run today."

Despite an early interception and fumble, Stocco ended the day 13 of 21 for 178 yards.

Though the Wildcats had trouble stopping Davis, they had a 100-yard rusher of their own. Herron ended the day with 109 yards on only 19 carries and became the first player all season to rush for 100 plus yards against the Wisconsin defense. Defensively for the Wildcats, junior linebacker Tim McGarigle's 14 tackles (10 solo) led the way for both teams.

Now that the Badgers are 1-0, eight times in a row, the goal is crystal clear for the final three games on the season.

"We have to (buy into the 1-0 mentality) because if not, you just start thinking about other things and bigger things that's not really there yet so you just gotta stay focused and on task," Sanders said. "Our team did a great job with it this year so right now we're still 1-0."

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