The Brian Calhoun Show

Junior tailback's 258-yard, 5-touchdown performance leads UW to 56-42 season opening win

MADISON — There was no question that football fans at Camp Randall here Saturday were going to see a superstar in action. Bowling Green quarterback Omar Jacobs put up Heisman-like numbers last year and had been the talk of the town all week.

He did not disappoint.

However, most fans probably did not expect to see two superstars, as Wisconsin junior running back Brian Calhoun stole the show, scoring five touchdowns in the Badgers' 56-42 shootout victory.

The Colorado transfer finished with 258 rushing yards on 43 carries and also caught one pass for 39 yards, etching his name into the UW record books in just his first game donning the cardinal and white.

He became the 12th player in school history to rush for more than 200 yards. He tied the school record with five rushing touchdowns in one contest. His career highs in carries, yards and touchdowns were also records for a player making his Badger debut.

"I'm really proud of Brian coming in," UW head coach Barry Alvarez said. "He said he's still knocking the cobwebs off, but it's not a bad start."

Those who saw the Badgers in spring and fall camps knew that the running back was something special, but not even Calhoun could have envisioned such a performance in his first game back after sitting out last season due to transfer rules.

"Obviously, when I decided to transfer, I had the Bowling Green game circled because it was my first game back," Calhoun said. "Our offense was planning on having a good game, but we didn't think we were going to put up 56 points."

From kickoff, it appeared that Jacobs and the Falcons would run away with the game. The junior quarterback started the game completing 11 of his first 12 passes as Bowling Green twice marched down the field with ease and jumped out to a 13-0 lead with less than three minutes left in the opening quarter.

Things almost got worse for the Badgers when junior quarterback John Stocco scampered for 13 yards for a first down, but took a vicious hit to the head from Bowling Green cornerback Antonio Smith. Sophomore Tyler Donovan entered the game and handed the ball off three times to Calhoun who ran off 40 quick yards to end the quarter.

Stocco returned for the first play of the second quarter and found Jonathan Orr for a 21-yard touchdown to put the Badgers on the board.

Little did anyone know that it would be the first of five Badger touchdowns, and eight total touchdowns, in the second quarter alone.

Bowling Green wasted no time on the next drive as Jacobs found Steve Sanders for a 63-yard touchdown just 27 seconds into the quarter to make it 20-7 BG.

Wisconsin senior Brandon Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards, setting up a one-play drive for the Badgers as Matt Bernstein rumbled eight yards for the third touchdown of the quarter before 45 seconds had ticked off the clock.

Later in the second quarter Calhoun gave the Badgers their first lead with his first trip to the end zone. On a six-play drive which saw him get the ball five times, Calhoun capped it off with a 20-yard touchdown run putting UW up 21-20.

After a three-and-out for the Falcons, Calhoun notched 53 yards (14 rushing and 39 receiving) on a 48-yard scoring drive (there was a 5-yard false start penalty), including a five-yard touchdown run.

"I've seen him for two years, and the great thing is I know he can get better," Alvarez said. "I've said all along that he is very gifted and [his performance] didn't surprise me."

The Falcons tied the game on their next possession and each team would tack on another seven points and head into the lockerroom knotted at 35-35.

The game's superstars had numbers at halftime that would have been good for an entire game. Calhoun had 187 total yards and three touchdowns while Jacobs had thrown for 305 yards and four touchdowns.

"Obviously, I hadn't played for a year-and-a-half, so I'm as fresh as any other back in the country," Calhoun said. "I was just excited to get out there."

But Calhoun and the offensive line in front of him would help decide the outcome in the third quarter. The Badgers marched down the field easily to open the second half and regained the lead with Calhoun's fourth score of the game.

Booker Stanley found the end zone for the Badgers on the next drive and, thanks to a good effort on the defensive side of the ball, UW carried a two-touchdown lead into the final 15 minutes.

Bowling Green managed just one yard on 10 offensive plays in the third quarter.

The teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter and the Badgers managed to pull out the victory in a game which saw 14 touchdowns and 1,035 total yards.

Jacobs finished with 30 completions for 458 yards and five touchdowns. Three Falcon receivers eclipsed the 100-yard mark, but it was all in a losing effort.

Lost in Calhoun's performance was a 100-yard effort by Stanley. In fact, UW finished with 63 total carries for nearly 400 rushing yards, a testament to an offensive line that, even though it had a few fresh faces, opened enormous holes all day long.

"I think they did a heck of a job and stayed after some things," co-offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said. "We feel the Brian ran well and Booker ran well. So, no question, we had some premier blocking and the guys did a good job on the run game."

So, what happened to an offense that, with the addition of Chryst, would increase the amount of passing? Stocco was efficient, completing eight passes, but threw the ball just 10 times. That was all that was needed against Bowling Green's sieve-like run defense.

"We looked a lot different, huh?" Chryst joked.

And what about an offense that would not rely solely on Calhoun? Forty-three carries is enough to make anybody wince, even if he had not seen the field in two seasons.

"I'm just glad that I got through it," Calhoun said. "I'm here to play running back, and whether coach Alvarez wants me to carry the ball 20 times, 40 times, I'm here to do that."

"I don't want to give it to him 40 times," Alvarez said. "Normally, we're going to throw it much more than we did today. We're not going to get in this situation very often."

Whatever the case, the Badgers got an opening day win, Alvarez's 12th of his career. And Calhoun got himself 1/4 of the way to the 1,000-yard benchmark which had become routine for the Badgers before their running backs were plagued with injuries the last two seasons.

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