Despite mistakes, UW improves to 5-0

Brandon Williams' three first-half touchdowns lead Badgers to 41-24 win

MADISON — It had been nearly two years since Brandon Williams had caught a touchdown pass for the University of Wisconsin football team, but in a game that had its share of Badger gaffes, he led the team to victory. The senior wide receiver grabbed two touchdown receptions and returned a punt for another as No. 17 Wisconsin (5-0 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) stretched its home winning streak to 10 games with a 41-24 defeat of Indiana (3-1, 0-1).

The Badgers continued their efforts to prove their doubters wrong. While the game itself was not pretty, they chalked up another win and improved to 5-0 for the second straight season.

With the Hoosiers keying in on running back Brian Calhoun, the Badgers exploited Indiana's secondary, walking away with an unusual looking stat sheet for a Wisconsin team.

Quarterback John Stocco racked up 274 yards through the air and threw three touchdowns. Williams finished the game with six catches for 113 yards and two receiving touchdowns — all in the first half — and his counterpart, Jonathan Orr caught four passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.

It was the first time since 1993 that Wisconsin had a pair of 100-yard receivers.

But if one had missed the game, but saw the Badger players exit the field, they might not have even known the Badgers had won the game. It was a far cry from their exciting exit a week ago after beating Michigan.

"Sometimes, in a football season, you don't play well," head coach Barry Alvarez said. "You're very lucky if you don't play well and win. I didn't think we played very well today. We made a lot of mistakes."

For whatever reason — perhaps the first 11 a.m. start time in a few weeks or a lack of energy after last week's big win over Michigan — the Badgers had little intensity at kickoff.

"I just thought we'd play better. But you have games like that," Alvarez said.

When the Badgers started the game sluggish, it was Williams who was there with the energy to nab the momentum.

"I thought [the team's performance] wasn't crisp at all," Williams said. "Guys were kind of lagging and we weren't bouncing around as much. But we still managed to put up 41 points."

The senior gave the Badgers the lead midway through the first quarter with a 17-yard touchdown catch, but a slip-up on defense allowed the Hoosiers to quickly tie the game. Senior cornerback Brett Bell fell down on the play, allowing James Hardy to score on an 83-yard touchdown.

Kicker Taylor Mehlhaff regained the lead for the Badgers with less than four minutes to go in the first quarter, but it was Williams who really sparked the team two minutes later when he returned a punt 63 yards for his second touchdown of the day, putting the Badgers up 17-7 at the end of the first quarter.

"He's a guy that wants the ball in his hands," Alvarez said. "That punt return was awesome. Brandon is an exciting player." Paul Chryst said.

But Williams was not done there, tacking on another receiving touchdown just 45 seconds into the second quarter.

"We had to answer by throwing the football, and he stepped up," Alvarez said.

From that point on, it was an ugly back-and-forth battle.

The Wisconsin secondary bit hard on a fake screen pass and Hoosier quarterback Blake Powers found a wide-open James Bailey for a 46-yard touchdown with less than three minutes left in the first half, but Calhoun answered back with his 10th rushing touchdown of the season.

Indiana did a good job of limiting Calhoun, but the junior still found a way to eclipse the 100-yard mark on the ground for the fourth time this season. He finished with 101 yards on 26 carries.

The Badgers made another error on the ensuing kickoff as Mehlhaff tried to squib a kick down the middle, but only kicked the ball to the 50 yard-line, setting up an Indiana field goal. It was the third time this season that the Badgers had allowed a team to score with less than one minute left in the first half.

The two teams traded fourth-quarter touchdowns and Mehlhaff added another field goal in a rather uneventful second half.

Williams, relegated to the bench with a bruised leg, opened the door for Orr, who had two catches for 69 yards and a touchdown in the second half.

The touchdown was initially ruled an incomplete pass as it appeared the senior wide receiver did not get a foot in bounds. But with a review, the replays showed he did indeed get a foot down before going out of the back of the end zone.

"It's just something that we work on all the time in practice, and it just so happened that it paid off today," Orr said.

That effort was perhaps the prettiest play in the second half of a game that the Badgers will be eager to put behind them.

Outside of Orr and Williams, it was an up-and-down day for just about everyone involved.

The defense played very well at times, forcing four turnovers, but ultimately gave up 24 points and allowed some big plays.

"I thought our defense, at times, played very well, but it gave some very easy plays," Alvarez said.

Stocco had one of his better games as a Badger, throwing for nearly 300 yards and tallying three touchdown passes, but also threw two bad interceptions.

"We know we weren't our sharpest. We know there's still a lot of things we can clean up and we're going to have to do that," Stocco said. "I think we just had a lot of mental errors. I think we weren't as sharp or as crisp as we normally are or should be."

"He did some good things, and anytime you're playing that position you're going to have some plays you want back," Chryst said.

There are probably a number of plays that each and every Badger would love to have back, but it is important now to improve on those mistakes.

Despite the blunders, the Badgers remain unscathed in the loss column, but with travel date with Northwestern — a team that has given the Badgers fits on the road in recent memory — on the horizon, another game like this will not likely end with a victory.

"It shows whoever is watching and paying attention that if we don't play well, we're still a good team," Bell said. "To be honest, I don't think we'll play like that again. From that game, I think we learned that we don't want to come out like that again."

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