Notebook: commitment to run pays dividends

Badgers focused on the running game Saturday; Calhoun up for national honor; UW rises in polls

Heading into its matchup with Illinois Saturday, the University of Wisconsin football team expected to establish its running game. The Badgers, however, did not script 15 consecutive running plays to start the game. That is just the way it worked out, as UW adapted to Illinois' inability to so much as slow down tailback Brian Calhoun.

"The first thing you always want to do is find out if they can stop you running the football, and make adjustments accordingly," co-offensive coordinator Brian White said. "But we established being physical in the game early and continued with it throughout."

The Badgers opened the game with six consecutive running plays for Calhoun, five to the left side. He picked up 33 yards and two first downs in the process. UW then gave reserve tailback Booker Stanley two consecutive carries — a two-yard run to the left and a 20-yard burst up the middle aided by a 5-yard facemask penalty. Calhoun finished the 11-play, 80-yard drive with three more runs for 20 yards, capped by a 6-yard touchdown run.

UW's second drive started with four consecutive Calhoun runs, giving him 13 carries in less than eight minutes, after recording just seven rushes in the first half of each of the two previous games.

"We made a concerted effort in game planning that we wanted to get him established in this football game and find if we, A, could run the ball and, B, if they could stop it," White said. "We felt pretty confident that we'd be able to establish the run and created a physical mindset during the week. Pared things down and really focused on what we do well. And said, ‘Hey, you want to run the football, let's go.'"

After 15 consecutive running plays to start the game, UW was finally forced to pass on a third-and-six from its 38. Quarterback John Stocco promptly threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandon Williams.

"That's what we wanted to do. We wanted to run the ball," Calhoun said. "When we are running the ball effectively it is easy for Stocco to sit back there, make easy throws. So that was definitely our gameplan."

At the end of the first quarter Calhoun had 15 carries for 75 yards and the touchdown. By halftime he was up to 22 rushes for 97 yards and two touchdowns. In the second half, Calhoun ran for 100 yards and three touchdowns on just 13 carries.

"We really squeezed down our gameplan coming into this game," head coach Barry Alvarez said. "We limited just to a handful of runs. We showed a lot of different window dressing but just wanted to condense the runs and execute them well. Thought maybe we were trying to do too much and not execute the things and we were on the edge of some things. We tried to rep the runs that we used this week. And I think that paid off for us."

Calhoun nominated for national honor

As a result of his 197-yard 5-touchdown performance, Calhoun is one of four nominees for this week's Cingular Wireless/ABC Sports All-America Player of the Week. The other nominees are Southern California wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, Texas quarterback Vince Young and Iowa State wide receiver Todd Blythe.

Badgers up to No. 14

Wisconsin moved up one spot to No. 14 in both the Associate Press poll and the USA Today coaches' poll, released Sunday. The Badgers travel to face No. 10/11 Penn State this week.

Two other Big Ten teams are ranked: No. 12/12 Ohio State and No. 22/23 Michigan.

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