It was a battle for supremacy in the terms of which team had the toughest defense, the swiftest running back and the more talented team.
Unfortunately for Wisconsin, Michigan made a clean sweep in all three categories.
Coming into today's game, Michigan was ranked first in the Big Ten in total defense (206.7 ypg) and first in rush defense (20.7 ypg) with the Badgers ranking second in total defense (220.7 ypg). To add more spice to the mixture, Wisconsin possessed the number one running back in the Big Ten in P.J. Hill, while Michigan has All-Big Ten running back Mike Hart, who is second in the Big Ten is rushing.
One of the keys of the game would be which running back could figure out the opposing defense the quickest. Through the early part of the game, it was Wisconsin's P.J. Hill that had the Wolverines' number. On the Badgers first drive, Hill ran back-to-back plays for seven and 16 yards and caught a 29-yard touchdown from quarterback John Stocco to put the Badgers ahead. Not to be out done, Hart matched Hill by pounding the ball through the middle of Wisconsin's big defensive line. The match was on when both Hart and Hill had 32 rushing yards at the end of 15 minutes of play.
However, that would be the last time Hill had an advantage of any kind.
It was Mike Hart's kind of day. He wasn't flashy; he just played hard-nosed football. Hart rushed 23 times for 91 yards and scored Michigan's final touchdown of the day, while Hill couldn't mustered anything in the second half, only managing 19 yards on the ground.
Despite Wisconsin's tough run defense in the first half, Hart was still able to find marginal success, gaining 49 yards on 13 carries. It was the second half though that Hart was able to finally find the endzone, adding a touchdown to his 91 yards on the ground.
"I think [Wisconsin] just gave us a different look," Hart said. "They were playing [the run] kind of differently. They were running their ends out and then shooting their linebackers, which was a little different [then what we practiced]. It was making it harder for the linemen to get up on the linebackers. I wasn't running particularly hard in the first half. That's how I feel. I could have run the ball harder. They did a good job. They came out ready to play and had a great game plan against us."
Hill, who didn't speak to the media after the game, was the victim of poor Badger blocking and the ferocious Wolverine defense. Hill only gained 19 yards in the second half and was a non-factor in the Badger offense after his 29-yard touchdown run.
Born in Detroit and attending high school at Cass Tech in the Motor City, Allen Langford had a successful homecoming in front of 23 family and friends in Ann Arbor. Langford picked off two Chad Henne passes and registered four tackles in his first collegiate game in his home state.
"I don't think it has to do with being [from here]; just making plays period always feels good," Langford said. "I gave us some big plays [out there]. It did feel kinda special doing it in front of home."
At the time, both of Langford's picks came at critical junctures in the game. Langford first interception came on third down in Badger territory when Henne's pass bounced of Mario Manningham and into Langford's hands. The second came when Michigan had tied the score and had driven to the Wisconsin 34 when Henne went deep into the endzone for Manningham. Once again, Langford was there to pick off Henne and deny about Wolverine scoring drive.
"I just made a great play on the ball," Langford said. "The ball was in the air, and when that ball is in the air, I should try to make an attempt to get the ball and that's what happened."
Despite the loss, Wisconsin has a good feeling about how the rest of there season is going to play out. The Badgers are a young team in comparison to the Wolverines and other Big Ten teams and to open your conference season in the storied "Big House" is no easy task. Regardless, the Badgers know that they played far from perfect against Michigan and they need to clean up a lot of areas if they are going to become contenders in the Big Ten.
"We've got a few games under our belt and that was a pretty hostile environment we just played in," quarterback John Stocco said. "I think the more experience we get is going to help. We had some mistakes out there today and I had some mistakes too."