Badgers Tame Wildcats

Wisconsin gets touchdowns from five different players and P.J. Hill breaks the 200-yard barrier for the first time as Wisconsin rolls.

MADISON Wis. - Rest assured, the Badgers were well aware of the happenings last weekend in East Lansing. In what has been the story of the Big Ten season this year, the Fighting Illini, 26-point underdogs, ruined Michigan State's homecoming and their season by pulling out the three-point win on Sparty's homecoming. Northwestern, a 19.5 underdog on Saturday, were hoping to make it another thrilling underdog story.

Wisconsin on the other hand, was in no mood to be a part of another Hollywood hero script.

The Badgers (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) jumped on the Wildcats early, held them off in the middle and put them away late as Wisconsin avenged last season's embarrassing lost by toppling the Wildcats 41-9 on a seasonable warm October Saturday in Madison.

The Badgers started the game off with a bang against the Wildcats (2-4, 0-2 Big Ten). After Northwestern's failed attempt at the onside kick to start the game, Wisconsin needed only two plays and one player to find the end zone. After a 1-yard run by P.J. Hill, Hill charged through the line for a 60-yard touchdown sprint to give Wisconsin a 7-0 lead just one minute six seconds into the game.

"[The run] was really about being patient and reading my blocks," Hill said. "I saw an opening, took it to the hole and just took it to the distance."

On the Badgers next drive, Wisconsin continued to pound the ball at the Wildcats. Hill carried the ball four times on the drive, moving the ball 34 yards downfield to set up Wisconsin in prime position to add another touchdown. However, the Badger drive stalled in Wildcat territory, and the Badgers had to settle for a 40-yard field goal and a 10-0 Wisconsin lead.

"The first half started off with a bang when P.J. got the opportunity to get the big score," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "It started our momentum swing and we were able to get the ball down the field. Unfortunately, a holding penalty stopped us, but we were able to get some points."

It was at this point that the Wildcats began to write their comeback story. Following the Wisconsin field goal, the Wildcats engineered their first scoring drive on the day using the arm, and legs, of freshman quarterback Andrew Brewer. Brewer completed four consecutive passes to three different receivers that moved the Wildcats down to the Badgers' one. From there, Brewer finished the drive himself on a QB sneak for the Wildcat touchdown. But, Northwestern missed the extra point to keep the Badger lead at four.

The Wildcats continued to claw back against the Badgers, this time off a Wisconsin turnover. After Stocco completed a first down pass to junior Paul Hubbard, Hubbard took three steps downfield and was clocked by the Northwestern secondary, jarring the ball lose and into the hands of NU. Wisconsin's defense was able to hold though, limiting the damage to a 22-yard field goal and keep the lead at one.

It turned out to be a bad stretch for Hubbard, as he coughed up the ball on Wisconsin's next possession as well. After the play, Hubbard struggled to get off the field and didn't return the remainder of the game.

"I was looking to challenge, but he looked like he definitely took two steps," Bielema said. "I don't know if he ever had the ball secured. I didn't want to burn our [challenge] at the time. The second [fumble], he was trying to create some yards and I think he probably got knocked out and then dropped the ball."

Junior Luke Swan caught his first touchdown of his Badger career with about seven minutes before halftime to pad the Wisconsin lead to 17-9 and cap a frustrating half for Wisconsin.

"The way we played the first half was not an indication of what this football team can do," Bielema said. "They came out in the second half with a fire and a spark and got [the job] done."

Any thoughts of comeback for the Badgers were quickly squelched the purple people eaters of Evanston in the third quarter, as the Northwestern hunters quickly became the Badgers prey. Hill, who rushed for 189 yards in the first half, continued to punish Northwestern's shoty rush defense, racking up 41 more yards in the quarter. Hill finished the day with 249 yards rushing on 35 carries while playing sparsely in the fourth quarter. It was Hill's first 200+ yard rushing game as he is quickly becoming the Badger's go-to offensive threat.

"I feel very good," Hill said. "I like being the workhorse and that's my place on the team."

"P.J. has run the ball consistently throughout the entire year," Bielema said. "He had 240 some yards, but he'll be the first to know he left 50 to 60 [yards] out there today. There are a few plays where he could have cut outside for a few more yards."

Wisconsin broke the game wide open in the third quarter, outscoring Northwestern 17-0 off two touchdowns within 68 seconds of each other. After Dywon Rowan scored a 4-yard touchdown for his second of the season, Wisconsin senior Joe Stellmacher picked off Brewer and returned it 25-yards for the touchdown. It was Stellmacher's fourth interception of his career and his first return for a touchdown. Freshman Lance Smith also tacked on a late touchdown to cap the Wisconsin scoring.

"I saw the receiver run out, so I just broke on it and when I got my head back the ball was right there," Stellmacher said. "I'm actually surprised I caught it because I messed up my thumb pretty bad last week against Indiana and I wasn't catching anything. It just happened to come into my hands and I just showed my speed going down the sidelines."

Today's game was a friendly change from the usual Wisconsin/Northwestern showdowns Badger fans are used to. Last season, Northwestern racked up 674 yards of total offense on the Badger defense and beat Wisconsin 51-48. This year, Wisconsin's defense was able to contain this brand of Wildcat, which is noticeably tamer than last season.

"We've got a good defensive coordinator now," Bielema joked. "The numbers were unbelievable between the first half and the second half [last season]. [Northwestern] got some momentum and [former Wildcat Brett] Basanez was a very good football player. More than anything this year, our defense controlled the game and they played very well today. I like the way [the defense] responded in the second half."

Wisconsin now gears up for their border rival Minnesota Gophers in the battle for the Paul Bunyan Ax. Although Wisconsin didn't come out the way they wanted to today, the second half against Northwestern was certainly indication of what Wisconsin is capable offensively, especially when they enjoy playing the game they've played since childhood.

"The way we played the first half was not an indication of what this football team can do," Bielema said. "They came out in the second half with a fire and a spark and got [the job] done."

"I just tell them to enjoy the day. The first time any of us played football, there were no Big Ten titles or ESPN, we were out there having fun and I want our guys to understand that. I want them to enjoy the day and relax."

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