With the threat of a potential upset looming at halftime, the No. 7 Badgers came out in the third quarter looking to the pound the ball with P.J. Hill and wear out the Bulldogs.
In the third quarter, Wisconsin ran 15 times for 67 yards, allowing the Badgers to eat up 12:43 in time of possession.
"That's a throwback to Coach Alvarez," Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said. "I never really tracked time of possession as a defensive coordinator until coming here. His first charge to me was ‘Win the TOP battle.'"
The third quarter allowed the Badgers to break away from a 21-21 halftime tie. In fact, the way Wisconsin played the rest of the game, Bielema probably wishes it was only the third quarter that counted.
"Our offense came right out of the gate, and then had a little bit of a lapse defensively, in the first half," he said. "[But] it's not so much what happens during the course of the game, it's how you react to it."
While the Badgers' offense started the game hot, Wisconsin's defense allowed The Citadel quarterback Duran Lawson to throw for 140 yards and three touchdowns on 13-of-16 passing in the first half.
Missing junior cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu didn't help the secondary, either.
On the very first play of the game, Ikegwuonu injured his knee when tackling Bulldogs running back Tory Cooper. While Ikegwuonu came back on the next possession, he left after one play and didn't play the rest of the game.
Bielema said he didn't have any word on Ikegwuonu's status.
Still, the Badgers' defense came out in the second half hoping to redeem itself. On The Citadel's first offensive possession, safety Aubrey Pleasant sacked Lawson for a nine-yard loss and then fellow safety Shane Carter intercepted a pass to turn the game around.
"We played a heck of a ball game in the second half, going out with that sack that Aubrey [Pleasant] had, that really made everybody get up," freshman cornerback Aaron Henry said. "We kind of used our momentum — we used that sack to get us up."
Although the defense helped turn the game around, it was running back P.J. Hill who paced the Badgers all game long. Hill ran for 176 yards and four touchdowns. He also added two catches for 20 yards, one being a touchdown. Hill's five scores tied a school record for most touchdowns in a game.
The last player to achieve the mark was Brian Calhoun in 2005, but Hill says he's no Calhoun.
"We're two different backs," Hill said. "Brian Calhoun's more of a speedy back, I'm a big back, but when the opportunity's there I just take it."
Following a big game versus UNLV the previous, Hill's status was somewhat of a question mark. Bielema said Hill was a little banged up after the trip to Vegas and held the sophomore running back out of some contact in practice.
Hill said it helped keep him fresh and it showed. On his first run in the game, Hill broke a tackle and busted 22 yards for a touchdown. Hill took the majority of the carries the rest of the game before his back-up Lance Smith relieved him in the fourth quarter.
As the Big Ten opener versus Iowa approaches next week, the Badgers hope Hill can continue his dominating performance on the ground, but also shore up some other aspects.
"We definitely left some things on the field," said tight end Travis Beckum, who had four catches for 60 yards, plus four rushing yards on a reverse run. "But they're things that can easily be corrected."