A pretty easy day for junior quarterback Dustin Sherer, who was making his first return to his home state as a starting quarterback. Sherer simply handed the ball off and let his running backs do the dirty work.
Sherer had a better day than his numbers would indicate, as his receivers dropped a couple of passes early in the game that could have boosted his completion percentage. In the end, Sherer finished 10-for-19 for 143 yards and was intercepted once when he failed to see Donnell Jones on a pass attempt to Nick Toon along the sideline.
Sherer's numbers have been marginal at best all season. He hasn't eclipsed the 200-yard passing barrier, is averaging 156.3 passing yards per game, has a touchdown-interception ratio of 1.00 and has yet to complete over 55 percent of his passes.
Sophomore Scott Tolzien replaced Sherer with 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, completed one pass for 19 yards and ran a naked bootleg that went for a two-yard score in the fourth quarter.
One of the big reasons UW failed last week in East Lansing was the fact the Badgers could not convert on third down, going 5-for-15 in their two-point loss.
This time around, the Badgers were much better, going 5-for-10 on third down and 2-for-2 on fourth down. Two third-down completions and one fourth-down completions ended up leading to touchdowns. Give credit to the running game and to Sherer for orchestrating the attack.
Three running backs over 100 yards for the first time in school history, seven rushing touchdowns (tying the school mark) and rushing for 441 yards. Yes, it was a good day for Wisconsin's running backs.
After getting his first 100-yard game since Fresno last week, P.J. Hill turned in back-to-back 100-yard outings, rushing 19 times for 126 yards (a 6.6 average) and three scores, including scoring touchdowns on UW's first two drives, both of 80 yards.
John Clay set a new-career high with 112 rushing yards (besting last week's career-high by one yard) and scored the final touchdown of the third quarter, capping a 17-point outburst in that quarter to turn a close game into a blowout.
"Today, we had a lot of success and that means everybody was doing their job and executing," Hill said. "It just felt good being in the huddle with those guys. We had a good week of preparation and guys getting a hat on the guy they are supposed to block. We weren't letting guys get off of blocks and that's what it comes down to."
But the star of the running backs Saturday was wide receiver David Gilreath.
The sophomore wide receiver had 13 touches and generated 235 all-purpose yards, an average of 18.1 yards per play, but it was his running that was his highlight, as he rushed eight times for 168 yards and two touchdowns. The end around was his specialty though, as UW ran that play seven times and the sophomore racked up 160 yards, including a 90-yard touchdown early in the third quarter.
"The line and the guys in front of me are doing a great job of making some big holes for me and I am just running through them," said Gilreath. "I am using some speed out there, but they are doing a good job out there."
Wide Receivers/Tight End
For the second-straight week, the running game carried the offensive burden for this group, which makes it hard to give this unit a grade.
With the Badgers going up against Minnesota, who allowed 232 rushing yards to Michigan, and I-AA Cal Poly in the final two weeks, we might not see the Wisconsin wide receivers until late December.
Garrett Graham continues to be a Wisconsin quarterback's favorite target, leading the team again in catches (five) and yards (69). Freshman Nick Toon looks to be the No.1 wide receiver in this offense, catching three passes for 41 yards. Gilreath, Hill and Zach Brown also chipped in, catching one pass each.
Isaac Anderson had his best down-field blocking game of the season and was one of the big reasons that Gilreath was able to have success on the end around, particularly that 90-yard touchdown run.
The only negative from this group was a couple early drops, including Anderson being lackadaisical when he failed to catch a backward pass and let the ball sit on the turf.
After allowing the third-ranked conference offense to rack up 221 first-half yards and be within four points of Wisconsin at halftime, the UW front four shut the door in the second half.
The Badgers only gave up 53 yards of total offense on 35 plays in the second half (an average of 1.5 yards per play) and zero points, letting the UW offense run away with the football game.
"I thought our defensive kids really stayed true to what we were trying to do," Bielema said. "I really liked the way our kids prepared all week and we have great kids with a great mentality to get us a road win."
Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy had another roughing-the-passer penalty that kept an Indiana drive alive and led to a field goal. That was the defensive lines only bad moment. Mike Newkirk finished with five tackles for a three-way tie for second. Jason Chapman picked up his second sack of the year and reserves Jeff Stehle and Patrick Butrym each picked up a tackle for loss.
Senior linebacker Jonathan Casillas was all over the field for the Badgers, making five tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack.
Jae McFadden registered four tackles before having to leave the game with a concussion, but his replacement, Culmer St. Jean, clogged up the middle in his absence.
DeAndre Levy, combined with safety Jay Valai, registered the turning point of the game. After Gilreath botched a punt return and gave IU the ball on the 15, Valai put a fierce hit on IU quarterback Ben Chappell that jarred the ball loose and right to Levy, who maneuvered his way 45 yards down to UW 49.
After getting burned for a 43-yard touchdown in the first quarter, cornerback Niles Brinkley started to settle into a groove, including a season-high four pass breakups in what turned out to be game-changing situations. Throw in Allen Langford's two pass breakups and Shane Carter's one break up and the Wisconsin secondary was all over the field making plays.
It was Valai though that made the big plays. He led the Badgers in solo tackles with eight and total tackles with 10. More importantly, Valai, who had been quoted in past weeks as saying the defense needed to ‘man up,' backed up his words with the big hit on Chappell.
Instead of sure points and a halftime lead for the Hoosiers, Wisconsin got a field goal and a four-point lead. Indiana scored only three points off four turnovers, all of which occurred in UW territory, and won because of plays like that.
Phil Welch nailed both of his chip shot field goals (19 and 39) and is 17-of-20 (85 percent) in his field goals this season. Punter Bradley Nortman got an easy day at the office, only punting twice and had a 49-yard average.
Other than that, it was mostly poor execution.
Cornerback Mario Goins, who missed the last two games with a concussion, was paired with Gilreath on returns. The move backfired, as Goins was hit head on during his second return and fumbled the football on UW's 16, giving Indiana prime field position that turned into a Hoosier field goal.
Gilreath muffed two punts. He recovered the second, but his first muff gave the Hoosiers the ball at the UW 15. It would have cost at least a field goal, but Valai and Levy bailed out the Badgers.
The blocking on special teams is atrocious and Bielema needs to realize that either his schemes need to change or he needs to hand off the special teams coaching role to somebody else next season.