Problem Fixers: Big Second Quarter Leads UW

After two nail bitters, Wisconsin football final non-conference tune-up ends with the bang. Despite a mistake-filled first quarter, Wisconsin scores 28 points in the second quarter, giving them more than enough offense to beat Wofford, 44-14, Saturday.

MADISON – For a running game anxious to flex its muscles, John Clay and Zach Brown coughing up fumbles on back-to-back possessions wasn't going to instill much confidence in a no-excuses coaching staff.

Another fumble by John Clay a quarter later put the kibosh on UW establishing the run game, meaning the Badgers would have to look elsewhere to find momentum.

When it was all said and done, the struggles in the run game were the only problems Wisconsin occurred all afternoon.

After giving up 31 points the week before, Wisconsin's defense was stellar, the passing attack was crisp and the special teams delivered a boost … and that was in the second quarter alone, the biggest quarter of them all in the Badgers 44-14 blowout over FCS Wofford Saturday.

After the Badgers (3-0) gained 64 yards on five offensive series (12.8 per possession), scored three points and fumbled three times, Wisconsin got its fire lit in the second 15 minutes.

Starting with a touchdown pass to Lance Kendricks on the quarter's first play, Wisconsin's offense scored three times, its defense held Wofford (1-2) to 36 total yards, forced one fumble and a fourth-down sack and its special teams blocked and subsequently recovered a punt for a touchdown.

When the Badgers jogged to the locker room with a 31-0 halftime lead, Wisconsin scored 28 second-quarter points, gave up none and, more importantly, were flagged for no penalties.

"That just shows what we can do when we are staying clean with stuff," junior quarterback Scott Tolzien said. "We play that way, we have a chance to be a very good football."

Scour the production chart and it's hard to find many negatives in the Badgers' final tune-up before the conference season starts next week against Michigan State.

- Tolzien, who has silenced his doubters, completed 15-of-20 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Through three games, Tolzien has completed 47-of-68 (69.1 percent) passes to nine different receivers.

"I feel real comfortable and I think that's something you have to have under your belt as a quarterback," Tolzien said.

- A week after letting Fresno State convert 61.1 percent of their third-down chances (11 for 18), UW limited the Terriers to 6 for 15 on third down (40 percent) and forced four turnovers.

"We have been stressing turnovers this week," said freshman Michael Taylor, who registered seven-yard sack on fourth down. "Our motto is hit, strip and pick the ball every time you get a tackle. We want to get the ball back for our offense because we know what they can do."

- Senior O'Brien Schofield has made himself known as one of the conference's dominating lineman. Entering the game tied for the nation's lead in tackles for loss, Schofield registered another tackle for loss and a forced fumble.

"O'Brien Schofield's motor is unbelievable," Head Coach Bret Bielema said. "He is coming up with big play after big play. He needs to install that in everybody else."

Despite the final result, Wisconsin's performance was from dominant, as the UW's auspicious start made some Badgers fans have nightmares back to the Cal Poly fiasco last season. The Badgers fumbled five times (losing three), committed two penalties the whipped on a touchdown and a first down on UW's third drive.

But as much as the offense struggled in the first quarter, the defense and special teams picked up the slack. The Badgers limited Wofford's triple-option attack to only 63 total yards (all rushing) and saw Chris Borland block and David Gilbert recover a punt for a touchdown.

"Anytime you have a true freshman block a punt and another true freshman recovers it for a touchdown, those are positive things," Bielema said. "I really like what's happening with our program in terms of recruiting."

Being given his first career start after his standout performance last week, Clay struggled to hold onto the football (fumbling three times, losing one), opening the door for freshman Erik Smith to get his first extended playing time of his career. Smith responded, carrying the ball 10 times for 54 yards and one touchdown.

Even Brown was given a second chance, which he took advantage of is rushing for two second-half touchdowns.

"It was a bittersweet day," Brown said. "It was a poor effort for us handling the ball, but it's always nice to get the win."

That was a moot point for Bielema, who would have been running ball security drills with his running backs after the game if it wasn't against NCAA violations.

"I couldn't be more serious," Bielema said when asked if he was kidding. "We were going to suspend fifth quarter to make sure we have ball security … All of a sudden you have 89 (Graham), 84 (Kendricks), some wide receivers are out there, if we put the ball on the ground anymore, maybe we'll go empty (backfield)."

After surviving a furious fourth-quarter comeback from Northern Illinois, battling the elements and defense fatigue against Fresno State and adapting to shutout Wofford's triple-attack offense, the Badgers head into the conference season showing opponents that they can adapt to whatever the situation calls for.

"One of our team goals is to win for each other," Schofield said. "The last game, the offense had to carry us and this week we carried them, getting them the ball back so they can make plays."

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