Preview: Let the Good Times Roll

After a dominant win in Bloomington last season, one of few solid victories over the Hoosiers, Wisconsin football heads back to Indiana, hoping to make it back-to-back in a match-up with the struggling Hoosiers.

MADISON – Should one look have the strength to look back at the 2008 football season, there aren't many good things to feel satisfactory about, especially in the months of October and December.

But one game last November sparkles amongst the rubble, a Wisconsin 55-20 victory in Bloomington, a game that started a run of three wins to end the regular season.

"That (game) was a lot of fun," senior Jae McFadden said. "We let out a lot of emotions in that 60 minutes."

Wisconsin hopes the fun will continue this season, as the Badgers head back to Bloomington to take on the Hoosiers Saturday at Memorial Field.

One year ago, Wisconsin (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) responded to its fourth loss in five games by rushing for 441 yards and seven touchdowns and outscoring Indiana 27-0 in the second half.

After two straight losses that dropped them from the top spot in the conference this season, Wisconsin let out its emotions against Purdue, getting solid contributions from the running game, the defense and special teams in a 37-0 blanking, the first shutout against a Big Ten opponent since 1999.

"We worked so hard during practice throughout the week (that) just wanted it to come together on Saturday, and it really did for us," said senior Mickey Turner. "Offense, defense and even special teams, getting that block. Whenever you are rolling like that, it motivates the other aspects of the team."

The game was also a breakout game for wide receiver David Gilreath, who rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns, including a 90-yard score on an end around early in the second half. Gilreath hasn't been the same since, which can easily be seen in his dipping numbers and decisions.

Battling through stress fractures in both his feet that affect his burst and cuts, Gilreath ranks 65th in the country in punt returns (2.8 avg), 91st in kickoff return (21.7 avg) and has caught only eight passes for 106 yards and no scores.

"Yeah, it's frustrating," said Gilreath, "but I just got to keep working hard and focusing on what has given me success in the past."

While Gilreath is focusing on parts of the past, head coach Bill Lynch and his Indiana Hoosiers are hoping to learn and quickly forget about their struggles over the past two months. Having played three Big Ten road games and had three fourth-quarter leads, the Hoosiers (4-5, 1-4 Big Ten) have seemingly found a way to lose them all.

After allowing Michigan to score 15 fourth-quarter points in a three-point loss earlier in the season and a week after blowing a 25-point lead in a one-point loss at Northwestern, Indiana let a 14-point second-half advantage disappear against No. 7 Iowa, as the Hawkeyes outscored the Hoosiers by 28 in the fourth quarter to get a 42-24 victory.

"It wasn't a case of our kids relaxing, or thinking they had the game won, it was a matter of not making enough plays and our opponents doing that," said Lynch, as the Hoosiers are 1-4 on the road with a match-up at Penn State next week. "We've got one of those football teams that is going to keep fighting and keep battling. I don't think they are going to get discouraged after a couple tough losses."

Lynch inherited the program from Terry Hoeppner, who died from complications from brain cancer before the 2007 season, and led the Hoosiers to a 7-6 record that secured a bowl berth (a 49-33 loss to Oklahoma State in the Insight Bowl) for the first time since the 1993 season.

They couldn't continue that momentum last season, finishing with a 3-9 record that including two wins over FCS schools, but the football program has continued to make strides under Lynch, who looks like he is getting close to his first win over a ranked opponent.

"We've got some really good young players that have blended well with some experienced older guys," Lynch said. "When you're trying to build a program, you're going against those teams, it's tough, because they're very difficult to beat. We're getting close."

Twenty-fourth ranked Wisconsin hopes that close is another week away.

"You forget how good it feels to win after a couple of losses," Turner said. "Once you get that feeling, I mean, we were all sprinting down to the locker room after playing the game. It's like we got more energy after getting the win. That's what I told the offense afterwards, look how good this feels, it should make you hungry for (this week)."

No.22/24 Wisconsin (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) at Indiana (4-5, 1-4 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, November 7 at 11 a.m. CT

Stadium – Memorial Stadium (52,692 / FieldTurf)

Television - Big Ten Network (Craig Coshun, Glen Mason and Mike Hall)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Wisconsin leads 35-18-2 (UW leads 15-9-1 in Bloomington)

Last Meeting - Wisconsin won, 55-20, on Nov. 8, 2008 in Bloomington

Wisconsin Notes:

The Badgers currently lead the Big Ten in rushing offense and rushing defense in conference games. The only time in school history UW has led the league in both categories (conference games only) was in 1951. The last time any team led the league in both categories was Ohio State in 1996.

UW is tied for 13th in the country in turnovers gained with 20 (10 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries). That is 2.5 turnovers per game which would be the best average since the 2002 team forced 35 turnovers in 14 games.

UW's defense has given up just 30 points in the last three games (21 of Ohio State's points came off turnovers or special teams).

Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in opponent third-down conversions in league play (30.3 percent) and the Badgers have allowed a league-low 70 first downs. Purdue was just 2-of-16 (.125) on third downs.

Wisconsin is tied for 21st in the country with 2.75 sacks per game. The Badgers have 22.0 quarterback sacks through eight games, just one less than they had all of last season. The last time they averaged at least 2.75 sacks per game was in 2001 when they totaled 33.0 sacks in 12 games.

Indiana Notes:

Indiana's has a plus-9 turnover margin, which ranks first in the Big Ten and ninth nationally. Indiana came up with six turnovers, including five interceptions, the most interceptions in a game since 1969. Even so, the Hoosiers are still the only team among the nation's top 15 in turnover margin that has a losing record.

Junior quarterback Ben Chappell has completed 62 percent of his attempts for 2,054 yards with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Four players on the IU roster hail from The Badger State. Redshirt freshman safety Shane Covington (Milwaukee, Riverside University), sophomore punter Chris Hagerup (Whitefish Bay/ Whitefish Bay), senior free safety Nick Polk (Milwaukee/Vincent) and redshirt freshman cornerback Alexander Webb (Mequon/Homestead) all came to Bloomington from the state of Wisconsin.

Hoosier redshirt freshman linebacker Chad Sherer will see a familiar face across the sideline on Saturday. His brother, Dustin, is a fifth-year senior quarterback for the Badgers. The brothers hail from Cicero, Ind., and attended Hamilton Heights High School. Chad has recorded five tackles in seven games this season.

Senior Matt Mayberry has started 21 straight games at middle linebacker since the 2008 opener and paces the Hoosiers with 80 tackles and 48 solo stops in 2009.

Prediction

What a refreshing Halloween it was in the Camp Randall press box watching a complete Wisconsin performance for the first time in a long time. The Badgers attacked the weakness of Purdue by rushing the football non-stop, the defense shut down a potent passing and running attack and the special teams chipped in with a touchdown.

It's a win that can catapult Wisconsin to a 10-2 overall record, an outstanding achievement with such a young team.

If the Badgers are looking for a weakness in Indiana to exploit, Wisconsin can take its pick. The Hoosiers rank eighth in the Big Ten in scoring offense (23.6), eighth in rushing offense (127.4), eighth in rushing defense (145.9), ninth in scoring (26.5) and total defense (392.5) and last in pass defense (246.6).

The Badgers struggling kickoff coverage will get a break with senior cornerback Ray Fisher, who leads the Big Ten Conference and ranks fourth nationally in kick return average (37.4 average) and has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, will miss the game with a knee injury. Consider that a bonus for the defense, too.

Wisconsin is a 10.5-point favorite heading to Bloomington. Lynch had this to say about UW:

"They are classic Wisconsin football. They are big and physical on offense, run a lot of different offensive schemes with big backs that are hard to tackle. It's tough to get them out of position."

Hearing that from Lynch, it sounds like even he thinks it's going to be a long day.

Wisconsin 41, Indiana 20

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 6-2

Against the Spread: 5-3


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