Considering Scott Tolzien's mini-slump one of a baseball player going hitless in a three-game series. It's not the end all of a player's career, but it does make one press, something Tolzien admitted to doing just a bit.
Tolzien broke out of his slump with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Anderson early in UW's victory, and kept things simple for the offense. Again, his numbers weren't gaudy (11-of-20 for 194 yards and a touchdown) because the Badgers were so dominant in the run game. Tolzien's numbers could have been even higher, had the Badgers not been so cute with some of their playing calling in the red zone and tight end Garrett Graham and receiver Isaac Anderson both dropped passes.
Unlike last week, however, Tolzien was needed to throw the ball in critical situations, and he was near perfect. The Badgers got nine of their 24 first downs through the air and converted 11-of-17 times on third downs, a huge credit to him.
After Indiana cut the lead to 24-21, UW responded with a long touchdown drive that was highlighted by a 44-yard pass to Toon on a deep crossing route that set UW up for a touchdown.
While that play was important, the biggest play of the game came with UW facing a third-and-8 and clinging to a 31-28 lead. Tolzien and Toon dialed up again on a 17-yard out pattern that gave UW a first down and the ability to run out the final 2:29.
"Big-time throw, big-time catch, big-time call," UW coach Bret Bielema said. "That ended up being probably the difference in the game."
Not only the difference in the game, but probably the difference in UW's season.
"Whatever's in front of him, he just handles it," Bielema said of Tolzien, who helped the UW offense rack up a season-high 488 total yards. "The only thing is he's probably a little bit too hard on himself. Those are the kinds of plays there at the end - those two drives - that could catapult him for the season."
The Badgers entered the game with a 5-0 record when the Badgers rush for over 150 yards or John Clay scores a touchdown. You can push that record to 6-0, as the Badgers rushed for 294 yards.
Clay rushed for 134 yards on 15 carries (an average of 8.9) and scored on an 11-yard scamper through the right side. But when Clay wasn't able to play in the second half due to a slight concussion, the Badgers didn't skip a beat, thanks to true freshman Montee Ball.
It's hard to believe that as of October 2, Ball hadn't even played a down yet for UW, and many assumed he would redshirt with the depth at running back ahead of him. Credit to Ball and the coaching staff for sticking with him, a decision that paid off against Indiana.
With Clay out, Ball carried the ball 27 times (six more carries than he had in his first four games combines) for his first 100-yard gain – a career best 115 yards – and scored two touchdowns, the second of which gave UW a 31-21 lead with 8:18 left in the game.
Ball did most of his work in the second half, carrying 19 times for 85 yards (4.5 yards per carry) and carried eight times for 30 yards on the final drive when UW chewed up the final 4:01.
After UW ran the end-around with David Gilreath to perfection last season, the Badgers made it a decoy this season, only running the play once – a six-yard gain.
"A lot of people want to say the Big Ten has kind of shifted toward more of a spread attack," Tolzien said. "In those big games that's what it comes down to, teams that can run the ball and stop the run. That's where it all begins."
The sophomore Toon had five receptions for a career-high 123 yards, including gains of 33 and 44, continuing his dynamite season.
"It feels good," Toon said. "I feel like I should have been doing it consistently this year, but obviously I was able to do it today. Hopefully I can continue to do it throughout my career."
Anderson grabbed three passes for 43 yards and caught UW's first touchdown. It was his second receiving touchdown of the season and first since his 80-yard reception on the Badgers' first play from scrimmage this season.
Ball, Clay and Lance Kendricks all added one catch, but there were a couple critical drops that could have cost UW. The pass interference call on Anderson that wiped out a Badgers touchdown was not a good call, and UW had to settle for a field goal.
One of the game balls has to go to junior Jake Bscherer, who lost his starting spot heading into the conference season when John Moffitt returned and the offensive line coach Bob Bostad wanted a player that was used to pulling.
But when right tackle Josh Oglesby, who entered the game with an injured right knee, hurt his left knee midway through the second quarter and didn't return, Bscherer entered the game and didn't waver.
Bscherer had been battling a cold this week, which caused the coaching staff to give redshirt freshman left tackle Ricky Wagner reps at right tackle.
Despite being a touch under the weather at game time, Bscherer, who played his most extensive action since starting at left guard against Fresno State, played the rest of the way and shut down Jammie Kirlew, who entered the day with 5.5 sacks.
As a result, Tolzien wasn't sacked Saturday for the first time since Week 5 at Minnesota and the Badgers run game moved at a rate of 5.7 yards per carry.
UW held the Hoosiers to 63 rushing yards, continuing its streak of not allowing a team to rush for over100 rushing yards in a game. Senior O'Brien Schofield scored two tackles for loss and registered UW's only QB sack, pushing his totals to 18.5 TFLs and 7.5 sacks on the season.
Other than Schofield, the numbers weren't impressive. UW wasn't able to put enough pressure on IU quarterback Ben Chappell, which allowed him to go through his progressions and hurt UW's secondary.
Senior tackle Jeff Stehle was penalized for a late hit on Chappell, one of many penalties that irritated Bielema.
After every game, Chris Borland's name seems to come up. It's not a surprise, really, seeing as how the true freshman is the shining star, so far, of the Class of 2009.
Borland recorded nine tackles against the Hoosiers, including his sixth TFL of the season, and recorded his first career interception in the third quarter to stop the Hoosiers in the red zone.
"Forty-four shows up," Bielema said. "He is just special."
A week after Devin Smith and Niles Brinkley made a statement as the starting cornerbacks, limiting Purdue to a season low in completions and yards, Wisconsin took a big step backwards. UW allowed Chappell to complete six passes of 20 yards or more, 323 passing yards overall and three scores, including a throw to Tandon Doss that made Brinkley look very bad.
Senior free safety Chris Maragos recorded his fourth interception of the season and fifth of his career in the second quarter. It was Wisconsin's 11th interception on the season, just one less than the Badgers had in each of the last two years.
Jay Valai registered four tackles, one tackle for loss and a pass breakup, the first team we have really seen him this season.
If Wisconsin's secondary is weakness 1-A, the special teams is 1-B.
Not only did Doss hurt the Badgers' secondary, he made the special teams scratch its head once again. Doss had a 21-yard punt return and a 34-yard kickoff return.
It didn't matter that Indiana was missing Ray Fisher, one of the conference's top return players, UW's punt and kickoff units aren't very good.
David Gilreath continues his downward spiral in the return game. The junior lost the opening kickoff in the sun and had to let it go for a touchback. Then he botched his first punt return attempt after losing the ball in the sun, bouncing off his facemask and bounced into the hands of Indiana at the UW 10-yard line.
Anderson replaced Gilreath on kickoffs and returned his only chance for 22 yards. Chris Borland had two returns on short kickoffs, the second one he returned for 32 yards. Junior Maurice Moore replaced Gilreath on the next punt return, but Gilreath was back in the lineup for the third one.
UW had two bad penalties on special teams – one on reserve defensive back Andrew Lukasko (block in the back) that cost UW 33 yards in field position and another one on freshman David Gilbert (late hit out of bounds) that helped Indiana start a drive at its 49.