Saturday, November 16, 2013

Elsewhere in the B1G: Badgers steamroll Hoosiers in the rain 51-3, White runs to career day

File photo (obviously)

Recent history indicated that the Badgers would roll through the Hoosiers with ease today at Camp Randall Stadium: in their last three meetings, Wisconsin has defeated Indiana by a combined score of 204-41.

But, facing an Indiana offense that has scored points against everyone --including 28 against Michigan State-- this game, on paper, presented a tricky test for a Badgers squad coming off a tough victory against a good BYU team last week. With Ohio State unlikely to lose a game (let alone two), the Badgers likely weren't headed for the Big Ten title game for a third time in as many years.

However, a BCS at-large bid remained a possibility. One way for the Badgers to continue their rise up the BCS rankings was, quite simply, to score a lot of points. As dynamic as the Indiana offense is, the IU defense could be most generously described as "malleable."

The first minute proved to be an eventful one. Indiana received the ball to start the game and drove down to the Wisconsin 45, where Nate Sudfeld had a wildly inaccurate deep ball --its trajectory seemingly altered by the wind and rain-- picked by Sojourn Shelton. On Wisconsin's first play, James White romped up the middle of the field untouched for a 93-yard touchdown score (the 44th of his career).

On the next drive, Sudfeld and tailback Stephen Houston botched a handoff, which Wisconsin's Brendan Kelly recovered at the Indiana 14. A few plays later, Melvin Gordon waltzed into the end zone with ease to  put the Badgers up 14-0 three minutes into the game.

The rain kept falling on the Hoosiers, literally and figuratively.

On the next IU drive, Sudfeld mishandled a shotgun snap, which resulted in a 3rd & 23, effectively killing the drive then and there. It's understandable for an up-tempo team like Indiana to maybe have some issues playing in the rain; nonetheless, it seemed as if the Hoosiers had never played in inclement weather before today.

After starting from their own 43 yard line, the Badgers drove down to the IU 13, met with a 3rd & 2. Somewhat surprisingly, the Hoosiers stuffed the White run for no gain, leading to just a Jack Russell field goal for UW.

Despite that small victory, the Hoosiers were down 17-0 with 6:25 left in the first quarter while having shown little ability to hold onto the ball in the cold November rain.

Tre Roberson entered the game for Indiana, but didn't fare much better. Wisconsin got the ball back and again went to work on the ground; a 44-yard Gordon run down the left side got the Badgers to the IU 20. However, the Hoosiers were once again able to hold the UW offense to a field goal.

Down 20-0, the Hoosiers were once again looking at another thumping at the hands of the Badgers. A quick score would represent a step back from the precipice overlooking certain oblivion.

Yet another fumbled IU snap killed a promising drive that had briefly entered UW territory. The first quarter came to an end; the Hoosiers had been held scoreless in the first quarter for just the third time this season.

The Indiana defense, however, continued to show improvement, forcing the first UW punt of the game early in the second quarter. Naturally, as the IU defense showed signs of life, the offense continued to flatline, executing another speedy three-and-out.

The Badgers then marched 93 yards in 10 plays, capped by a 32-yard Jared Abbrederis touchdown run on which he, of course, went untouched throughout.

Indiana finally got on the board in the third quarter with a field goal, but even that drive was a microcosm of IU's struggles all day. The Hoosiers faced a 3rd & goal at the UW 1, but a delay of game penalty ended IU's hopes of a touchdown score.

From there, the Badger offense continued to run through and around the young IU defense like an overpowering tidal wave.

Despite a quiet day is the pass-catching department, Abbrederis once again left his mark on the ground, this time with a 49-yard touchdown rush. Third-string tailback Corey Clement added a 19-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to put the Badgers up 44-3 with 11:33 left to play.

Once again, the Badgers dispatched the Hoosiers with ease. James White finished with a career high 205 yards rushing on 20 carries, while Gordon pitched in 146 yards on just 13 carries. Jared Abbrederis didn't catch a single pass, but pitched in 86 yards rushing on three carries, including two scores. For good measure, freshman Corey Clement added 108 yards on 11 carries, giving the Badgers a triumvirate of 100+ yard backs on the day.

Meanwhile, the IU offense, sans big play tailback Tevin Coleman, limped its way to just 224 total yards and three points on the day, by far its worst output of the season. The weather played its part in slowing down Indiana's up-tempo offense, but credit must be given to defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's side of the ball, which continues to quietly impress.

Not that Michigan fans need any more reasons to feel down about the Wolverines, but this game, juxtaposed with Michigan's tilt against the Hoosiers on Oct. 19, shows just how far Brady Hoke's squad needs to go before it can be considered among the best two or three teams in the conference.

If not for a controversial loss at Arizona State, the Badgers would be sitting at 9-1, right in the thick of the race for a BCS bid. At 8-2, however, Gary Andersen's squad will need a little help, not to mention two more wins against a surging Minnesota team and Penn State to close the season.

Although the Badgers likely won't be going to Indianapolis this season, this season has to be viewed as a big success in Madison. Gary Andersen has laid the infrastructural latticework for what should continue to be a stout UW program on the ground and defensively. Joel Stave is the man for UW at quarterback for the next couple of years, but it will be interesting to see how Andersen moves the offense toward his ideal version (i.e. with a mobile quarterback) in the coming years.

For now, the Badgers appear poised to continue rolling toward another double-digit win season, which would be their fourth in five seasons.

The 8-2 (4-2) Gophers might have something to say about that next week in Minneapolis, though, in what will be the most hotly contested battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe in some time.

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