Big Ten: Badgers-Wolverines-112010

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The state of Michigan hasn't been kind to Wisconsin.

Michigan soil might as well be quicksand for the Badgers.

[+] EnlargeScott Tolzien
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesWisconsin's Scott Tolzien completed 14 of 15 for 201 yards against Michigan.
Wisconsin entered Saturday's game not having won in the state since 2002. The seventh-ranked Badgers had dropped five straight contests at Michigan Stadium -- their last victory coming in 1994 -- and 17 of their past 18 at the Big House.

But the failures of the past haven't gone for naught. They are part of Wisconsin's history, coach Bret Bielema says, just like all the triumphs during the program's renaissance since 1993.

After Wisconsin ended its Michigan misfortune with a 48-28 victory Saturday, Bielema said of his players: "They taste it, they believe it."

Asked when that process began, Bielema didn't hesitate.

"Michigan State," the coach said.

Really? The Badgers' only loss of the season? The game where they couldn't capitalize on Spartans turnovers or stop Michigan State in clutch situations? The road loss that had looked like so many others under Bielema?

Bingo.

"Maybe going into that game, I don't know if every kid in that room believed how special this team could be," Bielema said. "But I know leaving that locker room, they knew they could be."

Bielema isn't the only one who feels this way. Senior guard John Moffitt has brought up the Michigan State loss in conversations with his dad.

"You want to look at it and you want to say, 'You know something? Without that loss, maybe we wouldn't have been jump-started the way that we have been, and we wouldn't have respected the game as much as we do now,'" Moffitt said. "And even more so, we took it upon ourselves to turn it around."

Boy, have they ever.

Wisconsin is the hottest team in the Big Ten and one of the hottest in the country. The Badgers on Saturday extended their win streak to six games with a performance that encapsulated their identity: past, present and future.

Never was this more the case than early in the third quarter.

The normally disciplined Badgers committed turnovers on consecutive possessions and watched their 24-0 lead trimmed to 24-14. The last time Wisconsin visited Ann Arbor, in 2008, it blew a 19-0 lead as Michigan mounted the biggest comeback in stadium history, one from which the Badgers never truly recovered. And unlike in 2008, Michigan boasts a quick-strike offense and the Big Ten's most exciting player in quarterback Denard Robinson.

So how did the Badgers respond to their predicament?

They ran the ball. Then they ran it again. And again. And again.

Wisconsin called 28 consecutive running plays. Add in a Scott Tolzien scramble on the front end and two kneel-downs on the back end, and that's 31 straight rushes.

"We were setting 'em up for play-action," Bielema joked.

Although offensive coordinator Paul Chryst calls the plays, Bielema delivered a message to his top assistant in the third quarter: "They can't stop your run game, point blank. There wasn't anything they could do to slow that down."

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
AP Photo/Tony DingMontee Ball rushed for 173 yards and four of Wisconsin's six touchdowns on the ground.
A ferocious offensive line and running backs Montee Ball and James White were the primary reasons why. As 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the year John Clay (sprained knee) watched from the sideline, Ball and White combined for 354 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 52 carries.

White (189 rush yards) and Ball (173 rush yards) became the first Badgers' tandem to both eclipse 150 rush yards in a game since Billy Marek and Ken Starch in 1973, and just the second tandem to do so in team history.

"In practice, we have this inside drill, where we just run the ball, run the ball," Ball said. "That's what it felt like today. ... We just imposed our will on them."

The backs and the offensive line get most of the praise, and rightfully so, but Wisconsin received contributions from other areas.

  • J.J. Watt continued to show why he's the Big Ten's top playmaking defender, tipping a Robinson pass and coming down with his first interception this season to stem Michigan's momentum early in the fourth quarter .
  • When Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, leery of his team's defensive woes, tried an onside kick late in the third quarter, Wisconsin's Bradie Ewing was there for the recovery.
  • Tolzien opened the game with 13 consecutive completions -- 24 if you count the end of last week's game -- and finished the game 14 of 15 for 201 yards.

"Scotty will do anything to win," Bielema said. "That's said for everybody on this football team."

Although Wisconsin's identity had been in place long before any of the current players arrived, Bielema has seen this team buy in more and more with each game.

"We're not the spread, we're not sexy, it's not on the front of everybody's wish list," Bielema said, "but I tell you, 48 points is fun."

The Badgers finally had some fun in the state of Michigan, and the moment wasn't lost on the players or coaches. Before heading down the tunnel, Badgers senior safety Jay Valai told several teammates, "Look around one last time. Take this in."

In the postgame interview area, former Wisconsin coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez greeted Bielema with a bear hug, telling his protégé, "That was sweet, man."

It'll be even sweeter if Wisconsin beats Northwestern next week to secure a possible trip to the Rose Bowl.

"We only get one more chance with these guys," Bielema said, choking up a bit. "They're a special group. They compete. They believe in something bigger than just themselves."

Video: Wisconsin's James White

November, 20, 2010
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The running back discusses the Badgers' big rushing day against Michigan.

Video: Wisconsin's J.J. Watt

November, 20, 2010
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The Badgers' defensive end dicusses Saturday's win at Michigan.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Wisconsin's Big House blues are over.

The Badgers recorded their first win at Michigan Stadium since 1994 and did so in impressive fashion, beating Michigan 48-28. Wisconsin received tremendous play from its running backs, quarterback Scott Tolzien, defensive end J.J. Watt and others. The Badgers stopped a five-game losing streak in Ann Arbor and survived a mini scare early in the second half.

Michigan's defensive woes continues and Denard Robinson couldn't make enough plays in the second half to mount what would have been a historic rally. Robinson became the all-time leader in single-season quarterback rushing, but he struggled in the first half.

Much more to come from the Big House, so stay tuned.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- You know my feelings on the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year race. It's over in my mind, as Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan has done enough to win it.

But when it comes to pure playmaking ability, Wisconsin junior defensive end J.J. Watt is at the top of the list. No Big Ten defender has made more big plays at pivotal times this season than Watt, who just added another one to his résumé.

Watt, who entered Saturday's game with six pass breakups, tipped a Denard Robinson pass and came down with his first interception of the season. Robinson had been heating up as a passer to that point, and Watt's tip and pick likely seals this game for Wisconsin.

There are some outstanding defensive ends in college football, but the Big Ten has two of the nation's best in Watt and Kerrigan.

Wisconsin leads 41-21 with 9:04 left.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Rich Rodriguez made the right call by attempting an onside kick after his team closed to within 10 points of Wisconsin.

He can't have much confidence in his defense after today's display of missed tackles and poor positioning. Rodriguez has seen this movie too many times before. So he tried to make something happen, and it nearly worked. Huge play by Wisconsin's Bradie Ewing to recover the dribbler.

Unfortunately for Michigan, giving Wisconsin the ball in plus territory just shortens the inevitable. The Badgers easily marched to the end zone, not risking any passes along the way.

Wisconsin has absolutely no need to pass the ball the rest of this game, not with the way Michigan misses tackles on virtually every play. Montee Ball and James White both have been terrific, and Wisconsin's two turnovers have come on pass plays. Keep it on the ground, and this one's over.

Badgers lead 38-21 early in the fourth quarter.

Badgers' giveaways making it a game

November, 20, 2010
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Wisconsin entered Saturday as one of the nation's most disciplined teams with the football, committing only seven turnovers in the first 10 games.

The trend continued until just before halftime, when Scott Tolzien threw an interception, ending a streak of 24 straight completed passes. The pick gave Michigan a bit of life, and the Wolverines have carried over the momentum.

Michigan quickly converted an Isaac Anderson fumble into a touchdown and is right back in this game, down 24-14. Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson has come alive as a passer and receiver Darryl Stonum is making big plays.

Wisconsin has to be a bit concerned, considering what happened the last time it visited the Big House. I still don't think Michigan can stop Wisconsin's offense today, but the Badgers can't keep stopping themselves.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Denard Robinson now holds the FBS single-season record for career rushing yards by a quarterback, bumping his total to 1,511 yards.

But his arm was the biggest key on Michigan's scoring drive to open the second half. Robinson, who completed just 4 of 10 passes in the first half, hit Kelvin Grady for a 12-yard gain on fourth-and-2. Two plays later, he executed a good pump fake and lofted the ball to Darryl Stonum for a 22-yard touchdown.

Robinson has become the first player in NCAA history to record 1,500 rushing yards and 1,500 passing yards in a season. Despite his decline in Big Ten play, that's simply remarkable.

He'll need both his legs and his arm if Michigan intends to make a historic comeback.

Michigan just forced a fumble, as Wisconsin has now committed turnovers on consecutive drives after entering the game with just seven all season. The Badgers have to be a bit worried after blowing a big lead in the Big House two years ago.

Wolverines trail 24-7 early in the second half.

Halftime update: Wisconsin-Michigan

November, 20, 2010
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The rout is definitely on at the Big House, as Wisconsin has completely dominated Michigan in all three phases and leads 24-0 at the break.

Some thoughts:

Turning point: Down 7-0, Michigan put together a nice drive and reached Wisconsin's 17-yard line. But Denard Robinson misfired on a third-down pass, and Seth Broekhuizen missed a 30-yard field-goal attempt. Wisconsin never looked back, scoring 17 more points before the break.

Stat of the half: Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien completed his first 13 attempts for 196 yards before throwing an interception deep in Michigan territory just before the halftime. The pick broke a streak of 24 consecutive completed passes stretching to last week.

What Wisconsin needs to do: Keep the pedal down. Remember that the Badgers led Michigan 19-0 at halftime the last time they were here, only to watch the Wolverines mount the biggest comeback in stadium history. Wisconsin's defense has been outstanding, and it's important to make Denard Robinson and the Wolverines work hard for their scores. Tolzien needs to make sure the pick just before halftime doesn't have a hangover effect.

What Michigan needs to do: Make big plays on offense. It has been the calling card for Rich Rodriguez's unit, and the Wolverines won't get back in this game without some long touchdown plays. Wisconsin controls the clock too well and will limit possessions. The Wolverines also have to string together good defensive plays, a struggle all season, and avoid special teams blunders.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Wisconsin's running backs are doing their thing, but quarterback Scott Tolzien has been the story so far at the Big House.

The senior has completed his first 11 attempts for 173 yards. His most impressive throw came on Wisconsin's last scoring drive, as he took a hit and still found Nick Toon for a 30-yard gain. With Tolzien performing like this, Michigan has to devote more defenders to the pass, which opens up room for Montee Ball and James White. Michigan's tackling is still very suspect, as Carvin Johnson's inability to bring down Ball behind the line led to a walk-in touchdown from 27 yards out.

Denard Robinson has to start answering for Michigan or this one will get out of hand. Wisconsin's offense looks unstoppable right now.

Badgers lead 17-0 late in the first half.

Michigan's special teams woes continue

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan's defense has taken the brunt of the criticism this fall, but the Wolverines' special teams woes have been just as damaging.

The Wolverines got nothing out of an impressive drive early in the second quarter as Seth Broekhuizen missed a 30-yard field goal. Michigan ranks last in the Big Ten in field goals, converting just 4 of 13 attempts this season. Against a super efficient team like Wisconsin, the Wolverines can't waste opportunities like that one.

Michigan's defense is making enough plays to keep this one within range, although Wisconsin really hurt itself with a chop block penalty on second-and-goal. Badgers quarterback Scott Tolzien has been perfect so far, completing 9 of 9 passes for 133 yards, while his Michigan counterpart Denard Robinson has been more erratic on his throws.

The Badgers lead 10-0 and they're looking for more.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Wisconsin's offense is pretty simple: power runs and play-action passes.

Right now, Michigan can't stop either weapon.

After a good defensive stand on the game's opening possession, highlighted by a blitz from safety Jordan Kovacs, the Wolverines were no match for Wisconsin's powerful offensive line on a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Running back Montee Ball is continuing his meteoric rise from third-stringer to stud, pounding away at the Wolverines' defense. Wisconsin's depth at running back is ridiculous this season.

A bigger concern for Michigan: Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien is having no trouble hitting his receivers on intermediate routes. If the Wolverines' secondary doesn't start marking Nick Toon, David Gilreath and Lance Kendricks, it will be a very long day.

Wisconsin leads 7-0 late in the first quarter.

Wisconsin-Michigan pregame: Clay out

November, 20, 2010
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Both teams are on the field going through warm-ups, and here are a few notes:
  • As expected, Wisconsin running back John Clay will miss his second straight game with a sprained knee. Clay isn't in uniform today. Sophomore Montee Ball will get the start at running back, while James White will serve as the backup.
  • Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan and running back Michael Shaw, both listed as questionable for the game with head injuries, are going through warm-ups and look like they'll play.
  • Michigan nose tackle Mike Martin, who has been battling an ankle injury, is working with the first-team defense and appears to be fine.

Much more to come from Ann Arbor, so keep it right here.

It's game day at Michigan Stadium

November, 20, 2010
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Greetings from the Big House, where No. 7 Wisconsin tries to stay on course for the Rose Bowl against a Michigan team that has won back-to-back games.

This place and this state hasn't been good to the Badgers, who have dropped five straight games at Michigan Stadium, last winning here in 1994. Wisconsin hasn't won a game in the state of Michigan since 2002 at Michigan State. The Badgers are the Big Ten's hottest team after winning five consecutive games, although many folks thought they were too hot when they put up 83 points on hapless Indiana last week.

Wisconsin's offense has been stellar for most of Big Ten play, and Michigan's much maligned defense has a tough task on its hands today. The Badgers are extremely efficient, especially in the red zone, so the Wolverines will need some big stops to have a chance. Starting running back John Clay is expected to miss his second straight game because of a sprained knee, but reserves Montee Ball and James White have proved more than capable of carrying the load.

Michigan closes the season with matchups against two top-10 opponents, and it's important for Rich Rodriguez's crew to show real progress down the stretch. The Wolverines are assured of a winning season and a bowl appearance, but their formula for success has been both exciting and unsettling. Can the Maize and Blue put it all together?

The big key for Michigan today is to hang onto the ball after committing five turnovers in each of the last two games. Wisconsin's defense is vulnerable to yards and points, but Denard Robinson and his teammates have to limit turnovers.

It's a beautiful day in southeastern Michigan, and the wind shouldn't be much of a factor. Good atmosphere around the stadium today with plenty of Michigan tailgaters and quite a few Sconnies mixed in.

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the game. I've got you covered.

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