BY TIM TAUER
Madison, WI — Today’s battle for the Heartland Trophy consisted of two very evenly matched teams – both in style and productivity. The name of the game for Wisconsin (3-1) and Iowa (4-0) is to make your opponent beat you between the trenches. Run until your opponent wears out, begins to cheat, then drop back and throw one deep.
Unlike the strategy against Hawaii one week earlier, Wisconsin sought to balance the run with quick passes, running just four times and passing for five on their opening drive.
Dare Ogunbowale started things off with a two yard run up the middle. Film would suggest another run to setup a third and short situation for Stave. However, Stave dropped back and threw to Alex Erickson for a first down. Knowing the toughness of Iowa’s defense, Chryst opted to pass on second and long throughout much of the game in an attempt to avoid as many third down situations as possible.
This strategy worked well against Iowa in the opening drive as the Badgers were able to put three points on the board.
Iowa decided to stick to the strategy that has worked for them all season. Having a superb quarterback in C.J. Beathard, they are a situational offense.
When second and eight or more, the Hawkeyes pass 80% of the time, and they pretty much stuck to this formula the entire game. Like opponents in previous weeks, it worked well against Wisconsin as the Hawkeyes were able nail a 27 yard field goal on their second drive.
The Hawkeyes would then score again after a Stave fumble, giving Iowa the lead 10-3 going into the second half.
The Badgers didn’t have any luck reaching the end zone; Something very different from previous weeks. It would turn out that any scoring for the Badgers was left up to kicker Rafael Gaglianone. His leg seemed to be on point, going 2/3 with all attempts from 42 yards or more.
But down by four mid-way through the third quarter the Badgers knew relying on Gaglianone alone would not win the game. For a moment, it looked as though their luck had changed when Beathard fumbled the ball when scrambling to avoid a rush. Wisconsin recovered the ball with excellent field position.
However, with just two yards to go Stave fumbled the ball for the second time, and the Hawkeyes were able to avoid a Badgers touchdown.
The Badgers were unable to put anymore points on the board but were miraculously still in it late in the fourth quarter. The game came down to the very end. With less than a minute left and deep in Iowa territory, the Badgers had plenty of time to make a play and win the game.
But unfortunately for Stave and company, with 40 seconds left on fourth and two, a failed pass attempt ended the Badgers chances of a comeback win and the Hawkeyes defeated Wisconsin 10-6.
Both teams must address the turnover issue going into their next game. With a total of seven turnovers, both Iowa and Wisconsin fell victim to critical interceptions and fumbles. This is especially significant for two organizations who play somewhat conservative ball to begin with.
BY JEFF BERNIER
There’s something about playing under the bright lights for a night game that can bring out the best in teams and players. The stage-like atmosphere is an adrenaline rush. The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (2-2) and the Wisconsin Badgers (3-1) squared off at Camp Randall Stadium on a mild 70 degree Saturday night. Feeding off a frenzied college crowd, the Badgers made it three wins in a row as they defeated the Rainbow Warriors 28-0.
Hawaii received the opening kickoff. After a huge sack on a safety blitz by Wisconsin resulting in a 10-yard loss on second down, Hawaii was looking at a long third down. On third down and 15, senior quarterback Max Wittek was able to convert out of the pistol formation on a 27-yard strike to Quinton Pedroza near midfield.
On the next set of downs, the Rainbow Warriors promptly went three and out, having to punt to Wisconsin. Unlike their first two home games in which they struggled mightily on their opening possession, Wisconsin put together a very Badger-like drive. They pounded the ball with authority with Dare Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal, the Badgers new top rushing tandem. Wisconsin capped their first possession with a 2-yard rush into the heart of Hawaii’s defense for the game’s first touchdown.
Hawaii features a 3-4 defense which is a rarity these days in college football. And maybe that was the key, as the Rainbow Warriors defense gave the Badgers fits the entire first half, surrendering just 14 points.
It would have been only seven, save for a late touchdown by Wisconsin with just 38 seconds remaining.
The Badgers defense forced a Rainbow Warriors punt with just 2:11 remaining in the first half. Badgers senior quarterback Joel Stave was just 4-10 passing to that point. Stave would go 4-4 on the final drive of the half, leading the Badgers down the field for a nine play 73 yard scoring drive that made it 14-0 after two quarters of play.
With Taiwan Deal looking unstoppable all half, it was Stave who lead the crucial drive in the final minutes of the first half.
Facing third down and 2 from their own 47-yard line, it was Deal who sprinted for a 17-yard gainer to keep the drive alive. After a holding penalty on first down, making it first and 20, Stave completed consecutive passes of 12 and 9 yards for another first down. A perfectly thrown ball from Stave to Erickson, which resulted in a defensive passing interference call in the end zone, set up Deal’s second two yard touchdown run.
With both teams struggling to score despite getting into each other’s territory in the second half, it was the Badgers who broke through late in the third when Stave connected with senior tight end Austin Traylor. Traylor has succeeded Robert Wheelwright as Stave’s favorite target in the red zone.
The pass and catch play came on third down and 11. It was a big play for Wisconsin to gain a little breathing room over Hawaii as they hadn’t been able to pull away to that point. That play sealed it for Wisconsin.
The Badgers defense has been absolutely dominant over the past three games. They haven’t surrendered a single touchdown in their last 12 quarters of play, giving up a total of three points in their last three games played.
They held the Rainbow Warriors to just 15 yards rushing on Saturday night; this after holding Miami (OH) and Troy to a combined 78 yards on the ground.
Paul Harris had just 22 yards on 6 carries. Quarterback Max Wittek was effective, finishing 189 yards passing. Hawaii just couldn’t finish the job when they got into the red zone.
Freshman back Taiwan Deal was the man on this night for the Badgers. Deal rushed for 147 yards on 26 carries, getting into the end zone twice.
Dare Ogunbowale played second fiddle this week and chipped in with 85 yards on 15 carries. Ogunbowale put the cherry on top for the Badgers with a 9-yard pitch carry for the last points of the game.
Stave had a quiet game after two brilliant efforts against Miami (OH) and Troy. The senior finished 14/23 for 164 yards and a touchdown. Stave and the Badgers did not turn the ball over.
Senior Alex Erickson had a big day for Wisconsin, catching 9 passes for 87 yards. Many of the catches kept drives alive for Stave and company.
The Badgers have hummed right along without their star running back Corey Clement. Things may be different once conference play begins for the Badgers next week. Will the Badgers continue to pass as much as they have been? Can Ogunbowale and Deal remain this effective when the quality of opponents ramp up? Head coach Paul Chryst and the Badgers certainly hope so.
The Wisconsin Badgers will now turn its attention to next week, where they will finally begin conference play when they host the Iowa Hawkeyes (4-0) at Camp Randall Stadium at 11:00 am Eastern. The game will be broadcast on both ABC and ESPN networks.
BY JEFF BERNIER
It was clear from the start on Saturday afternoon from Camp Randall Stadium. The Wisconsin Badgers were going to make the run a priority. In fact, they ran the ball three straight times for a first down on the game’s opening drive. With a promising start, the drive immediately came to a halt on the next set of downs, with a wild snap resulting in an eleven yard loss on third down and five.
With a chance to make a big statement on the road, Troy simply sputtered on their opening drive, going three and out. This time, Wisconsin would take full advantage, wasting little time flying down the field for the game’s first score.
The Badgers big break came on a 30 yard pass and catch play from quarterback Joel Stave to emerging weapon Robert Wheelwright. Stave looked the defense off to Alex Erickson, turned and beamed a beautiful strike to Wheelwright down the left sideline. Wheelwright’s athleticism continues to impress both Stave and his coaches.
Stave followed up his fantastic day one week ago versus Miami (OH) with another stellar effort. The senior threw for 202 yards with a touchdown. His accuracy remained elite, finishing 13/17.
Troy quarterback Brandon Silver had a nice day himself, finishing with 174 yards with 23/34 passes completed. Despite solid quarterback and running back play, the Troy Trojans never really posed a threat to upsetting Wisconsin on this day in Madtown, losing 28-3.
Dare Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal were men possessed on the Badgers second drive, combining for seven yards per carry en route to the end zone. Ogunbowale capped things off with an 18 yard untouched scamper.
Troy was not going to be shut out like Miami (OH) last week. The Trojans moved the ball effectively on the following drive, settling for a 32 yard field goal after a video review overturned a completed pass, making it 4th and 6 instead of 4th and 1 deep inside Wisconsin territory.
It was a huge call as Troy had initially lined up to go for it on fourth down. These would be the only points they would score.
Wisconsin erased any hopes for a late comeback by Troy when Stave connected with senior tight end Austin Traylor on a 1-yard touchdown with some five minutes remaining. This followed a 38-yard reception by Traylor moments earlier in the drive.
Troy’s backup kicker Ryan Kay handled the kicking duties Saturday as their starting kicker and long snapper are currently suspended by the team. It was certainly a blow to the team as Kay missed a makeable kick that could have forced the Badgers hand a little more.
Wisconsin’s junior inside linebacker Leon Jacobs was ejected from the game for a vicious, albeit legal hit on Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers. The consensus was that he led with his helmet, leading to the hasty decision by the referees upon video review.
The Badgers defense did not let up after the ejection. It seemed to have motivated the defense was hustling versus Troy’s balanced attack.
Tanner McEvoy continued his outstanding play on both sides of the ball Saturday for Wisconsin. The offensive and defensive specialist rushed for 41 yards on just 2 carries while helping the Badgers secondary keep the Trojans in check in the passing game.
The Badgers rushing attack, led by Ogunbowale and Deal were effective all day long. Ogunbowale rushed for 75 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. Not to be outdone, Deal had 84 yards on 16 carries of his own.
Number one receiver Alex Erickson had another fine day with 3 receptions for 87 yards.
Badgers true freshmen Chris Orr had a career day with 13 tackles, leading another dominant defensive effort.
Wisconsin has now allowed just 3 points in their last 8 quarters of play.
After two token matchups at the cozy confines of Camp Randall Stadium, the Badgers will have a much bigger test next Saturday when they host the Hawaii Warriors (1-1). Kickoff is set for 7:00 pm (Eastern).
BY JEFF BERNIER
There’s no telling how much sleep Wisconsin Badgers head football coach Paul Chryst got heading into his team’s home opener at Camp Randall Stadium; a place so near and dear to his heart. He’ll have no problem sleeping after the Badgers performance Saturday.
The Miami (OH) RedHawks (1-1) were simply no match for the more talented and experienced Wisconsin Badgers as they were steamrolled by the home team by a score of 58-0. The Badgers never trailed in the game, racing out to a 37-0 halftime lead.
The Badgers took no chances with their feature back Cory Clement, who didn’t dress for the game due to his ailing groin issue.
“I have to come in and be smart, mature and not only think about myself but for the [best interests] of the team,” Clement said prior to the game. “You don’t want to put the team under any more stress of when I’m going to come back. … I want them to feel comfortable and be able to rely on me that I’m going to make the best decision for myself.”
Instead, the Badgers (1-1) rolled with Dare Ogunbowale, a former defensive back, and redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal to handle the bulk of the Badgers carries. Ogunbowale rushed for 112 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Deal complemented nicely with 45 yards and two scores. The tandem really got going in the second half as Wisconsin went to the ground game heavily due to their commanding lead.
This day however belonged to the defense for the Badgers as they completely shut down the RedHawks in all facets of the game. Wisconsin held Miami (OH) to negative rushing yardage for much of the day as they finished with minus 3 yards on the ground.
Wisconsin’s do-it-all senior Tanner McEvoy was all over the field for the Badgers on Saturday. He had a key interception in the first half, and caught three passes for 30 yards on the other side of the ball. Wisconsin junior safety Leo Mussa added two interceptions of his own.
With both teams struggling to get their offense going for much of the first quarter, it was Wisconsin who broke through with the game’s first touchdown. Senior quarterback Joel Stave connected with junior wide-out Robert Wheelwright on a 14 yard touchdown with just seconds remaining in the first quarter. The pass and catch gave the Badgers a 13-0 lead after one quarter. It was a much needed confidence boost after the Badgers had stalled twice in the red zone to start the game, settling for two chip shot field goals by sophomore kicker Rafael Gaglianone.
The rout was on from there, as Stave carved up the RedHawks secondary with one of the best halves of football in his long career. Wheelwright finished the day with six receptions for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Alex Erickson added five receptions for 73 yards.
Wisconsin leaned on its veteran quarterback probably a little more than they would have liked to with Clement being sidelined. Stave was certainly up to the challenge. The senior threw for over 200 yards and 3 touchdowns by halftime, finishing the game 19/30 for 236 yards with those 3 scores.
Miami (OH) struggled all day trying to move the football against a motivated Wisconsin defense. The RedHawks could only muster 157 yards of total offense.
The Badgers racked up 451 yards of offense with a balanced attack. They also controlled the game, winning the time of possession 36:49 to 23:11.
Wisconsin will now turn its attention to next week where they will host the Troy Trojans (0-1) of the Sun-Belt Conference. But not before they enjoy their dominating performance Saturday, giving head coach Paul Chryst a win in his home debut.