MADISON, Wis. - By the end of the day, when all the college football action wraps up, Wisconsin will be one of only three Big Ten teams with an unblemished record. All of that was made possible by UW's solid win over a Michigan State team many people thought would be contenders in the Big Ten race.
And UW's solid win was made possible by the play of quarterback Scott Tolzien, who's four-touchdown passing day set a career high, and Garrett Graham, who's three touchdown receiving game did the same.
The following are notes and quotes from UW's 38-30 Big Ten season opening win.
Defense creating turnovers:
Last week against Wofford, the Wisconsin defense forced three turnovers that gave the offense a chance to score. On Saturday, that defensive momentum was still present as the team forced four turnovers from Michigan State.
Stemming from those turnovers, the Badgers offense was able to score 21 points that helped them establish a solid lead through much of the game.
"Turnover wise, to come out plus three again was huge in this game," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "Anytime you're in Big Ten play and you get some extra possessions, it's going to be there."
Leading the way was senior safety Chris Maragos. In Saturday's win, Maragos intercepted two Michigan State passes, one of which led to a touchdown.
Joining him in the turnover festivities were Mike Taylor who logged his first career interception and J.J. Watt who recovered a fumble.
On the season, the Badger defense now has created 11 turnovers. In 2008, the defense only had 22 turnovers through the entire season.
John Clay bounces back:
So how do you go about handling a player that fumbled three times in the previous week? Just give him 30+ carries.
For the first time in his career, sophomore running back John Clay logged a 30-carry day. In the end, he rushed for 142 yards on 32 carries and one touchdown.
"I felt good throughout the game," Clay, who entered the day as the Big Ten's second leading rusher, said. "My team was there to support me when I went down (following his three-fumble performance). In the locker room they told me to keep my head up, that everybody has these days.
"They encouraged me to come out next and show everybody what I can do."
UW's secondary against Blair White:
Entering the game, MSU senior wide receiver Blair White was one of the premier players at his position in the Big Ten. In Saturday's game, White, who had nearly 350 yards receiving in three prior games, was only was able to account for eight yards.
It was obvious that the Badgers were prepared for him, especially after what he did to the Badgers in East Lansing a season ago.
"White was their guy," Bielema said. "If he plays well, they play well. So we were trying to take that out of them and disrupt them. I thought our guys did."
Something about the early games at Camp Randall:
Since Bielema has been the head coach at Wisconsin, the Badgers have never lost a game that started at 11:00 A.M. central time at Camp Randall. Saturday was no different.
It even had an effect on the way Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio made his decision in regards to the coin toss.
"We came out in the first half and won the toss and elected to receive based on the 11 a.m. central game," he said following the loss.
It's really an interesting stat. With the early start, the Wisconsin student section is notoriously bad at getting to the game on time. It usually takes the section well into the second quarter before it fills up.
But still, the team is able to perform with the fans that are able to make it on time.
"They (the fans) do better with later kickoffs and they'd be the first to tell you," Bielema said. "They enjoy four o'clock and three o'clock kickoffs. I'm in to winning football games which is why I like 11."
Notes from the offense:
-Garrett Graham became the sixth Badger ever to catch at least three touchdown passes in a game. The last to accomplish that feat was Owen Daniels during the 2005 season. With the performance, Graham is now eight all-time in receiving touchdowns.
-Tolzien's four-touchdown passing day set a new individual career high for the junior. It was also the 10th time in school history that a quarterback threw four touchdowns in a game. John Stocco's four-touchdown game against Minnesota in 2006 was the last time that happened.
-UW's 17-play, 50-yard drive in the third quarter was the longest offensive drive in terms of plays since 2004 and the longest of the 2009 season.
-UW finished 11-of-18 on third downs during the game. The 11 conversions matched what took place in the 2007 season opener against Washington State. It also improved UW's third down conversion percentage to 54.9 percent on the season.
-Seven receivers caught a pass from Tolzien today. Isaac Anderson's 66 yards receiving paced the receiving unit.
Notes from the defense:
-Michigan State's 91-yard touchdown pass was the longest ever thrown against Wisconsin.
-Through four games, the UW defense now has seven interceptions. In 2009, the defense only had 12 throughout the entire season.
-Freshman linebacker Chris Borland's sack on fourth down late in the fourth quarter was the first of his career.
-For the second straight year, UW held MSU to less than 100 yards rushing. The Spartans only had 90 yards on the ground. When UW limits opponents rushing under the century mark under Bielema, UW has a 15-2 record.
-Mike Taylor logged his first career interception and had eight total tackles.
Inside the locker room quotes:
-Dantonio on his team's three straight losses:
"As far as emotionally, it's tough when you don't succeed, so we have to handle the adversity that's thrown at us and get stronger. I think that's key. We have to continue to race each other and not point fingers."
-Bielema on Antonio Fenelus's confidence when MSU was lining up for a onside kick down only eight points late in the game:
"Antonio Fenelus, he comes up and slaps me on the back side. 'No need to worry coach,' there at the end of the game. I look at the little devil. I'm like, I want to slap him upside the head. But he knows what he's talking about. I just like the way these guys handle their business."
-Nick Toon on his touchdown reception:
"I just ran the route. Scott threw the ball perfectly. My job is to catch it."
-O'Brien Schofield on his play that created a fumble:
"The whole game I was kind of trying to figure out his stance, when he's out blocking or when he's down blocking. I took a chance. I thought he was going to out block, which he did so I just shoved him outside. I saw the fullback come in and I rammed the fullback into the running back. Luckily the running back wouldn't hold onto the ball. He was able to fumble for us and we got the ball."
-Graham on his chemistry with Tolzien:
"I feel like we have a comfort together. Third downs, you try a little extra hard to get open. You have to go extra hard on third down. But I guess you could say I'm a little security blanket."
-John Moffitt on his early struggles:
"I whiffed on that linebacker. I let off a tackle. I think personally I was a little conscious of my injury and maybe playing a little too (tight) out there and just trying to get used to game speed again. But as the game went on, I felt more comfortable and felt a lot better."
-Aaron Henry assessing his performance:
"I don't want the coaches lighting up on me. I think I'm the hardest critic of myself as opposed to anybody else. No, I'm not going to lighten up on myself. It's just the way I was raised and just my mindset. Once you start to let stuff go, that can definitely be your Achilles heel."
-Henry on having Taylor Swift on his pre-game iPod playlist:
"She is on my pre-game iPod play list. You can thank my girlfriend for that. But it's just a couple of her songs."
-Chris Maragos on MSU's 91-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter:
"I was on the hands team and we put in a different coverage and I wasn't aware of it. So we had two sides running two different coverage's. It was just miscommunication and the guy just ran scott-free. It's nothing to do, it's nothing to be worried about. We weren't even worried about it after the game. It was just a misfortune. They scored on it, but it is what it is."
-Tolzien on the team's play:
"I think just being around the system and getting more comfortable with the system has helped us get off to a fast start. Today that was our goal and every game that's our goal. The defense did a great job stopping Michigan State and helping our offense."
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