September 19, 2009

Behind dominant second quarter, UW crushes Wofford

MADISON, Wis. - The way the first quarter went, it seemed as though the Wisconsin football team was going to be in for another dogfight against a scrappy Division 1-AA squad.

With two fumbles in each of their first two possessions, the Badgers looked like they were hung-over from a tight double overtime battle a week ago against Fresno State. And Wofford seemed to have a growing confidence about them.

But a 28-point outburst in a penalty and turnover free second quarter extended a 3-0 first quarter lead to a 31-0 score at the break and eventual 44-14 win over the Terriers for UW.

"I thought it was great in the second quarter," UW head coach Bret Bielema said following the game. "I pointed out to our kids that we scored 28 points in the second quarter. We also had no penalties in the second quarter.

"It's amazing what we will be able to do when we play in a way that allows you to have success just by who and what we do."

After a first quarter that saw both John Clay and Zach Brown fumble, and one where the only points scored were on a Philip Welch field goal, the Badgers switched to the passing game to move the ball.

Scott Tolzien, in his third career start, was once again an offensive catalyst. He finished 15-for-20 passing with 159 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came in the second frame.

He consistently found Lance Kendricks open in the flat and seam and worked routes to Nick Toon throughout the first half. Wofford simply couldn't match up with those two players.

"It felt good being able to go out there and catch some balls," Kendricks said. "Today I really had fun."

After Tolzien's touchdown pass to Kendricks on the first play of the second quarter, the UW special teams made a play to jumpstart the offense. With Wofford lining up to punt, the Badgers decided to send more people than the Terriers could block.

Freshman linebacker Chris Borland broke through the line untouched, got to the final line of defenders and leaped into the air and got a hand on the ball. The ball ricocheted into the end zone where fellow true freshman David Gilbert pounced on the ball.

"I never dreamed of recovering a blocked punt for a touchdown," Gilbert said. "I guess it's just you using the technique that is coached so much. When you're in the position to make a play, you make it."

From there, the flood gates opened.

Redshirt freshman Erik Smith scored a touchdown from four yards out, the first of his career, to give UW a 24-0 lead. Then Tolzien connected with Garrett Graham for a seven-yard touchdown later in the quarter.

"Coming into the game, we knew it would be a long shot," Wofford head coach Mike Ayers said following the game. "We would have to play well (and) they would have to play down some. They gave us some opportunities and we didn't capitalize on them. I think (we) probably needed to (simplify) the game plan being a young football team and we didn't."

In the second half, freshman quarterback Curt Phillips got a chance to lead the team. During his time on the field, he became the game's leading rusher by running for 92 yards on only four carries.

"We had a good little lead whenever I got in," Phillips said. "We just tried to keep the flow of the game going and fortunately we got a couple of more scores."

Though UW coasted to an easy victory, not everything went well throughout the game. In total, the Badgers coughed up the ball six times, including three that were recovered by Wofford.

Clay, who finished with 70 yards in his first collegiate start, was responsible for three of those fumbles, and two of them were lost.

"It's an issue and we are going forward," Bielema said after the game. "There were a variety, some were caused by guys coming in. To me, I know that I have to get across as a head coach. That is ball security, one hand, and two hand.

"We have to do everything we can to make sure they understand."

Luckily for Wisconsin, the defense remained stout, particularly in the first quarter. Anytime a team gives the underdog a chance to jump on them early in the game, anything can happen. But the Badger defused refused to let that occur and recovered three Wofford fumbles and recorded an interception.

"The one thing is, we got out there and thought that we, for the most part, knew what we were getting into," Bielema said. "I thought the way our defense came ready to play (they) knew what they needed to do to have us get a win.

"I really thought the first half they played tremendous football defensively."

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