UW's big players make big plays against Indiana
Between UW’s Tyler Donovan, P.J. Hill, Travis Beckum and Paul Hubbard; and IU’s Kellen Lewis, Marcus Thigpen and James Hardy, one could expect a high-scoring shootout.
But what made the difference in the Badgers’ 33-3 triumph Saturday; their big players came to play, and Indiana’s didn’t.
“Defensively, we … wanted to make them play left-handed,” UW head coach Bret Bielema said. “We wanted to take away what they do best, kind of dictate the flow of the game.”
Donovan remains a work-in-progress during his first year at quarterback—fumbling once and throwing an ill-timed interception to kill drives. But Bielema has always praised the fifth-year senior for being a ‘gamer’; for making big plays when it counts.
One good example is on a 3rd-and-9 late in the second half, Donovan called his own number, taking a keeper 20 yards for the first down. Donovan finished with 144 passing yards and 46 on the ground.
On the other sideline, Lewis came into Saturday averaging 59.5 rushing yards per game, tops among Big Ten signalcallers. When adding his passing stats, the sophomore Hoosier was averaging over 300 total offensive yards per game.
But Lewis was held in check, getting his 59 rushing yards but also throwing for just 113 yards. Lewis threw two interceptions and fumbled once as well.
“Our guys really flew to the football,” Bielema said. “I can’t say enough about the result today.”
Hardy entered the game third in the Big Ten with 93.5 receiving yards per game, and tied for second nationally with 11 touchdowns. But he matched up with a fellow all-Big Ten selection in UW’s Jack Ikegwuonu, and Hardy was held to four catches and 17 yards.
Hardy also fumbled for Indiana’s third turnover of the day—against a Badger defense that entered Saturday with six total turnovers through eight games.
“He’s a guy who they try to get the ball to all the time. He’s a big target, he can go out there and get the ball,” cornerback Allen Langford. “Jack definitely was (pumped up), that was definitely a challenge for him to go out there and compete against one of the best in the Big Ten.
“I was very impressed. That’s one thing we focused on all week, was to know where he was at (at all times).”
Perhaps Hardy’s biggest mistake of the day came on a long Thigpen run that ended in the Badger end zone—but was called back by a holding call on Hardy.
Not that Thigpen had much to crow about against UW. The junior running back ran for just 70 yards—and added a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when his touchdown was overturned.
For Wisconsin, Hubbard was quiet for most of the day, but did have a 30-yard reception on a third-quarter drive, and followed that up by causing a pass-interference call that gave Wisconsin a 1st-and-goal situation. Lance Smith scored two plays later to give UW a 24-3 cushion.
At the end of the day, it was a couple of true freshmen who may have made a world of difference for Wisconsin. Wide receiver Kyle Jefferson continued his steady progress with three catches for 50 yards.
And it was Jefferson’s 17-yard completion that set up young Zach Brown’s first career touchdown, putting the Badgers on top 17-0.
“This year, we’re limited because we’re freshmen,” Jefferson said. “But next year, we’re going to grow up together and be leaders.”