No. 24 Wisconsin holds off Indiana rally 31-28
John Clay ran for 134 yards and a touchdown, Montee Ball scored two TDs and the Badgers even ran out the clock on the Hoosiers' late rally, holding on for a 31-28 victory Saturday.
"That's Wisconsin football," Ball said. "Run the football and just beat your opponents up and that's what we did."
It seemed about that simple, though Wisconsin's overpowering performance should have been no surprise to the Hoosiers (4-6, 1-5 Big Ten).
A year ago, the Badgers left Bloomington with three 100-yard runners and 441 yards on the ground. On Saturday, Clay and Ball both topped 100 yards and the team finished with 294 yards rushing. That gives Wisconsin (7-2, 4-2) 735 yards rushing in its last two games against Indiana and five straight wins in the series.
Clay did the damage in the first half, running 15 times and averaging nearly 9 yards per carry. He missed the entire second half, 27 yards short of becoming the conference's first 1,000-yard runner this season, because of a concussion.
That gave Ball a chance to be the workhorse, and the freshman thrived. He carried 27 times for 115 yards, scored the decisive touchdown on a 3-yard run with 8:18 to go and sealed the victory with 30 yards rushing on the final series.
Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien was precise with his execution of the Badgers' run-first, pass-only-when-necessary — or when Indiana obviously stacked the line of scrimmage — strategy. Tolzien had one TD pass and finished 11 of 20 for 194 yards, including a key 17-yard pass to Nick Toon on third-and-8 with about 2½ minutes left. The play prevented Indiana from getting the ball back with a chance to tie or win the game.
"Our kids did enough to win, John Clay in the first half was a machine, and Montee Ball is kind of like the energizer bunny," coach Bret Bielema said. "Every time he got a rep, he just kept grinning and smiling and gaining momentum."
The loss was another big blow to Indiana's fading bowl hopes.
The Hoosiers have lost three conference games this season by a combined total of seven points and must win their final two games — at No. 11 Penn State and home against rival Purdue — to become bowl-eligible. They've lost three in a row and six of seven.
"We know what we've got to go do, we've just got to go do it," quarterback Ben Chappell said. "It's now or never, so we better buck up and do the little things and if not, we're not going to get where we want to be."
Wisconsin dominated the first half. It had 196 yards rushing and kept the ball for 42 of the final 59 plays.
Somehow, though, the Hoosiers were still within 24-14 at halftime — close enough to make a late charge.
When Terrance Turner caught a 6-yard TD pass for his first score that stood — he had a touchdown wiped out by replay last week at Iowa — the Hoosiers were within 24-21 with 12 minutes to go.
Wisconsin wasted no time in answering.
After Tolzien hooked up with Nick Toon for a 44-yard play, Ball ran it three straight times, scoring on a 3-yard run with 8:18 to go to make it 31-21.
"It was real good just knowing that we knew we were going to run the ball, they knew we were going to run the ball and hats off to our offensive line and Montee there to finish it off," Tolzien said.
Indiana rallied again. Chappell, who was 25 of 35 for 323 yards with three TDs, moved the Hoosiers 80 yards in 4 minutes, 17 seconds. Trea Burgess capped it with a 2-yard TD run on fourth-and-goal to make it 31-28 with 4:01 left.
But after kicking deep, the Badgers ran out the clock. Chappell is the third quarterback in school history with three 300-yard games in one season.
"We always say as an offense we want to finish on the field," Tolzien said. "We don't want to put it in our defense's hands, not that we don't have confidence in them. We want to put it on us as an offense."
Wisconsin played most of the game without starting right tackle John Oglesby after he injured his left knee. Indiana's top runner, Darius Willis, left early in the third quarter with what appeared to be a right leg injury.