MADISON, Wis. - Gary Andersen had to wait a while to get his second win over BYU as a head coach. But even though the second win came three years and nearly 1,300 miles removed from Logan, Utah, it seemed as though Andersen could taste the rivalry he grew up with even as his No. 24 Wisconsin Badgers handled the Cougars 27-17 in Madison.
"I thought that was maybe our best team win," Andersen said after the game. "It's never perfect, but we knew this was going to be a battle. We knew this was going to be physical. I appreciate the kids listening to me and understanding when I talked to them about the toughness of the team that was walking in here.
"[I have] a lot of respect for BYU, but it's great to beat them."
The Badgers (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) held a fast-paced BYU offense in check for the majority of the game, allowing the Cougars (6-3) just 370 total yards of offense. BYU quarterback Taysom Hill completed just 19 of 41 passes for 207 yards, throwing two touchdowns and one interception in the process.
Stingy defense as a whole and especially on third down also kept the Cougars from operating at their normal pace. The Badgers limited BYU to just 81 plays and 23:58 in time of possession, effectively limiting the Cougars' chances to keep the Badgers on the field while they ran their normal offense.
"The pace was a non-factor, and that was huge for us," Andersen said. "There wasn't confusion, there wasn't guys running around and looking and seeing what was going to happen. The coaches did a nice job."
Offensively the Badgers made the most of their possessions, behind a strong performance from senior running back James White. White finished the game with 194 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns, whereas the Cougars held his backfield partner Melvin Gordon to just 86 net rushing yards on 19 carries. Andersen said White is the most complete running back he's coached, and gave him as much credit for his pass-blocking ability as he did for how he performs with the ball in his hands.
"His ability to block and be physical, his ability to be a down-hill runner, have some speed on the outside, and catch the football is a very unique package," Andersen said. "He can do all of that stuff very well."
The Badgers also got linebacker Chris Borland and wide receiver Jared Abbrederis back on the field after the pair missed all or part of last week's game against Iowa. Abbrederis caught eight passes for 67 yards, while Borland finished the game with 13 tackles and two sacks.
A win over BYU also gives the Badgers a chance to move up in the BCS standings, where they're lagging behind a bit if they want to be eligible for an at-large bid to a BCS bowl at the end of the season. Just how much the Badgers could move up depends on how some of the teams ahead of them performed this week, but Andersen said he and his players aren't worried about what Andersen called "some poll."
In the end the Badgers made the most of what was probably their last, best chance to impress the human voters and boost their stock in the computer rankings. BYU received votes in both the AP and Coaches Polls last week, giving them a quality win they can point to if they have run the table when bowl season comes around.
But while the Badgers can deny any interest in their BCS ranking, Andersen couldn't deny that beating BYU meant a little more to him than the average college football game.
"I can't say it doesn't [mean something]," Andersen said after the game. "It's a big victory when you grow up and that's the team that you're not supposed to like from the time that you start learning things.
"But we all know I've got great respect for BYU. I can't say I dislike them- I don't. It's a competitive team win for us at the University of Wisconsin. It improves our opportunity to have an opportunity to be a great team, and we're still working down those lines to get there and we've got to keep on fighting to get ready for next week."
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