MADISON, Wis. - The No. 22 Wisconsin Badgers smashed the Indiana Hoosiers 51-3 on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium, dominating the Hoosiers in all three phases of the game. But the peripheral stats suggested that the Badgers still had room to improve, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
For one thing, the Badgers converted on just 3-of-10 third downs in the game. The Badgers ended up on the positive side of the stat sheet since their defense held the Hoosiers to just three conversions out of 12 attempts. Wisconsin moved the ball for the most part with bigger runs on first and second down, but their struggles on third down led to a larger problem that took points off the board.
The Badgers converted just three of their six redzone possessions into touchdowns, and head coach Gary Andersen said after the game that his offense would obviously like to have those drives back, but in the end his team was able to convert those missed opportunities into field goals, with Jack Russell hitting all three of his attempts from 31, 36, and 26-yards out. Andersen said he was impressed with the kicking game, which has struggled for most of the season to hit field goals consistently.
"I don't think there was one of them in question," Andersen said of Russell's field goals and extra points. "The ball got up over the line of scrimmage in a nice way, and it looked like a well struck ball every time it came off."
The Badgers held advantages over the Hoosiers in their starting field position, with the Badgers starting their drives from an average of about their own 28-yard line to Indiana's own 24. Running back Corey Clement also helped the Badgers win the fourth quarter, scoring twice after the Badgers pulled most of their offensive starters to protect them from injury and give some of their younger players a chance to play in the game.
The Hoosiers also got themselves into hot water early on by turning the ball over on both of their first two drives of the game. The Badgers scored promptly on both of their ensuing drives, with James White rushing 93-yards for a score on Wisconsin's first offensive play and Melvin Gordon finishing off a 3-play, 14-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
News and notes:
-- The Badgers subbed Jared Abbrederis into the game as a punt returner after Kenzel Doe fumbled the ball on one punt early in the second quarter. Andersen said the move to Abbrederis is not going to be permanent, since he still has faith in Doe and the weather conditions were difficult during Saturday's game.
"Kenzel will get back in there, he will be fine," Andersen said after the game. "The wet ball scenario is something we talked about. Kenzel is a prideful, prideful young man. I want him to be back there, I feel good about him being back there, and he will be back there and continue to run in those situations."
-- Gordon went another game without taking the ball on a jet sweep, but the play still had an impact in the game. The Badgers sent Gordon on a fake jet sweep several times during the game, which forced the Hoosiers to shift a safety over with Gordon to account for his big-play ability out of that set. But the fakes opened up other running lanes for the Badgers, including on White's 93-yard score on Wisconsin's first offensive play.
"Those are huge," quarterback Joel Stave said after the game You have to prepare for it because of how successful it is when we do give him the ball. They have to shift for it, they have to account for it, because if we do give it to him he gets to the edge so fast and he'll turn it up, and no defense wants to get scored on by the jet sweep."
-- Indiana entered Saturday's game having scored in 21-straight quarters, but the Badgers held the Hoosiers out of the endzone for the entire game and didn't allow a point until Indiana kicked a 23-yard field goal in the third quarter.
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