BLOOMINGTON, IN - Wisconsin's ground game smashed a 37-year-old school record Saturday afternoon, accumulating 564 rushing yards in a 62-14 win over Indiana. With the victory, the Badgers (7-3, 4-2) clinched the Leaders Division championship to earn a spot in December's Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.
"Our guys know the only way you get (to the title game) is to take everything one game at a time," said Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema.
Senior running back Montee Ball led the way for the Badgers, gaining 198 yards on 27 carries and scoring three touchdowns in the contest. Junior back James White added 161 yards on 14 carries and scored twice.
"We knew we were going to have to run the ball a lot because we had a new quarterback," said White, "Our coach (Thomas Hammock) told us he wanted us to have 200 yards after contact so we needed to run physical."
Quarterback Curt Phillips, in his first career start. was 4-of-7 passing for 41 yards with a touchdown and was sacked twice. The senior also rushed seven times for 68 yards.
"The plan was to not put a lot on Curt, and obviously that worked very, very well," said Bielema, "I thought Curt did a nice job all day with the clock and with managing the situation and everything involved."
Wisconsin scored on its first three possessions of the game, beginning at the 9:50 mark of the first quarter when Ball marched in from 10 yards out. On the next possession, Phillips threw his first career touchdown pass to Sam Arneson, which was also Arneson's first career score to make it 14-0 with 3:52 to play in the first quarter.
The Badgers third drive resulted in a 24-yard field goal by Kyle French to give Wisconsin a 17-0 advantage with 14:16 to play in the first half.
Indiana (4-6, 2-4), which came in averaging 33 points and 446 yards per game was stifled by the Badger defense, and didn't cross midfield until 3:00 mark of the second quarter, during their first touchdown drive.
"I can't say enough about our defense," Bielema said, "Indiana has scored at will on everybody in this league, (the defense) had a nice plan their coaches gave them, they believed in it and executed it."
The Hoosiers were only able to gain 294 yards compared to Wisconsin's 605 total yards.
"Our coaches told us at the beginning of the week we were going to be challenged and we had to take it upon ourselves to step up and I thought we did a pretty decent job containing their pass offense," said senior corner Marcus Cromartie.
Indiana cut the deficit to 10 on a six-yard pass from quarterback Cam Coffman to tight end Ted Bolser with 2:25 to play in the first half. It looked as if Wisconsin was going to run out the final moments of the half, when on a third-and-16 play, White broke free and scored from 69 yards to give Wisconsin a 24-7 lead at the intermission.
On top of that, Wisconsin scored on the opening possession of the third quarter, chewing up the first 6:12 of the period on a 10-play, 75-yard drive culminating in a one-yard run by Ball to take a 24-point lead.
"It was a poor performance from us," said second year Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson, "(Wisconsin) ran phenomenally well, we didn't play good D, we didn't play good O, we just kind of got spanked."
There will be little time for the Badgers to celebrate with senior day next Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall against 10-0 Ohio State followed by a trip to Penn State.
"The record may not be as high as it's been in years past and our ranking and all that jazz, but we are a really good football team," Bielema said, "Give a lot of credit to our guys perseverance because a lot of times people will let go of the rope in this situation or back away from the things that are in front of them, but our guys just charge ahead full speed."