Badgers send Huskies home with tail between legs

first_imgJames White (center) attempts to slip by two NIU defenders Saturday, something he did often in gaining 126 total yards a score.[/media-credit]CHICAGO – It turns out the Badgers have nothing to fear about Soldier Field or former defensive coordinators.Wisconsin (3-0) committed more than enough penalties in its 49-7 win over Northern-Illinois (1-2), but still showed a strong offensive front both passing and running the ball.After the Huskies tied the game at 7-7, former University of Wisconsin defensive coordinator and current NIU head coach Dave Doeren went for an onside kick with 1:59 left in the first quarter. The ball seemed to bounce off nearly five pairs of Badger hands – and even some Huskie ones – before UW tight end Jacob Pedersen recovered it, allowing for another Badger touchdown drive.Head coach Bret Bielema credited the play as one momentum shift that was vital to Wisconsin’s success through the remainder of the game.“You can’t point to one play,” Bielema said. “But it was definitely a big momentum swing because we did respond with a touchdown and got that score back where we needed to.”And it was enough for the win, as the Badgers scored the go-ahead touchdown three plays later on a 16-yard pass from quarterback Russell Wilson to wide receiver Nick Toon.Despite losing 45 yards on six penalties in the first half, Wisconsin discipline improved in the second half and the damage was limited.“We just have to keep working at it,” center Peter Konz said. “Obviously it was a different situation being away and on the road [with] a little bit of noise. … We’re a new team, so it’s just something we’ve got to work on.”“We have really smart kids, and sometimes we try to outsmart ourselves,” Bielema added. “We had a silent count and a one-count and obviously weren’t communicating on the same page there. We were able to overcome it, which was huge, but it was a little bit embarrassing. My face probably matched my jacket at that point.”Despite the penalties, Wilson led the Badgers to another dominant performance, completing 23-of-32 for 347 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Wilson also rushed for 37 yards on five attempts, and his 384 yards of total offense amounted to the 5th-best single-game performance in UW history.“He knows the plan, he knows how to stick to it, but he can adapt very well, very creative,” Bielema said of Wilson. “Some of those plays he got us out of with his feet were extraordinary. He’s playing at a high level. If there’s somebody that’s better out there right now I’d like to see them, because [Wilson] is an exceptional football player.”Wilson and wide receiver Nick Toon continued to showcase an impressive chemistry, as Toon brought down five receptions for 75 yards and two touchdowns.On the first drive of the game, the Badgers pushed their way down to the Huskies 7-yard line. After a 5-yard penalty for a false start, Wilson squeezed the ball into Toon’s hands in the middle of the end-zone. Toon, despite illegal pass interference from the NIU defender, caught the ball for the first touchdown of the day and set the tone for the rest of the game.UW’s defense initially faced issues adjusting to NIU’s no-huddle offense. Huskies quarterback Chandler Harnish capitalized early, leading Northern Illinois to a touchdown late in the first quarter. NIU, however, failed to reach the endzone for the rest of the game. Harnish finished the game 14-for-24 with 164 passing yards.Early in the fourth quarter, linebacker Ethan Armstrong broke through the NIU offensive line and sacked Harnish for a loss of 10 yards.“Our coaches kind of preached on getting back to the line after every play, looking at the coaches for the calls,” cornerback Marcus Cromartie said. “We even worked tempos in practice, so that was just getting ready for NIU. We knew they were going to come and try to tempo us up, and I think we did well.“[Safety] Aaron Henry and the captains of the defense preached that it’s not about Northern Illinois, that it’s about us, about us getting better. I felt like we did that.”Before the Badgers were able to consistently pressure Harnish, Cromartie showed that the injured Devin Smith shouldn’t be too sorely missed. Smith suffered a season-ending left foot injury last week against Oregon State, and Bielema said after Saturday’s game that Smith should be cleared for a medical redshirt that will allow him to return next season.Northern Illinois targeted Cromartie early, largely due to his inexperience but also because top cornerback Antonio Fenelus began the season in dominant fashion. Cromartie finished the game with eight tackles.“I feel like when somebody’s throwing at you, you get the chance to prove yourself as a corner,” Cromartie said. “Any cornerback that says he doesn’t like competing really isn’t a cornerback. When I go out there, I want to compete, I want to make plays.”For the third consecutive week, Wisconsin downed its opponent by a margin of more than 30 points. While the Badgers even outscored the UW men’s basketball team last season – more than once – they look to have one of the most dominating offenses in recent team history.“We’re very capable,” running back James White said when asked whether this offense is better than last year’s. “We could be. We’ve got to keep working hard and executing each and every week.”last_img

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