BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—Last week, the Badger defense dominated one team from Indiana at home with a shutout victory, but Wisconsin's victory against the Hoosiers Saturday was not nearly as easy.
The Indiana rushing attack only managed 1 yard through the first half and 63 for the game, but the Hoosiers were impressive through the air, racking up 323 passing yards and making the Badgers sweat late in the game as their lead dwindled. But thanks to impressive play from its ground game, including a game-sealing and run-heavy final drive, Wisconsin escaped Memorial Stadium with a 31-28 victory.
Despite earning the team's seventh victory of the season, sophomore defensive lineman J.J. Watt said the team should have done better, especially with Michigan looming next weekend.
""Nobody's really satisfied with what we did today. We're happy we got the win, but we didn't play the way we wanted to play,"" Watt said. ""We need to make some corrections tomorrow and come back next week stronger.""
""You've just got to find a way to win,"" freshman linebacker Chris Borland said. ""Today was one of those days where we made some mistakes, but in the end we'll take the victory.""
Senior defensive lineman O'Brien Schofield said the defense did a good job pressuring Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell but could not convert that into sacks, adding that the offense bailed out a poorer defensive effort.
""One of our keys to victory this week was to rattle that quarterback, and I think we did that for the most part,"" Schofield said. ""The offense picked us up today.""
Indiana got on the board first when junior wide receiver David Gilreath lost a punt in the sun, allowing the ball to bounce off his chest and into a Hoosier's hands on the Wisconsin 10-yard line. The mistake set Chappell up for a 10-yard touchdown to take the early lead two plays later.
On the next drive, sophomore running back John Clay cut through a trio of Indiana defenders and ran 40 yards before finally being brought down deep in Hoosier territory. Junior quarterback Scott Tolzien hit junior wide receiver Isaac Anderson for an 18-yard touchdown on a well-executed play action roll-out pass to cap off the drive and tie the game.
The Badgers added a field goal and a pair of touchdowns in the first half, including an important six-play, 49-yard drive late in the half, which put Wisconsin up 24-14 when the teams headed to their locker rooms.
Seeing that their running game was unimpressive, the Hoosiers relied heavily on the air attack, exploiting the Badger secondary during a fourth-quarter comeback. Wisconsin's offense also sputtered at first and did not make the big first-down gains or third-down conversions they had earlier in the game for most of the second half.
With four minutes to go, Indiana brought themselves within 3 points of tying the game, but the Badgers never gave them the chance.
Wisconsin nearly handed the ball back to Indiana on its next drive, but a big pass to sophomore wide receiver Nick Toon on 3rd and 8 kept it away from the Hoosiers.
Freshman running back Montee Ball stepped in for Clay, who sustained a concussion and missed the second half, and put together a number of impressive runs to drain the clock and seal the 31-28 win.
""It feels good to grind that out,"" head coach Bret Bielema said after the game. ""Montee was churning away.""
Tolzien said the team watched how Iowa killed time late in its close win over Indiana Oct. 31 and tried to imitate it Sunday.
""We put it on the offensive line, and they did a good job,"" he said.
Next up on Wisconsin's radar is rival Michigan Nov. 14, although given other developments in the conference, the Badgers may be looking farther ahead. After the win came news of Big Ten rival Iowa's loss against Northwestern, keeping Bielema's hopes of a conference championship alive.
""I went to the Rose Bowl as a player with two losses,"" he said. ""There have been teams here at Wisconsin that have been part of Big Ten championships with more than one loss, so it should be interesting.""