Powerful running from sophomore running back John Clay and a physical four-quarter defensive effort propelled Wisconsin to a 51-10 blowout victory in its regular season finale Saturday against Hawaii.
Clay capped off his sophomore regular season in style, racking up 172 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. The effort put the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year over 1,400 rushing yards for the season and moved him into the top ten in career rushing yards at Wisconsin.
""We just played Wisconsin football,"" Clay said. ""Smash-mouth football, we just ran it down their throat and tried to make them stop our run. They had difficulty doing that, so we took pride in that and took advantage.""
Wisconsin's motto of ""next man in"" was on full display Saturday as freshman center Peter Konz was ruled out just six hours before the game due to inflammation in his lung. Yet the Badger offense didn't miss a beat as junior John Moffitt moved over to center and freshman Travis Frederick filled in for Moffitt at left guard to help guide the offense to 554 total yards, 301 of which came on the ground. Frederick, who hadn't played since suffering an injury against Fresno State, said it didn't take long for him to get back into the starting mindset.
""At first I was a little confused, like why was there this big jumble, but when I found out what was happening, from there I immediately started to lock in and move on,"" Frederick said. ""When you're the next man in, you have to be ready for that.""
As well as the offense played, the Wisconsin defense was equally impressive. Facing the third-ranked passing offense in the nation, the Wisconsin secondary shut down quarterback Bryant Moniz and held the Warrior offense to just 214 yards, its lowest total of the year. Juniors Jay Valai and Blake Sorensen both recorded their first career interceptions as the Badgers limited Hawaii to a season-low 197 passing yards.
Defensive ends J.J. Watt and O'Brien Schofield each had two of Wisconsin's season-high six sacks, and Schofield added two tackles for loss to bring his season total to 22.5, good for fifth best in school history. He credited the depth of the defensive line as the key to its success Saturday.
""We had guys ready to go in; Louis [Nzegwu] and David [Gilbert] got a lot of time today,"" Schofield said. ""We just gave it 100 percent and kept rotating.""
The defense also extended its streak of holding opposing offenses under 100 yards rushing to nine games, allowing a season-low 17 yards on the ground to the Warriors.
""We just held them off the boards,"" head coach Bret Bielema said. ""I thought our guys just really focused in on details, tasks; our defense coming on and doing what they did against a very, very good offense and to cut their yardage total in half.""
With the Badgers up 44-10 late in the fourth quarter, Bielema inserted senior quarterback Dustin Sherer for the first time this season to close out the win in the last regular season game of his career. Sherer responded with an 11 yard touchdown run on fourth down that found him diving into the end zone, a fitting reward for the player relegated to the role of mentor for his senior year after losing the quarterback battle in fall camp.
—uwbadgers.com contributed to this report.