For every change the Badgers made this offseason, it looked like Wisconsin used the same old winning recipe Saturday as first-year head coach Gary Andersen used a strong rushing attack to lead the way in a 45-0 victory over Massachusetts.
A slow start for redshirt sophomore quarterback Joel Stave turned into an explosive second half as he connected with redshirt senior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis for two long touchdowns in the third quarter.
The Badgers received first possession and found themselves on the scoreboard just two minutes and 30 seconds into the game. Aided by a 47-yard run by senior running back James White, Stave ran the final four yards across the goal line to score the first points.
In the first half of the game Wisconsin dominated on the ground but struggled to pass. Stave had just four completions on 11 attempts and one interception.
Both redshirt sophomore running back Melvin Gordon and White played fairly equally and were alternated into the offense without much trouble.
Gordon finished the game with 13 carries for 144 yards and White ended with 11 carries for 143 yards.
Andersen said that he was pleased with the play of his running backs.
“We’re very fortunate to have three talented running backs, James [White] and Melvin [Gordon] are a tandem and work well together.” Andersen said. “We look forward to seeing that all season long.”
Freshman running back Corey Clement made his mark late in the game, rushing for 101 yards on 16 carries. Andersen acknowledged that the performance from Clement was one UW has seen throughout practice.
The offensive line played well from the onset, allowing Stave to find his groove after an early interception in the first quarter. The line also allowed White and Gordon plenty of room to move, something Gordon was appreciative of.
“[The holes] were pretty nice,” Gordon said. “The guys set it up pretty nice for us.”
The second half was a different story for the Badgers’ passing game, starting with Stave’s 65-yard touchdown pass to Abbrederis on Wisconsin’s first play from scrimmage.
Abbrederis went on to score another touchdown on a reception from Stave for 57 yards. Stave ended the day 9-of-17 for 197 yards.
Andersen said his guys showed who they were when redshirt senior quarterback Curt Phillips gave his playing time to redshirt freshman Bart Houston in the fourth quarter.
“That’s a tremendous kid, unselfish, and excited about being part of this team,” Andersen said.
Houston played the remainder of the game, completing his only passing attempt for 8 yards.
The Wisconsin defense had a stand-up day as well, keeping UMass off scoreboard entirely. The Minutemen looked poised to score when sophomore kicker Blake Lucas connected on a 40-yard field goal attempt, but it was wiped off following a UMass timeout.
Lucas’ second attempt missed wide left.
On the defensive side of the ball, Andersen was quick to praise the play of true freshman cornerback Sojourn Shelton, who started the game and snagged an interception in the third quarter.
“He was not starry-eyed,” Andersen said. “He was ready to go from the first snap.”
Wisconsin will host Tennessee Tech September 7 at Camp Randall. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.