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October 2, 2011

Wilson, Ball shine in rout

MADISON - To be frank, Russell Wilson wasn't exactly the most welcoming host for a Nebraska squad making its first ever appearance as a member institution of the Big Ten conference Saturday night.

The Wisconsin quarterback wouldn't have had it any other way.

Wilson completed 14-of-20 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns as his electrifying poise and creativity helped his Badgers coast to an overwhelming 48-17 win over the shell-shocked Huskers in front of a frenzied Camp Randall crowd.

"It was a great experience," Wilson, who also rushed for 32 yards and a touchdown, said. "Playing here in Camp Randall and playing with these guys, it was an awesome experience and a blessing.

"It's great to be out there and (to) come out with a great win."

Playing in his biggest game as a collegiate quarterback Wilson proved he wasn't just a non-conference aberration. He proved he's an elite quarterback and every bit worthy of the Heisman hype that's only begun its trek toward a fever pitch.

After Nebraska's Taylor Martinez opened the scoring with a one-yard plunge midway through the first quarter, Wilson, always level headed, led an impressive and efficient nine-play, 91-yard scoring drive that was eventually capped off by a one-yard Montee Ball touchdown run.

The Cornhusker defense, a unit that had all three of their All-American players on the field for the first time this season, didn't know what it was getting into.

Wilson and company was just getting started.

Following a one-yard Rex Burkhead touchdown run, Wisconsin rattled off 34 consecutive points to blow open what was billed as one of the biggest and most anticipated games in Big Ten history.

"I'm embarrassed by how we played defensively," Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said. "I apologize to the fans of Nebraska, because that was a joke.

"Plain and simple."

Junior tailback Montee Ball rushed for 151 yards and four touchdowns during one of his better performances as a member of the Badgers. He carried the ball 30 times and scored from one, three, four and 15 yards out, in that order.

"I didn't expect 30 carries," said Ball. I expected it to be even, like we have been doing. But like coach Thomas Hammock said, he was going to go with the hot hand and I felt good today.

"I felt ready."

So did the emerging wide receiver duo of Jared Abbrederis and Nick Toon.

Together, the two caught nine balls for a combined 189 yards and two touchdowns. Toon jumpstarted an offense that was somewhat slow starting with an acrobatic 38-yard catch on the first play after UW fell behind 14-7 early in the second quarter.

From there, the Wisconsin offense rolled.

"Our players embraced the week and the chance to be on the national stage," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "I've heard about a big game, a big stage, all of these big things. All we have is a big opportunity and what we are going to do with it.

"I think they answered the best."

Martinez helped their cause.

The sophomore quarterback threw three interceptions in the span of four Nebraska drives that helped seal the Huskers fate.

With his team trailing 14-13 after Jared Crick blocked an extra point attempt, junior linebacker Mike Taylor intercepted an errant Martinez throw and set up the onslaught.

Six short plays later Wilson found an extended Abbrederis for an impressive 36-yard touchdown pitch and catch. Martinez, who started the game 6-of-8 passing for 98 yards, struggled to retain that momentum.

During the stretch where he threw three interceptions over the course of four possessions, Martinez completed just three of his next 10 passes for 56 yards and three interceptions. He finished his Big Ten debut 11-of-22 for 176 yards. He also rushed for 61 yards.

"I thought we got away from some of the things we were doing well offensively," Pelini said. "I thought we got out of rhythm offensively."

Credit the Badger defense.

When opportunities presented themselves UW didn't miss. Taylor, Aaron Henry and Antonio Fenelus all logged interceptions. Henry's came late in the first half and set up Toon's only touchdown, a 46-yard jaunt stemming from a perfect Wilson thrown.

Fenelus' came on the very first play of the second half when Martinez threw way behind his intended target.

Wilson and Ball took care of the rest.

"I just kind of made the statement to (the team)," Bielema said. "The reason we'll win this football game today is not because of the work week we put in this week. It goes back to last January and the way we prepared and the way we handle our work every day. I think Russell is great. I think that is what attracted him here.

"He likes the daily approach himself."

Wisconsin racked up 486 yards of total offense. Collectively, the Badgers rushed for 231 yards and passed for 255. UW only turned the ball over once (an Abbrederis fumble during a punt return) and only committed four penalties.

UW converted eight of its 12 third down opportunities and scored all five times it entered the red zone, with five touchdowns.



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