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September 24, 2011MADISON - If Saturday's contest against South Dakota was the dress rehearsal or opening act for Big Ten play, Wisconsin should be able to put on a great production.
Russell Wilson picked apart an overmatched Coyotes team, Nick Toon caught everything thrown his way and the UW defense stayed red hot as the Badgers coasted to another blowout victory, this time blasting South Dakota 59-10.
"We took a beat down by a superior squad," South Dakota head coach Ed Meierkort said. "And we could kind of see it coming on film. I was hoping it didn't explode the way it did, but I thought our guys competed pretty well."
Wisconsin was just too big, just too physical and just too good for the FCS school from out west.
Wilson, for the second week in a row, topped the 300-yard mark through the air. He completed 19 of his 25 passes - - seven of which went to Nick Toon - - for 345 yards and three touchdowns.
He helped both Toon (155 yards, two touchdowns) and Jared Abbrederis (101 yards, one touchdown) topple the 100-yard mark receiving-wise, the first time UW has had two 100-yard receivers in the same game since 2007, and left no doubt about the explosiveness of this Badger offense.
"Russell has a lot of nice things (about him)," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "He really has all the throws. He's got the soft pass, the hard pass, the deep 20-yard dig and he's also got the ability to lob it up and play that kind of game.
"It's fun to watch him continue to grow."
While Bielema can sit back and bask in the limelight that is Russell Wilson, it's apparent South Dakota did not have too much fun trying to slow him down.
The Wisconsin offense totaled 612 yards of total offense, scored on nine of its 12 possessions and simply lambasted South Dakota's defensive effort with efficient and productive drives. At one point, UW reeled off 28 points in a span of three minutes and 43 seconds of game time.
"You have to respect the run and play-action game," Bielema said. "They look so much alike and there are so many similarities between the two that it is very difficult for defenders, especially secondary support guys, corners, safeties and linebackers that are trying to fill run and read pass."
Montee Ball and James White combined to rush for 184 yards and three touchdowns. Jeff Lewis and Montee Ball combined to rush for 81 more yards and two more touchdowns. The UW rushing attack finished with 267 yards and five total scores.
Ball, who has tallied 24 touchdowns over the course of UW's past 10 games, opened the Badgers scoring barrage with a five-yard touchdown scamper to cap an eight-play, 60-yard drive.
That was just the beginning.
Kyle French, UW's freshman place kicker, drilled a 25-yard field goal to make the score 10-0 midway through the first quarter. Following a 24-yard Kevin Robb field goal that cut the Badger lead to 10-3, Wisconsin emphatically slammed the door on any sort of dramatics inside Camp Randall.
White, who compiled a 10.6-yard-per-carry average Saturday afternoon, took two handoffs on UW's ensuing possession and racked up 61 yards and a touchdown.
White's 49-yard score served as the proverbial stake to the heart of South Dakota's will.
"Their scheme is great," Meierkort said. "Their quarterback is fantastic, they have the best offensive line coach in the country in Bob Bostad, and defensively they're better than a lot of people give them credit for.
"I really believe that."
Wisconsin's defense has allowed just 17 points over the course of its past three games. Seven of those points came late and came against the UW reserves following a Joe Brennan interception.
South Dakota, conversely, only mustered 173 yards of total offense, went 6-of-16 on third downs and punted six times. They also turned the ball over twice and failed to generate any sort of offensive rhythm.
"They don't have the star power that they had a year ago," Meierkort said. "But they have some rising stars that you're just starting to learn about now because they replaced a lot of kids."
Shelton Johnson, who left the game with a lower left leg injury, recorded his first collegiate interception in the first quarter. Sophomore linebacker Chris Borland also recorded an interception. Prior to Saturday's win, UW had only mustered two turnovers defensively.
They forced two in the first quarter against South Dakota.
"I like the progress," Bielema said. "Going into this game I thought our defense had gotten better. Hopefully we're getting some depth that will help us down the stretch."
Wisconsin improved its record to 4-0 for the third consecutive season with Saturday's win. That marks the first time in school history that any football team has accomplished that feat.