Northwestern at Wisconsin

Wisconsin cruises into three-way tie for Big Ten title wire reports

MADISON, Wis. -- Another week, another jaw-dropping blowout for No. 5 Wisconsin.

This one earned the Badgers a share of the Big Ten title.

And with the Big Ten's Rose Bowl representative still to be determined, it remains to be seen if their recent run of scoreboard-scorching victories will be sufficient.

Wisconsin routed Northwestern 70-23 at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, and will split the conference championship three ways after Ohio State and Michigan State won earlier in the day.

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"From Day 1 since I got here, that's all anybody's been talking about, the Rose Bowl, the Rose Bowl, the Rose Bowl," said Badgers safety Aaron Henry, twirling a rose in his hand. "And you have to be a Big Ten champion in order to get that spot in the Rose Bowl, and we definitely took care of that tonight."

The Badgers (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) appear to have the inside track on the Rose Bowl, which will be determined by the Bowl Championship Series standings. Fans chanted "Rose Bowl" in the final seconds of the game, then rushed the field as fireworks exploded over the stadium.

No. 8 Ohio State beat Michigan on Saturday, and No. 11 Michigan State won at Penn State. Wisconsin came into this week leading both teams in the BCS rankings.

Wisconsin certainly is doing its best to impress voters in recent weeks.

Its victory Saturday made it four straight by 20 points or more -- and it wasn't even the most lopsided game in that stretch, because Wisconsin beat Indiana 83-20 on Nov. 13. And it was the third time this season the Badgers scored 70 points or more.

Nationally, Bielema has earned some criticism for running up the score during the Badgers' recent run -- but given the chance to score one last touchdown on Saturday, Wisconsin instead ran out the clock inside the Northwestern 10-yard line in the final two minutes of the game.

Bielema was confident his team is Rose Bowl-bound.

"I really believe that right now, the way we're playing," Bielema said. "We're playing as well as anybody in the country."

Montee Ball rushed for 178 yards and four touchdowns for the Badgers. Scott Tolzien was 15 of 19 for 230 yards and four touchdowns, including a pair to wide receiver Nick Toon.

It was also a dominant game by standout defensive end J.J. Watt, who forced two fumbles and made a big hit that caused an interception. Watt even blocked a Northwestern extra point try in the third quarter, leaving the crowd chanting his name.

"We needed to bring a title back to Wisconsin, and that's exactly what we did," Watt said. "And we couldn't be happier. ... Enjoy it tonight, because I know I'm going to."

Wisconsin's only scare came when tight end Lance Kendricks landed awkwardly on the ball after catching a 29-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter. After lying on the turf for several minutes surrounded by the team's medical staff, Kendricks was able to get up and walk to the locker room with assistance.

Venric Mark returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown for Northwestern (7-5, 3-5 Big Ten), returning nine kickoffs a total of 273 yards.

"When I took it back to the house, I thought they weren't going to kick it to me [again]," Mark said. "Then they kept kicking it to me and I found that highly disrespectful."

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said Saturday's loss wasn't a step backward for the program.

"No, we lost a football game today," Fitzgerald said. "We have two freshmen quarterbacks playing their second game. We turned the ball over on the road against a team that won the Big Ten championship. That's not a step backwards, it's a loss."

Already without quarterback Dan Persa because of an Achilles' tendon injury, Northwestern also was missing top running back Mike Trumpy because of a wrist injury.

The Wildcats split time at quarterback between Evan Watkins and Kain Colter.

Stopping Wisconsin clearly was going to be a challenge for Northwestern's defense, which gave up 519 yards rushing in a loss to Illinois at Wrigley Field last week.

Fitzgerald said his team would have had a tough time beating anybody with four interceptions and three lost fumbles, let alone a conference champion.

"I'm very disappointed in our effort at taking care of the football," Fitzgerald said. "That's the No. 1 objective of the game and we didn't do that. You give a good football team a short field, you give a good football team momentum at home, and you pretty much beat yourself."

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Montee Ball continues to dominate for the Badgers, rushing for 178 yards and four TDs vs. Northwestern.  (AP)
Montee Ball continues to dominate for the Badgers, rushing for 178 yards and four TDs vs. Northwestern. (AP)

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Scoring Summary
WIMontee Ball 32 yd run (Philip Welch kick)
WIMontee Ball 1 yd run (Philip Welch kick)
NWStefan Demos 47 yd FG
WIMontee Ball 2 yd run (Philip Welch kick)
WIDavid Gilreath 18 yd pass from Scott Tolzien (Philip Welch kick)
NWEvan Watkins 6 yd run (Stefan Demos kick)
WILance Kendricks 29 yd pass from Scott Tolzien (Philip Welch kick)
WINick Toon 11 yd pass from Scott Tolzien (Philip Welch kick)
NWVenric Mark 94 yd kick return (Stefan Demos kick)
WINick Toon 11 yd pass from Scott Tolzien (Philip Welch kick)
WIMontee Ball 44 yd run (Philip Welch kick)
WIJames White 16 yd run (Philip Welch kick)
NWDrake Dunsmore 20 yd pass from Evan Watkins (blocked XP)
WIAaron Henry 50 yd interception return (Philip Welch kick)
Team Stats
First Downs1729
Third Down Efficiency4-125-11
Fourth Down Efficiency0-00-0
Plays-Net Yards60-28473-559
Passing Yds123230
Kick Return Yds325145
Punt Return Yds80
Time of Poss.22:4537:15
Individual Stats
NW: Stephen Simmons 12-55, Evan Watkins 7-34, Adonis Smith 4-29, Kain Colter 8-28, Arby Fields 2-11, Jeremy Ebert 2-4
WI: Montee Ball 20-178, James White 20-134, Kyle Zuleger 4-12, John Clay 4-7, Bradie Ewing 1-4, Jon Budmayr 1-3, Team 3--3, Lance Kendricks 1--6
NW: Evan Watkins 13-22-123-3, Kain Colter 0-3-0-1
WI: Scott Tolzien 15-19-230-0
NW: Sidney Stewart 4-29, Jeremy Ebert 3-43, Drake Dunsmore 2-25, Rashad Lawrence 2-19, Arby Fields 1-6, Charles Brown 1-1
WI: Nick Toon 5-62, Lance Kendricks 4-80, David Gilreath 4-75, Isaac Anderson 1-8, James White 1-5

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