Posted by Adam Jacobi
WISCONSIN WON. Russell Wilson ripped the Northern Illinois defense for 347 yards and three touchdowns on 23-32 passing, and Wisconsin rushed for 274 more yards in its 49-7 demolition of the Huskies on Saturday.
WHY WISCONSIN WON: Northern Illinois was simply no match for the physical Wisconsin offensive front, and the Huskies' attack on offense never really got into gear. It looked like just another MACrifice, really. Montee Ball got most of the carries (18 for 91 yards and 2 TDs) for Wisconsin's backfield today, but James White was a beast during his snaps (8 carries, 91 yards, 1 TD). No issues for Wisconsin here.
WHEN WISCONSIN WON: This game wasn't a foregone conclusion from the start, and NIU had played the game to a 7-7 tie late in the first quarter. But Wisconsin scored on a three-play, 51-yard drive to answer NIU's score, and then the Badgers engineered an easy 10-play, 97-yard drive on its next possession to remove all doubt about how this game would end.
WHAT WISCONSIN WON: For Wisconsin, this game was a de facto road test, as the Badgers met NIU at Chicago's Soldier Field with a decidedly mixed crowd on hand. The Badgers passed the test with flying colors, and Russell Wilson's ascension to the top of the Big Ten's hierarchy of quarterbacks continues unabated.
WHAT NORTHERN ILLINOIS LOST: For Northern Illinois, there's not a lot to feel bad about with this loss. Yes, it wasn't nearly as close as the 18-point line would have indicated, but NIU wasn't going to have a chance if Wisconsin was on its game, and there's no doubt the Badgers were rolling today. If nothing else, the NIU coaching staff can find the plays that worked, note that they came against the best team Northern Illinois is going to face all year, and build off that.
THAT WAS CRAZY: After NIU's first quarter score to tie the game at 7-7, the Huskies tried a surprise onside kick that caught Wisconsin slightly off-guard. Two Huskies appeared to get their hands on the ball after the kick, but the ball came loose and eventually Wisconsin recovered. That short field led to the aforementioned 51-yard drive and the pounding was on.
As a strategy, it's not entirely insane -- NIU head coach Dave Doeren had to figure that the difference between Wisconsin getting the ball at midfield and at its own 20 or 30 was small enough that shooting for an extra possession on the onside kick was worth it -- but if that's his thinking, he needed to employ the strategy more than once instead of giving up on it as a failed ploy. Of course, NIU only had one more opportunity to try it, thanks to the Wisconsin defense, but that was just a harmless kickoff to open the second half (one that led to, what else, a Wisconsin touchdown drive).