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Badgers hold off Northern Iowa for 26-21 win in opener

Northern Iowa 12 Wisconsin 26, Northern Iowa 21
Camp Randall Stadium • Madison, Wis. • Attendance: 79,568

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1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final
 Northern Iowa
0 0 7 14 21
3 10 6 7 26
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Postgame Analysis
Lucas' Last Word: Badgers hold steady
Badger Bits: Northern Iowa

 Statistical Leaders
 • Rushing: Montee Ball - 32 Car, 120 Yds, 1 TD
 • Passing: Danny O'Brien - 19-23, 219 Yds, 2 TDs
 • Receiving: Jared Abbrederis - 6 Rec, 84 Yds, 2 TDs
 • Defense: Mike Taylor - 13 Tkl, 2 TFL, PBU
 Scoring Summary
 First Quarter
WIS 7:19 French 32 FG
 Second Quarter
WIS 7:37 French 35 FG
WIS 0:50 Abbrederis 10 TD pass from O'Brien (French kick)
 Third Quarter
WIS 10:22 Ball 1 TD run (kick blocked)
UNI 0:52 Owens 2 TD pass from Kollmorgen (Sievertsen kick)
 Fourth Quarter
WIS 12:31 Abbrederis 53 TD pass from O'Brien (French kick)
UNI 11:11 Johnson 55 TD pass from Kollmorgen (Sievertsen kick)
UNI 7:24 Johnson 31 TD pass from Kollmorgen (Sievertsen kick)
 Stats at a Glance
 • First Downs 14 22
 • Total Offensive Yards 306 387
 • Passing Yards 265 219
 • Rushing Yards 41 168
 • Penalties-Yards 2-15 2-20
 • Turnovers 0 0
 • Punts-Avg. 5-41.6 4-41.8
 • Punt Returns-Avg. 2-1.5 4-4.5
 • Kick Returns-Avg. 2-22 2-21
 • 3rd-Down Conversions 3-11 9-16
 • 4th-Down Conversions 2-3 1-1
 • Time of Possession 20:55 39:05
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Sept. 1, 2012

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Montee Ball rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown, and No. 12 Wisconsin needed a big defensive play to survive a fourth-quarter scare from Northern Iowa in a 26-21 victory Saturday.

Wisconsin's defense didn't allow Northern Iowa on its side of the 50-yard line until the 4:27 mark in the third quarter -- but then the Panthers found the end zone twice in rapid succession.

Leading 26-7 in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin allowed Northern Iowa quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen to throw a pair of long touchdowns to David Johnson, cutting the lead to five. With the Panthers facing fourth-and-1 at the Wisconsin 41-yard line, defensive lineman Ethan Hemer tipped the ball at the line of scrimmage to stop the drive.

Kollmorgen threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns for the Panthers, regarded as one of the top FCS teams in the country.

 Fast Facts
• Badgers win 15th-straight season opener
• O'Brien throws for 219 and 2 TDs in Badgers debut
• Ball rushes for 120 yards, scores for 21st-straight game

New Badgers starting quarterback Danny O'Brien completed 19 of 23 passes for 219 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Jared Abbrederis.

O'Brien is a transfer who was eligible to play for the Badgers right away because he already had graduated from Maryland, the same rule Russell Wilson took advantage of to play for the Badgers last year.

Coaches and teammates went out of their way this week to establish realistic expectations for O'Brien and shield him against direct comparisons to Wilson -- a remarkable playmaker who led the Badgers to a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl appearance last season, and now has won a starting job with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks as a rookie.

It also was the debut for Badgers offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who replaced new Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst.

Canada made his intentions clear right away, attempting to wear down Northern Iowa with a heavy dose of Ball. But the Panthers were up to the task early on, holding Ball to two yards or fewer on six of his first 12 carries.

The Badgers handed the ball to Ball eight times in a 14-play opening drive for a 32-yard field goal by Kyle French.

O'Brien nearly got off to a rough start, as standout Panthers cornerback Varmah Sonie jumped a route and came close to picking O'Brien's second passing attempt.

The Panthers' defense then made a stand deep in its own territory, stuffing Ball for a one-yard loss on a second-and-2 at the 14. After an incomplete pass that tight end Brian Wozniak appeared to drop, the Badgers had to settle for the field goal.

Wisconsin continued to put together long strings of possession, but couldn't turn their possessions into points. They had to settle for another field goal midway through the second quarter, a 35-yarder by French for a 6-0 lead.

The Badgers finally broke through late in the second quarter. Facing a third-and-22 situation after a sack and a negative run by Ball, O'Brien hit tight end Jacob Pedersen for a first down. Ball ran for 14 yards through a big hole up the middle three plays later, and O'Brien found Abbrederis wide open in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown and a 13-0 lead with just under a minute left before halftime.

Wisconsin seemingly took control of the game on its first drive of the second half, as O'Brien drove the Badgers for a 1-yard touchdown run by Ball. French's extra point was blocked, and the Badgers led 19-0 with 10:22 left in the third quarter.

The Panthers' offense finally got past the 50-yard line late in the third quarter -- and kept going from there. Kollmorgen threw a 21-yard pass to Brett LeMaster on fourth-and-4, then threw a 2-yard touchdown to Chad Owens on third-and-goal to cut the Badgers' lead to 19-7.

But O'Brien answered almost right away, throwing a rainbow to Abbrederis for a 53-yard touchdown and a 26-7 lead with 12:31 remaining.

The Panthers weren't finished, as Kollmorgen threw to Johnson for a 55-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown to cut the lead to 26-14. Then they scored again when Kollmorgen found Johnson wide open down the right sideline for a 31-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 26-21 with 7:24 left.

Northern Iowa forced a punt, and Wisconsin would need the big stop from Hemer to preserve the win.

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