Aug 31, 2013
BY RYAN EVANS
UW Athletic Communications
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin's classic, pro-style offense will never be confused for some of college football's fast-paced spread offenses, but, Saturday's season-opening 45-0 win over UMass may have had fans thinking otherwise.
The Badgers showed off some explosive, big-play potential against the Minutemen with four scoring plays of 50-plus yards. Senior RB James White and sophomore back Melvin Gordon contributed touchdown runs of 70 and 51 yards, respectively, while redshirt freshman QB Joel Stave hit senior wide out Jared Abbrederis with long balls of 65 and 57 yards for scores.
Not to mention that Wisconsin's first points of the game were set up by a 47-yard run from White.
"Big plays are huge," UW head coach Gary Andersen said. "If you can take them in the run game or get them in the throw, obviously, that's a big part of the offense. Our goal is to have a certain number of big plays every single game.
"Obviously, we got that down"
But it was the ruthless efficiency and quick-strike ability of the offense that stood out for Wisconsin. The four scoring drives punctuated by those big scoring plays, combined, accounted for only 11 plays and just over four minutes of time off the clock.
True to form, the Badgers' running game played a big role in the final result, as three Wisconsin tailbacks -- White, Gordon and freshman Corey Clement -- each finished with over 100 rushing yards to help the Badgers roll up a total of 393 yards on the ground.
It is just the third time in UW history that the Badgers have had three backs each rush for over 100 yards. Clement, with 101, became the first freshman to rush for over 100 yards in his Badgers debut since P.J. Hill (130 yards) did so as a redshirt freshman in 2006.
"I didn't actually know (about hitting the century mark)," Clement said. "I was just trying to play the game, and do what I had to do to help out my teammates. Yards weren't really a factor and touchdowns weren't really a factor. It was just about providing a victory as we left the field.
Gordon said that it's a sense of competition amongst the running backs group that helped produce the on-field results against the Minutemen.
"We just tried to come out here and compete," Gordon said. "We made it a competition in our room, so we're just out here competing with each other and having fun, that's how we look at it."
"We competed every day in fall camp," he added. "We competed out here today to see who did the best. We all did around equal, all ran for like 100 (yards), so that's a pretty solid day for us."
The Wisconsin defense was dominant in pitching its first shutout since a 35-0 win over Oregon State on Sept. 10, 2011. The unit allowed UMass just 212 total yards, which was the fewest allowed since the Badgers limited Minnesota to 156 total yards on Nov. 12, 2011.
"It is a good feeling to get that zero," senior DE Ethan Hemer said of the shutout. "Zeros are rare in college football nowadays so this is one that we are going to enjoy but we still know there is stuff for us to correct on film.
"It was a solid performance all around."
According to senior LB Chris Borland, the new aggressive 3-4 scheme that defensive coordinator Dave Aranda implemented was a key factor in the defense's success.
"I think we could kind of sense the confusion on the other team's side, and any time an offense is confused, they'll be playing on their heels a little bit," Borland said. "It was good for us that we were able to be aggressive but still not show a lot."
When Wisconsin's initial depth chart was released Monday, many took notice of the decision to start true freshman Sojourn Shelton at corner. People again took notice of Shelton against UMass, as the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., native played beyond his years, registering his first career interception in the third quarter.
"It felt really (good)," Shelton said of getting an interception. "I just wanted an interception in my first college game and having it felt pretty good. I was pretty excited and amped up and just extremely happy.
"It was just a turnover for the defense. Turnovers as a whole defense are what matter most, not who has it."
Shelton is the first true freshman to start a season opener for the Badgers since Travis Frederick did so at center in 2009.
Home sweet home
With the win, the Badgers have now won 16 straight season-opening games, a streak that is tied with USC for the third-longest active streak in the country and trails only Nebraska (27 straight entering Saturday) and Florida (23 straight entering Saturday).
Wisconsin has also won 17 straight home openers, dating back to 1996, and has won 27 straight home games against non-conference opponents. That streak is tied with Boise State for the second-longest home non-conference win streak in the country. Only LSU (31 in a row entering Saturday) has a longer such streak.
The Badgers are now 56-6 (.903) at Camp Randall Stadium since the start of the 2004 season, which is the third-best home record in the country.