Sept. 1, 2012
MADISON, Wis. -- In standard Wisconsin fashion, the 2012 season started off with an attack on the ground for the Badgers.
Senior RB Montee Ball got the Badgers’ first scoring drive started with consecutive runs, setting the tone for No. 12 Wisconsin’s season-opening battle with Northern Iowa Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium, a 26-21 win for UW.
Following passes by Danny O’Brien and a run by James White, the Badgers handed the ball to Ball four consecutive times before settling for a field goal and putting the first points of the season on the board.
For Ball, running and taking hits is just part of the game. The fact that he hadn’t been taken to the ground since the Rose Bowl didn’t factor into his mind.
“For as many years as I've been playing running back,” he said, “you get hit the first time, second time, then you're right back in it."
In total, Ball touched the ball eight times on Wisconsin’s first scoring drive.
Ball keeps streaks alive
On Ball’s 26th touch of the game, he found the end zone, extending his scoring streak to 21 consecutive games, six short of the NCAA record of 27. Ball finished the game with 151 yards of total offense -- rushing for 120 yards and adding 31 receiving yards --marking the seventh-consecutive game he has rushed for 100 yards or more.
Ball also extending his streak of holding on the ball, marking 652 touches (600 carries and 52 receptions) without losing a fumble.
Abbrederis picks up where he left off
Junior WR Jared Abbrederis picked up where he left off in last season, catching touchdowns. Junior QB Danny O’Brien connected with Abbrederis in the second quarter for the Badgers’ first touchdown of the year and the junior wide receiver’s fourth-consecutive catch, dating back to last season.
A 53-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter gave Abbrederis his second-career two-touchdown game and moved him to 10th all-time at UW with 13 touchdown grabs for his career.
O’Brien makes the most out of first career start
For the third time in four years, Wisconsin started a season with a new playcaller and, for the third-straight time, that new quarterback led the Badgers to a victory in his debut.
O’Brien made the most of his Badgers debut, recording a pass efficiency of 191.29, the second-best mark of a Badgers quarterback in his UW debut (minimum five completions), trailing only the mark of 292.46 by Russell Wilson in his Wisconsin debut in 2011.
"I was pretty excited coming out of the tunnel,” said O’Brien. “I got goose bumps for sure, and I kind of had to calm myself down.
“I had a missed throw early that I thought I could've hit, but I got in the groove right away with these guys as we got rolling."
The junior finished the game going 19-of-23 for 219 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Badgers control the pace and the ball
Sharing the ball was not in Wisconsin’s game plan Saturday. In the first half, the Badgers had the ball in their possession for 23 minutes and 25 seconds, allowing Northern Iowa just 6:35 on the offensive side of the ball.
“I was happy to come in at halftime and see that we were up 46 snaps to their 15,” said head coach Bret Bielema. “That's Wisconsin football, if we snap the ball 80 to 90 times offensively, it usually means we're playing our kind of football."
The Badgers ran 42 plays compared to just 15 for Northern Iowa. It was the fewest plays run by a Badger opponent in the Bielema era.
Wisconsin finished the first half with 205 yards of total offense, limiting the Panthers to just 47 yards.