Sept. 16, 2012
MADISON, Wis. -- It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win, and that’s what Wisconsin needed Saturday night.
It took a field goal, a punt return, a Montee Ball touchdown and a missed Utah State kick to earn the ‘W.’ In short, it took everyone on the Badgers’ sideline.
The win preserved Wisconsin’s 25-game non-conference home win streak and was the 18th-consective win at Camp Randall.
Head coach Bret Bielema knows how important earning the win was. “Obviously to get a win feels really, really good,” he said. “I was excited to see some guys make some plays. Kenzel Doe, one of them, we felt he's been on the verge of doing some nice things.”
Doe return sparks offense
Trailing 14-3 in the third quarter, the Badgers needed a spark and got it from the smallest guy on the field, Kenzel Doe. Doe went 82 yards on a punt return to score Wisconsin’s first touchdown of the game. It was the longest punt return by a Badger since Josh Hunt’s 89-yard punt return on Aug. 31, 2000 vs. Western Michigan – and it came on only Doe’s second career punt return.
Montee Ball understood the impact of Doe’s performance. “Everyone (was) looking around for someone to make a play, and Kenzel Doe took it on his shoulders,” Ball said.
The return and the opportunity to make a game-changing play was something Doe had worked toward.
“I have been working so hard just trying to get an opportunity to just get my chance on the field,” he said. “I had been working all summer just catching punt returns and I finally got my chance today.”
Ball grinds out yards and a touchdown
With no offensive points in the first 40 minutes of play, the Badgers’ needed some reassurance. A 17-touchdown yard run by Montee Ball in the third quarter confirmed Wisconsin’s offensive strength was the run game. It was Ball’s 63rd career touchdown and second of the season.
Ball finished the game with a season-high 139 yards on 37 carries. It was his 18th career 100-yard game and 16th in just 21 career starts.
The senior running back contributed his improved production to comfort running behind his offensive line.
“It was a lot more comfortable,” he said. “A lot more opportunities for me to be one-on-one, which I need to focus on and be better at.
“We didn’t expect for the offensive line, with one week of preparation with the new coach, to come out and part the sea every single play, but you can clearly see a difference.”
Quarterback duo combines for win
Redshirt reshman quarterback Joel Stave made his first career appearance, coming out to start the second half in place of junior Danny O’Brien. Stave finished the game 2-of-6 for 15 yards, while O’Brien went 5-of-10 for 63 yards in the first half of action.
Stave was somewhat surprised when he heard his number called, but ready nonetheless.
“I was told at the beginning of the week — as with any week — basically to be ready,” he said. “And if they called my number I’ve got to go play well.”