Sept. 22, 2012
MADISON, Wis. – A freshman quarterback, the return of a top receiver and a strong ground game propelled the Badgers’ to a 37-26 win over UTEP Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin recorded a season-high 423 yards of offense, including a season-high 213 rushing yards, in its final non-conference game of the season.
Despite the win, Wisconsin gave UTEP hope, allowing the Miners to score first and giving up a field goal in the fourth quarter to bring the score within four, something head coach Bret Bielema noted in the post-game huddle.
“I told the guys in the locker room, nothing comes easy to this group. We didn't put 'em away… gave up the field goal at the end, you could feel the momentum swing to their sideline and obviously on the drive when they scored and got within four, but I thought our offense made a huge statement to drive down the field and James (White) to get it in the end zone."
Stave debuts with a win
The first freshman quarterback to start since Jim Sorgi on Oct. 21, 2000, Joel Stave got off on the right foot, throwing for 210 yards and one touchdown in a 12-of-17 passing performance.
It was a debut that Stave thought went alright, “I thought I played alright. Some good, some bad. You just learn from the bad stuff.
“There are some things I would like to take back, but all in all, I thought I played well today.”
Stave became the fourth-straight Wisconsin quarterback to throw for at least 200 yards in his starting debut joining Danny O'Brien (2012), Russell Wilson (2011) and Scott Tolzien (2009).
Abbrederis sets career mark in return
A big play is what the Wisconsin offense needed, and a big play is what it got when Joel Stave connected with Jared Abbrederis in the second quarter. The 60-yard pass was the Badgers’ longest play of the season and led to a three-yard touchdown run by James White, giving Wisconsin a 16-6 lead over UTEP.
Abbrederis followed up with another big reception from Stave six minutes later, this time for 47 yards and a touchdown to put Wisconsin up 23-6.
“Stave threw a great ball and I was hoping to get open and catch the ball for a touchdown,” said Abbrederis.
Noting that the offensive line’s protection helped the play develop, Stave added, “The line did a good job of protecting -- running backs picking up whatever blitzes they had.”
The junior wide receiver went into halftime with a career-high 130 yards, before posting 17 more in the second half to finish with a career-best 147.
Borland dominates on defense
Just as the Wisconsin offense was in need of a strong showing, so was the defense and junior linebacker Chris Borland did his part to make an impact. Borland picked today to record his first double-digit tackle game of the season, making 12 tackles, including tying a career-best with 3.5 TFLs for 20 yards and recording a career-high two sacks. For good measure he also tied a career-best mark with two pass break ups.
Even though it was a season-best game, Borland’s effort was the same today as the previous three Saturdays, “The numbers are nice, but I think it was a similar effort to what I have had every game.”
The numbers are a credit that the junior gives to the defensive line, “The D-line did a great job of flushing when we were in our third down package. They (the plays) just came to me.”
Borland was a keystone in a Badger defense that held UTEP to 108 yards of offense in the first half and just 77 total rushing yards.
Running backs give Wisconsin’s run game legs
The Badgers had their two longest running plays of the year on a 26-yard TD run by Melvin Gordon in the fourth quarter and a 22-yard run by Montee Ball in the first quarter. James White contributed a pair of touchdowns and together the trio fueled a 213-yard running game Saturday afternoon.
White scored his first TD of the season on a three-yard run in the second quarter and Gordon found the end zone for the first time on a 26-yard run in the fourth quarter, roles both were ready for when Ball exited the game early with an injury.
“It was good,” remarked White. “As soon as Montee (Ball) went down, it was mine and Melvin’s turn to come out there and help lead the team to victory.”