Sept. 24, 2011
BY KARL ANDERSON
UW Athletic Communications
MADISON, Wis. -- It had been nearly four season since Wisconsin saw two receivers have the kind of days that Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis had on Saturday against South Dakota.
Toon tied a career high with seven catches for a career-best 155 yards and two touchdowns, his second career game with at least 100 receiving yards. Abbrederis, meanwhile, recorded his first career 100-yard game, catching five passes for 101 yards and a TD.
Their performances marked the first time the Badgers had a pair of 100-yard receivers in the same contest since Paul Hubbard (134) and Travis Beckum (106) did it against Michigan on Nov. 10, 2007.
Toon did nearly all of his damage in the first half, catching six passes for 151 yards and two scores. The first pass thrown his way was a sign of the things to come.
Facing a second-and-1 from the South Dakota 37-yard line in the first quarter, Russell Wilson lofted a pass down the UW sideline and Toon went up with one hand to haul the pass in.
Holding a 17-3 lead, Wilson again found Toon to push the score to 31-3 at the half.
After a 14-yard pass from Wilson to Bradie Ewing, Wilson hit Toon for a 5-yard pickup. On the next play, Wilson threw a swing pass to Toon on his right. Thanks to key blocking from Abbrederis, Toon tiptoed down the sideline before using his speed to turn a short pass into a 59-yard touchdown reception, the longest play of his career.
On their next possession, the Badgers worked their two-minute offense. The drive began with a 45-yard pass from Wilson to Toon. Then, after working the ball down to the Coyotes’ 2-yard line, Wilson found Toon streaking across the back of the end zone for Toon’s second touchdown of the game.
Wisconsin’s first drive of the second half was more of the same for the offense.
On the very first play, Abbrederis was able to get past the South Dakota secondary for a 51-yard touchdown.
Abbrederis would catch two more passes on the day, including a 13-yard reception in the fourth quarter that helped set up a Melvin Gordon touchdown two plays later.
Historic offense helps UW to perfect non-conference season
Wisconsin has now started the season 4-0 for the third straight year, the Badgers’ longest streak of 4-0 starts since 1914-16.
A big reason for UW’s success has been its high-powered offense. In its last two games, Wisconsin has accomplished something that no other team in school history has done.
A week after rolling up 621 yards of offense vs. Northern Illinois, Wisconsin churned out 612 total yards of offense against the Coyotes. That marks the first time in school history that UW has posted back-to-back games with 600 yards of offense.
Entering the 2011 season, Wisconsin had only eclipsed the 600-yard mark 11 times in school history. Now the Badgers have done it in consecutive weeks.
Last week against the Huskies, the Badgers used a balanced attack with 355 passing yards and 266 rushing yards. Saturday featured nearly identical numbers, as UW ran for 267 yards and passed for 345 more.
In addition to the big performances from Toon and Abbrederis, Wilson completed 19 of 25 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns. On the ground, James White ran nine times for 95 yards with a score while Montee Ball posted two touchdowns and 88 yards on 15 carries.
Wilson is the fourth UW quarterback to throw for at least 300 yards in consecutive games, joining Randy Wright (3 times – Oct. 29, Nov. 5 and Nov. 12, 1983), Darrell Bevell (Nov. 11 and Nov. 18, 1995) and Jim Sorgi (Nov. 8 and Nov. 15, 2003).
He is the first Badger to throw for at least 325 yards twice in the same season.
Defense picks off the Coyotes
In terms of scoring alone, the Wisconsin defense has been impressive so far in 2011.
The team has allowed only 34 points through the first four games of the season, the best four-game start to a season since surrendering only 19 points in 2004.
In addition, The Badgers have given up 17 total points in their last three games, the team’s best three-game stretch since allowing 17 total points in wins over Arizona (9-7), Penn State (16-3) and Illinois (24-7) in 2004.
While the unit has been strong, some were wondering when the turnovers would come. The Badgers had only one through the first three games, a fumble recovery against Oregon State.
Those questions were answered on Saturday as Shelton Johnson and Chris Borland each intercepted a pass.
In the first quarter, South Dakota used a 17-yard run to get to the UW 37-yard line. On the next play, Dante Warren tried to fit a pass over the top, but Johnson come in from his safety position to record the first interception of his career.
The next USD possession again saw the Coyotes get into Wisconsin territory. Facing a third-and-6 on the Wisconsin 39, Warren again took to the air. This time it was Borland who picked off the errant pass.
Borland returned the interception, which was the second of his career, 29 yards.
The ball-hawking mentality of Wisconsin’s defense appears to be on the rise.