Air attack returns as Badgers blowout Michigan

One thing was obvious in Wisconsin's 45-24 win over Michigan Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium: the Badgers were going to get the passing game going again.

At times you had to wonder why offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was calling for passes on first and second down when he could be running the ball for sure yardage with John Clay, the Big Ten's leading rusher.

After quarterback Scott Tolzien's second turnover -- a lost fumble returned for a touchdown to give Michigan a 17-14 lead -- you really had to wonder if Chryst was going to scale the offense back and keep the ball on the ground.

Think again. Call it stubborness or call it brilliance, but that's exactly when Tolzien and UW passing game showed up.

Tolzien hit Garrett Graham for a six-yard gain and then found Nick Toon for a 36-yard gain before hitting Graham on the next play for 23 more yards. In three plays, Tolzien took Wisconsin from its own 32 yard line all the way to the Michigan three-yard line.

Clay took over from there, scoring his only touchdown of the game as UW took a 21-17 lead and never looked back.

Tolzien finished the day with four touchdown passes and 240 yards on 16-of-24 passing. If that wasn't enough, he added a one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that gave UW a 42-24 advantage.

After boasting one of the more balanced offenses in the country earlier in the season, the Badgers' passing game had disappeared over the last four games. Also disappearing was Graham, UW's heralded tight end who accumulated only seven catches in the last four games, including only three in the last three games.

Saturday Graham caught five balls for 62 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown catch that put Wisconsin on the board first.

Sophomore wide receiver Nick Toon, who had remained one of the few bright spots in the UW passing game, continued his breakout season with five catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. His 15-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter was arguably the best catch of the year for the Badgers as Toon reached over cornerback Donovan Warren and made the catch despite Warren being called for pass interference.

Perhaps the best sign for the UW offense Saturday was that while Tolzien was busy throwing touchdown passes, John Clay and the running game didn't skip a beat. Clay finished with 156 yards on 26 carries, while freshman Montee Ball added 62 yards on 16 carries. 

Give offensive coordinator Paul Chryst credit for not bailing on his gameplan early when Tolzien was struggling. If Wisconsin is going to finish strong and compete in a bowl game against a top-tier opponent, its offense is going to have to be two-dimensional.

Saturday, Wisconsin proved it has a passing game that must be respected and that can only do wonders for a running game that has already dominated the Big Ten.

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