Wisconsin's offense on record-breaking pace in 1st year under Ludwig

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

A revamped coaching staff hasn't slowed down the recent success of Wisconsin offenses. The new staff, if anything, has made that side of the ball even more explosive, and the Badgers could be heading for some program records by season's end.

MADISON -- In 2005, Gary Andersen saw first-hand what Andy Ludwig could do for an offense.

Ludwig took over a Utah roster absent of tight ends and transformed his offensive philosophy from a pro-style look to a spread attack. Since being selected by Andersen for a spot on Wisconsin's staff, Ludwig has tweaked his system to mirror the Badgers' offense from a year ago, making for a seamless transition that has put the unit on a record-breaking pace.

"He fit the offense," Andersen said. "That was probably the biggest thing, his ability to be able to adapt offenses like he did when he came to Utah. But I don't know if you can ever guess the first year you'd be that explosive on the offensive side of the ball."

Wisconsin has averaged a staggering 307.9 rushing yards through 10 games, a mark that would break the program record by more than 20 yards per contest. With three games remaining in the season, including a bowl, the Badgers need just 230 more yards on the ground to surpass the school rushing record, which the 2012 team needed 14 games to accomplish.

While the passing game hasn't been as spectacular, this Wisconsin offense could go down as the best statistically in the history of the program. If the Badgers keep their current offensive pace, they would end the season with 6,575 yards of total offense, just 3 yards shy of a program record that was set in 2011's 14-game season.

"I think we have more speed on our team than we've had in the past few years." -James White

"I think we have more speed on our team than we've had in the past few years," senior running back James White said. "Coach Ludwig is going to get the ball to those guys in space, and when we do that, we have to try to bring explosive plays with it.

"(The numbers) aren't really surprising because the offense hasn't changed too much. A couple different plays here and there, a couple different schemes, but guys are paying attention to the details, listening to the plan and believing in the plan. It's been working."

The duo of White and sophomore running back Melvin Gordon has obviously been the anchor to this breakout in year one under Andersen and Ludwig. Both already have more than 1,300 yards of total offense, and Gordon has a legitimate chance to be recognized as the NCAA's all-time leader in career yards per rush by season's end.

The Badgers have also broken more 30-plus-yard runs than any other team in the country. Andersen gave much of the credit for that to Wisconsin's wide receiving corps, a group that hasn't been labeled the deepest in talent, but one that has provided the second-level blocking needed to spring long scoring runs.

"We do have guys with great speed that can make you miss," Andersen said, "but you look at this tape and you're going to continually see those extra blocks taking place down the field with those wideouts and their ability to come in and get involved with those safeties that are trying to get down into the box."

It's those little things that can sometimes make a big difference, and Ludwig hasn't needed to complicate anything for the Badgers' offense to produce like it has for the season's first 10 games.

"The things that we're doing on offense have stood the test of time," Ludwig said. "We're not trying to reinvent the wheel by any means. Football's very important to the players on this team, being successful, so they bought in and did what coach Andersen's preaching and it just kind of fed on down the line."

On top of talent, Ludwig's ability to adapt -- and the players' willingness to do the same -- has led to this year's offensive breakout.

The offensive coordinator didn't enter the season with any expectations, and he doesn't have any for the team's final three games. It's all about improvement, and if that continues, this year's offense could be remembered among the best in a program with plenty of tradition.

"To improve every week is my only expectation," Ludwig said. "I've heard those numbers being thrown around, but that's completely the last thing on our minds. Right now we're trying to get ready to compete with our biggest rival and play great on Saturday, so that's our entire focus."

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