MADISON-- There was no lack of familiarity on the Wisconsin sidelines when it came to BYU.
Despite it being the first time the two programs had met since Sept. 20, 1980, Badgers’ head coach Gary Andersen had more than his fair share of memories against his old in-state rival from his days coaching at Utah and Utah State.
Meeting the Cougars for the 10th consecutive season as a coach, Andersen made sure his team was prepared for the unique challenge BYU presented, as linebacker Chris Borland and the Wisconsin defense led the way in a 27-17 win.
"It’s a big victory when you grow up and that’s the team (BYU) you’re not supposed to like from the time you start learning things," Andersen said. "We all know I have great respect for BYU…it’s a competitive team. It’s a big win for us at the University of Wisconsin."
Stifling the BYU (6-3) rushing tandem of quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams—who both averaged over 100 rushing yards per game entering Saturday—the Wisconsin (7-2, 4-1) defense bottled up the elusive duo for a combined 129 yards on the ground.
Coming back in his first game from injury, Borland made his presence felt through the entire game, recording 13 tackles and two sacks, as Hill often found himself being chased by Borland in pursuit.
"It was great to be back with the bye week and missing a game and only playing a quarter," Borland said. "We really controlled the game for the majority of it. Slipped up a bit late, but we contained them and the quarterback, which was huge."
Leading Wisconsin offensively was senior tailback James White, who played the role of pacemaker throughout the game with arguably his most complete game to date.
With 147 yards on the ground and two touchdowns and six catches out of the backfield for 47 yards and another touchdown, White also made several key blocks in blitz pickup to give starting quarterback Joel Stave the time he needed to convert crucial throws.
Getting things started offensively for the Badgers with a four-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the game, White gave Wisconsin an early 7-0 lead as the Badgers’ student section was still largely filing in to their seats.
"We thought that they had two good football players in James White and Melvin Gordon," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. "We were surprised a little bit when one of our best tacklers…[White] made him miss on the first or second drive coming around."
The rest of the quarter resulted in a push-and-pull effort between the two teams, as the UW defense held BYU out of the endzone on a late first quarter drive to hold them to a field goal, making the score 7-3.
After a Jack Russell field goal brought the Badgers lead back to 10-3, White followed up with another touchdown, this time a five-yard reception from Stave on a late release route in the waning seconds of the second quarter.
White finished off his night with a decisive 14-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, shaking off BYU safety Craig Bills in the process to ice the game for Wisconsin.
It was the third time in the last four games White has gone over the 100-yard mark on the ground and the sixth time this season. For White, it’s just a result of added urgency from the knowledge that he’s approaching his final stretch of games in his college career.
"It’s definitely going by fast for me," White said. "I have to cherish these moments…I’m going to go out there and leave it all out there for my team."
Thanks to White’s performance and the defense holding the Cougars to just 163 yard rushing, almost 100 under their average, the Badgers were able to weather a few miscues against the pass, as BYU senior receiver Cody Hoffman caught seven balls for 113 yards and two touchdowns against the Wisconsin secondary.
The performance cemented Hoffman as BYU’s all-time leader in receiving yards and also added to his mark as BYU’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns with scoring receptions of 34 and five yards.
The Badgers tried to counter Hoffman by bringing safety Dezmen Southward up to the line to play him man-to-man in several instances but struggled to keep him jammed on the line.
"Hoffman is so physical," Andersen said. "You got to have some length to stay with him. They caught a great contested ball on a fade in the second half. I don’t know what else you can tell Dez to do in that situation…I thought he covered him well."
Three of their five scoring drives that recorded 10 plays or more, giving the Badgers the time of possession edge over the Cougars 36:02 to 23:58, helping keep the team’s defense fresh against BYU’s fast paced spread attack.
"We’ve put together a few pretty good games in a row," Stave said. "Now it’s just on to the next week."