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Replay and React: The good and bad from Saturday's win

Underwhelming would be one way to describe Wisconsin's 31-28 victory over Indiana Saturday.  Yet, despite the small margin of victory, the Badgers were in control throughout virtually the entire game.  Wisconsin built a ten-point halftime lead and withstood a late Hoosier rally for its second straight win.  Head coach Bret Bielema admitted this was far from a perfect performance.

"I think our guys knew on Sunday that they had to watch a game that they weren’t real clean at," Bielema said.  "[We] didn’t do all the things that we had been doing during the course of the season to have success."

Still, it is tough to complain when three Badgers had 100-yard days offensively and the Wisconsin defense held the Hoosiers to 63 rushing yards.  While Indiana shares the cellar of the Big Ten with Michigan at 1-5, Wisconsin is not the only team that has had to work to defeat them.  The Hoosiers held fourth-quarter leads on the road three different times this season, only to watch each of them evaporate.

Give the Badgers credit for taking care of business on the road and keeping their hopes of a 10-2 season alive.

Let's get to the highlights:

The Good

Running Game - It is becoming a theme when Wisconsin plays Indiana, but Bielema and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst were determined to dominate on the ground against the Big Ten's eighth-ranked rushing defense.  John Clay wore down the Hoosiers in the first half, carrying 15 times for 134 yards and a touchdown.  When he was unable to return in the second period because of stomach pains and a possible concussion, true freshman Montee Ball carried the load.  Ball's number was called 27 times and he piled up 115 yards and two touchdowns.  As a team, the Badgers ran for 294 yards, three touchdowns and a 5.4-yard average per carry.  The coaches' faith in Ball was tested when Clay went down, and they could not have given him a stronger vote of confidence, essentially assigning him the task of protecting the Badgers' lead.

Nick Toon - The redshirt sophomore wide receiver had what Bielema called his most complete game as a Badger.  Toon caught five passes for 123 yards, none of which were more important than his 17-yard reception on 3rd-and-8 with Wisconsin clinging to a three-point lead in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.  He continues to demonstrate big-play potential, hauling in a 44-yard pass Saturday.  Toon's development is an encouraging sign for a relatively young offense, and his presence as a legitimate threat in the passing game opens up holes in opposing defenses for the Badger running backs.

Front Seven - Wisconsin continues to play the run very well defensively, holding Indiana to 63 yards rushing and maintaining its status as the league leader in conference play against the run.  The Hoosiers only gained 2.4 yards per carry against the Badger defense Saturday.  Chris Borland continued his phenomenal freshman season, recording another tackle-for-loss and a nice interception.  He has been filling in admirably for the injured Mike Taylor at linebacker.  The defensive ends led the way for the line, with O'Brien Schofield and J.J. Watt combining for three tackles-for-loss and Schofield adding a sack.

The Bad

Tight Ends - Lost in the Badgers' two-game winning streak has been the regression of star tight end Garrett Graham.  He was held without a catch against the Hoosiers and dropped a throw from quarterback Scott Tolzien that was right on the money and could have led to a score.  As Graham's receptions have decreased over the last few games, he has been whistled for more and more head-scratching penalties.  Lance Kendricks, who found success with the end-around play against Purdue, was also quiet in this one, catching only one ball.

Secondary - The defensive backs allowed Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell to complete 25 of his 35 pass attempts for 323 yards and three touchdowns.  Even when considering the Hoosiers had to throw often to come from behind, that is not good defense.  Give Chris Maragos credit for his interception, but Niles Brinkley, Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith had no answer for the Indiana wide receivers.  Big pass plays by the Hoosiers were what stood between Wisconsin and a more convincing victory.

Return Game - David Gilreath's first two returns of this game should be his last of the season.  He lost the opening kickoff in the sun and was unable to field it, letting it bounce through the end zone for a touchback.  Then, after the Badger defense forced an Indiana punt, Gilreath could not catch the ball cleanly.  The Hoosiers recovered the fumble, took over with good field position and scored their first points of the game.  From there, Maurice Moore took over on punt returns and Isaac Anderson on kickoff returns.  Moore is now suspended indefinitely after being charged with OWI early Sunday morning.  Wisconsin ranks 101st in the country in punt returns and 112th in kickoff returns on the season.  This unit has to improve, or the calls for Bielema to hire a full-time special teams coach will only grow louder.


-Jake Harris