MADISON-- After struggling a week ago in the first half against UMass, Wisconsin’s Joel Stave made sure to leave no doubt against Tennessee Tech Saturday at Camp Randall.
Spreading the ball around to eight different players, the Badgers’ sophomore quarterback threw all three of his touchdowns in the first half as Wisconsin (2-0) walloped Tennessee Tech (0-1), 48-0.
"Joel’s coming around," Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said. "There were times were his leadership appeared to be even better today than it has throughout camp and last game."
Stave, who went 24-for-29 through the air for 219 yards, also got help from his backfield, as three Badger running backs ran for over 100 yards apiece for the second straight week.
Leading the effort was true freshman Corey Clement, who made the most of his 13 carries late in the game to rush for 149 yards and two touchdowns -- one a 75-yard sprint. Behind him was redshirt sophomore Melvin Gordon, who needed just nine carries to accumulate 140 yards and a touchdown. Senior James White also recorded 109 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
"He topped me and James today, which is impressive for a true freshman," Gordon said of Clement. "We’re excited about the way he’s playing."
Things started off fast and furious for the Badgers’ defense, as cornerback Darius Hilary forced a fumble from Golden Eagles running back Stephen Bush that was recovered by safety Dezmen Southward, marking the second straight week UW has forced a turnover in the first quarter.
"It fell right in my hands," Southward said of the fumble. "As a defense, it helps us out because we want to get those turnovers… it changes the game completely."
After that, Stave made quick use of the great field possession, throwing a three-yard pass to fullback Derek Straus in the right flat for a touchdown and helping the Badgers jump out to an early 7-0 lead. Straus, a redshirt sophomore starting in place of the injured Derek Watt, played solid all day, recording three catches for 10 yards and the touchdown.
Wisconsin's offense was just getting started. Two series later, Melvin Gordon took one of his nine carries for 65 yards after exploding out of a hole on the left side but was brought down just short of the endzone by Tennessee Tech’s James Huguely.
On the next play from scrimmage Stave found redshirt senior wide receiver Jared Abbrederis crossing right in the back of the end zone for the six-yard strike, giving Wisconsin an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
"I'm a little upset with myself," Gordon said laughing about being caught before the endzone. "You don't even think about it though, you move on to the next play."
That's a mantra Gordon put to use a few drives later, busting open to the left side for a 37-yard touchdown run with under five minutes left in the first half, bringing the Wisconsin lead to 21-0. The Badgers also had a chance to work a two-minute drill with their offense, as Stave led the offense on an 11-play, 94-yard touchdown drive in the first half's final minutes, capped by a touchdown pass to senior tight end Brian Wozniak.
"Offensively, the highlight that comes to me, and we have to see more of it, is the two-minute drill," Andersen said. "That was huge for us to get out from being backed, up number one, and number two, to continue down the field and execute at a high level in the two minute drill."
Defensively, the Badgers never allowed the Eagles and their spread offense a chance to do any damage, limiting the visiting FCS program to just 113 yards of total offense and a goose egg on the scoreboard a week after Tennessee Tech posted 63 points and 505 yards against Cumberland.
The shutout also marked the second consecutive week Wisconsin's defense posted a shutout, a feat that hadn't occurred in program history since 1958.
"The difference today was just the dominance up front," Tennessee Tech head coach Watson Brown said. "That was probably the most we've been just dominated at the line of scrimmage I think on both sides."
Notes: Andersen is just the third coach in the modern era (since 1946) of Wisconsin history to begin his career 2-0. The others were Dave McClain (1978) and Bret Bielema (2006). ... The Badgers last back-to-back shutouts were recorded against Miami (Fla.) and Marquette. No Big Ten team had previously done it since Ohio State in 2009. ... UW allowed 113 yards of total offense Saturday, the 9th lowest total in school history. ... The Badgers' offense went over 500 yards for the second consecutive week (606 yards Saturday) making it the first time the team has posted such marks in consecutive games since 2011 when Russell Wilson and the Badgers did so against Northern Illinois and South Dakota.