After a convincing 52-7 win over Maryland last week, the Wisconsin Badgers looked to continue their impressive play this week in their first ever conference matchup against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. There were sloppy conditions in Piscataway on Saturday, but the cold, rain and wind had no impact on the Badgers' defense, as they turned in yet another impressive performance against the Scarlet Knights.
The Scarlet Knights' defense packed the box tight to start the game in attempt to shut down the Badgers' prolific rushing attack. Melvin Gordon was stifled in the Badgers' first drive of the game, carrying the ball twice for -2 rushing yards before an eventual punt. Rutgers continued to bring the pressure on their next defensive drive, holding the Badgers to their second three-and-out to start the game.
Wisconsin started the game out strong on defense for the second straight week. After allowing a first down on their first defensive possession, the Badgers' defense buckled down and forced the Knights to punt three plays later. Wisconsin continued to overwhelm Rutgers' offense for the rest of the quarter, holding the Knights to -5 and -6 yards on their next two drives. After suffering a knee injury last week against Nebraska, Gary Nova started the game at quarterback for Rutgers. Nova struggled in the first quarter, going 3-for-9 for 13 yards.
The momentum swung in the Badgers' favor with 4:24 remaining in the first quarter when Badgers' A.J. Jordan blocked punter Tim Gleeson's punt to set the Badgers up with great field position on the Knights' 20-yard line. Tanner McEvoy was subbed in for Joel Stave before the Badgers took the field. Three plays later, on third-and-three, Gordon found the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown to give the Badgers a 7-0 lead.
McEvoy stayed in as Wisconsin took the field again. After picking up two first downs on the ground to start, the Badgers' drive halted due to several miscues by McEvoy. On first down, McEvoy overthrew a wide-open Alex Erickson on a deep pattern that would have been a sure touchdown. On the next play, he overthrew Sam Arneson on a short route and the Badgers were forced to punt two plays later from the Knights' 41-yard line.
On the next drive, the Badgers' defense made a key stop on third-and-one to force the Knights to punt from their own 19-yard line. Stave was swapped back in for McEvoy as the Badgers took the field on their own 48-yard line. Two plays into the drive, Corey Clement broke free for a 43-yard touchdown to give the Badgers a 14-0 lead.
Nova's struggles continued on Rutgers' next offensive possession. After a 20-yard completion to Leonte Carroo moved the Knights up to their own 41-yard line. However, two plays later Nova threw an interception directly to Marcus Trotter, who returned the the ball down to the Knights' 32-yard line.
The Badgers had two key third down conversions to extend their next drive-- the first was a 3-yard rush by Gordon on third-and-one, the second came off of a key 18-yard completion from Stave to Troy Fumagalli on third-and-15. But Wisconsin's offense sputtered in the red zone and the Badgers had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Rafael Gaglianone to make the score 17-0 with 3:14 left in the first half.
With 2:50, Wisconsin got the ball back on the Rutgers' 43-yard line and moved 34 yards on nine plays. The Badgers' offense moved down to the Knights' 9-yard line, before running out of time and settling for a 27-yard field goal by Gaglianone to end the half with a 20-0 lead.
At the half, Wisconsin had out-gained Rutgers in total yards 161 to 52. The Badgers' defense held the Knights to only 33 passing yards and 19 rushing yards in the half. Gordon ran for 56 rushing yards on 14 carries and a touchdown, while Clement added 52 yards on four carries and touchdown. The passing game was a non-factor for most of the half, as Stave went 3-for-9, throwing for 33 yards. McEvoy completed one pass for six yards out of three attempts.
After the Knights failed to pick up a first down on the first drive of the third quarter, the Badgers took over from their own 49-yard line. On his first carry of the second half, Gordon ran 51 yards for a score to put the Badgers up 27-0.
On their next offensive drive, the Badgers drove 44 yards on nine plays, before kicking a 46-yard field goal with 6:21 remaining in the third quarter. Stave completed three passes during the drive for 38 yards, while Gordon ran the ball three times for 15 yards. Following the field goal, Nova was benched for Chris Laviano on the the Knights' next drive. But the change had a little impact, as the Knights were still unable to sustain a drive on offense.
McEvoy took over for Stave when the Badgers' regained possession with 4:44 left in the third quarter. On third-and-seven, Anthony Cioffi intercepted an errant McEvoy pass and the Knights took over in Badgers territory. However, Laviano and the Rutgers' offense were unable to move the ball, turning it over on downs on the Wisconsin 38-yard line.
Wisconsin took over with 1:25 remaining in the third quarter and proceeded to move 62 yards in seven plays on their way to yet another score. Clement carried the ball five times during the drive for 52 yards, finishing with a 36-yard touchdown to extend the Badgers' lead to 37-0 with 12:56 left in the fourth quarter.
The Badgers and the Scarlet Knights exchanged punts for the remainder of the game, with the final score ending 37-0 in favor of the Badgers. Rutgers finished the game with a mere 139 total yards on offense (63 passing, 76 rushing)--averaging 2.48 yards per play. The Badgers ended with 385 total yards (87 passing, 298 rushing)--holding onto the ball for 35:16, while Rutgers only had the ball for 24:44. Clement led all rushers with 131 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Gordon finished with 128 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.