MADISON -- If anyone had doubts Wisconsin was going to abandon the program's traditional offensive strategy under a new head coach, they were quickly erased Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium.
With a rushing performance similar to that of 2012 Big Ten Championship Game, Wisconsin (1-0) had three tailbacks amass 100 yards or more in a 45-0 stomping of UMass.
"Tremendous victory," Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said. "Did a lot of good things today. I thought the offensive line was definitely worth noting in protections and the run."
The Minutemen never really posed any major threats to the Badgers' new-look 3-4 defensive scheme, as three first half penalties stalled promising drives. UMass only pulled within scoring distance once but failed to convert, as a 40-yard field goal attempt by sophomore kicker Blake Lucas' 40-yard attempt sailed left in the second quarter.
"We had our share of missed assignments, pre-snap penalties, turnovers and missed tackles," UMass head coach Charley Monar said. "And those things added up to the afternoon you saw."
The dominant performance on the ground helped to cover up a game of highs and lows in the pass game for Wisconsin. Making just the seventh start of his career, redshirt sophomore quarterback Joel Stave finished the first half 4-for-11 through the air for just 36 yards, struggling with his control on throws and drops from his targets.
That was all quickly erased in the second half, as Wisconsin offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig decided to put the ball in Stave's hands on the Badgers' first play of the second half. On a simple play action, Abbrederis ran to the center of the field, beating UMass defensive back Trey Dudley-Giles for a 63-yard touchdown reception.
"It was important, not just for me, but for the whole offense," Stave said. "We didn't play as well as we would have liked in the first half, so to start out like that is great for us. That one (play call) is one that I know we can get the offense going with and when you have a chance to take a shot like that, I really enjoy that."
The two connected again for a long touchdown strike two drives later, a 57-yard heave that saw Abbrederis again catch the ball away from Dudley-Giles. The two touchdown catches were the only ones for Abbrederis on the day.
It took the Wisconsin offense just over two minutes to start the Andersen era off with a bang, as senior tailback James White scampered 47 yards on the second offensive play of the game to help set up the Badgers first touchdown-a five yard scramble from redshirt sophomore quarterback Joel Stave.
White made the most of the 11 carries he was given, totaling 143 yards and a touchdown. Not to be outdone, redshirt sophomore Melvin Gordon gained 144 yards and scored a touchdown of his own, including a game-breaking 70-yard touchdown in the second quarter to make the score 17-0.
After both were pulled midway through the third quarter with the score 38-0, it was time for true freshman Corey Clement to add insult to injury. Gaining 101 yards on 16 carries, Clement scored the Badgers' final touchdown.
"It was actually the best moment I've ever felt," Clement said. "I'm used to about 1,000 fans at a game, but to see the big sea of red once I entered the end zone, it was just crazy. Everybody was cheering and all I could do is smile."
-- A scary moment for Wisconsin came in the first quarter when 2012 first-team All-Big Ten wide receiver Jared Abbrederis went down in the first quarter on a high pass from Stave. Abbrederis said he just had the wind knocked out of him.
-- Redshirt sophomore fullback Derek Watt said he felt something wrong with his hamstring
-- Perhaps one of the few aspects of the Badgers' performance under Andersen that needed work was the team's singing of "On Wisconsin" after the game.
"We knew the words, but it was kind of hard to time it up," Andersen joked. "Maybe we need to get the band over here. It took a minute...I would not say we were game ready to sing ‘On Wisconsin'."