James White powers Badgers to 27-17 victory over BYU

BYU and Wisconsin came in wanting to run the ball effectively, but it was Wisconsin that got the job done on Saturday as the Badgers won in front of 80,191 fans at Camp Randall Stadium. 

"It's a great win," said Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen. "Kids played extremely hard. I thought that was maybe, overall, our best team victory. Just every aspect of the game—offense, defense, special teams being a factor in a positive way. It's never going to perfect, but we knew it was going to be a battle, it was going to be physical."

James White, the senior running back, was the catalyst for Wisconsin—rushing for 147 yards and catching a career high 6 passes for 47 yards. It all added up to 194 yards and 3 total touchdowns in the running back's most complete game of the season. 

"I'm just trying to be as versatile as possible out there," said White after the game. "Be sharp on pass protection. Be a viable option in the receiving game and don't miss any cuts as a running back. I'm trying to play as complete as possible."

Wisconsin's day started off hot, driving 76 yards on 11 plays for a touchdown on its first possession. James White keyed the drive with a 27 yard reception on a 3rd down and capped it off with a 4 yard touchdown run the next play for a 7-0 Badgers lead. 

It was followed up by a 3 & out by the defense and an interception by safety Tanner McEvoy, but UW failed to convert on the opportunity as Kenzel Doe coughed up the ball inside the BYU 30-yard line on what would've been a 1st down. 

It would be a sign of things to come for the Badgers as 1st downs were at a premium in the half.

Wisconsin was held to just three possessions that netted 1st downs. However, all three also resulted in points for the Badgers, who led 17-3 at the half.

All three drives also had another thing in common—11 plays for the score. 

After the Doe turnover, BYU marched 13 plays in 3 minutes, 20 seconds for 67 yards but the Badger defense stiffened up and forced BYU into a field goal to make it 7-3. 

From there the Wisconsin defense took over, allowing the Cougars quarterback, Taysom Hill, just 4 yards on 8 carries in the half. He finished the half just 7-18 passing for 56 yards as well. 

The Badger run game had it's issues early on, but a few big runs opened things up quickly and Wisconsin ended up rushing for 229 yards on the day. 

Wisconsin also played one of it's most penalty free games of the season, committing just 2 penalties for 10 yards on the game. 

The struggles early on showed in an inability to sustain drives, but the defense never wavered, giving the Badgers offense chance after chance to right the ship.

With 9:55 left in the 2nd quarter, the Badgers were still searching for their first 1st down since the opening drive of the game.

Melvin Gordon provided it with a 23 yard run to the Wisconsin 42-yard line. 

James White followed it up with a 22 yard run of his own, and after seeing the drive stall at the BYU 20-yard line, Jack Russell knocked home his first field goal as Badger from 37 yards out—making it 10-3 Wisconsin. 

Wisconsin held BYU to a 3-and-out on its next possession and got the ball back with 2:22 left in the first half. 

That's when Joel Stave went to work, leading the Badgers on an 11 play, 65 yard drive that ended with him completing a 5-yard pass to James White to put the Badgers up 17-3 at the half. 

Stave finished the half 16-of-22 for 144 yards and a touchdown. He also had an unlucky interception literally fall in to the arms of BYU's star linebacker Kyle Van Noy. 

Long, sustained drives were the key for the Badgers the whole day on Saturday, scoring on just one drive shorter than 10 plays. 

Wisconsin's lone scoring drive that wound up shorter than 10 plays, ended in Jack Russell's second career field goal early in the 3rd quarter, putting Wisconsin up 20-3. 

It would be all the Badgers ended up needing though, as they tacked on a James White 14-yard touchdown run just 1 minute, 9 seconds into the final stanza. 

Stave would turn in another efficient performance, going 23-of-32 for 196 yards and the one touchdown and interception. More importantly, he also only took one sack from a defense that came in with 16 for the season so far.

Yet, Stave still sees room for growth for this team. 

"There's always room for improvement," said Stave. "You always want to look at those plays that didn't quite hit, didn't quite work and say 'what could we've done better.' So, that's where we're at. We're playing effectively. We're playing efficiently, but we always want to keep getting better."

Wisconsin is now on a four game winning streak and with games against improving Indiana and Minnesota up next, the Badgers are far from done being tested. 

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com