MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Badgers (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) suddenly have a
snazzy offense to go with their superb defense.
Quarterback John Stocco threw for a career-high 297 yards and a
touchdown, and ran for two other scores, in fifth-ranked
Wisconsin's 38-14 rout of archrival Minnesota on Saturday.
"I've never seen him play like that before," said Anthony
Davis, who rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns. "That was
amazing. That just shows you what he's capable of doing."
The Badgers, 9-0 for the third time in school history, moved
into a first-place tie with idle Michigan atop the Big Ten at 6-0.
They celebrated by rushing to the Golden Gophers' sideline to
retrieve Paul Bunyan's Axe, the trophy that goes to the winner in
Division I's most-played rivalry.
"It feels great," Davis said. "I don't have to look at that
empty trophy case anymore."
And Stocco felt great about finally breaking out with a big-time
"It's nice to do some good things and finally get some points
on the board," said Stocco, whose offense piled up 525 yards and
held the ball for 44½ minutes to the Gophers' 15½.
After going seven games without scoring more than 24 points, the
Badgers scored on their first five possessions for the first time
in five years, much to the delight of a defense that had carried
the load all year.
"The best defense in the world is one that is on the
sideline," Wisconsin defensive coordinator Bret Bielema said. "It
was great to jump on their back and ride."
Wisconsin, which was averaging 21 points a game, had that by the
end of the first quarter and led 31-7 at the half.
Davis scored on two 1-yard runs and set up Stocco's 1-yard
keeper with a 21-yard scamper. Stocco also threw a 17-yard scoring
strike to Jonathan Orr, and Mike Allen kicked a 41-yard field goal.
The Gophers (6-4, 3-4), who lost for the fourth time in five
games, finally got going when Bryan Cupito led an 80-yard drive
that he capped with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ernie Wheelwright
that made it 31-7.
Stocco, a sophomore and first-year starter, had completed 14 of
18 passes by halftime for 241 yards, 30 more than his career high
of 211 at Purdue last month. He finished 19-of-26.
"An offense to do this has to have a quarterback that
functions," Badgers coach Barry Alvarez said. "We spoon-fed him
early and it's worked out well. It's not a blur anymore. He knows
where to go with the ball."
Brandon Williams, who led the Badgers with five receptions for
87 yards, said: "Every week we've been getting better and better
and better. It was a matter of time before we had an explosion.
This was a perfect time."
Wisconsin outgained Minnesota 205 yards to 31 in the first
quarter, never giving the Gophers the chance to spring their 1-2
running punch of Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney. Maroney
finished with 57 yards on eight carries and Barber had 34 yards on
"Our defense didn't seem like it could stop anything the whole
first half," Gophers coach Glen Mason said.
Maroney broke free for a 31-yard touchdown run down the left
sideline in the third quarter to make it 31-14, but the Badgers
responded with a 15-play, 80-yard drive capped by Stocco's second
touchdown, a 2-yard run on a naked bootleg.
Defensive end Erasmus James returned from a high ankle sprain
and played on a handful of passing downs in the first half,
disrupting the Gophers' air game. His presence was felt immediately
when he deflected Cupito's pass on his first snap and forced a
hurry on the next one.
"I thought I was pretty effective when I was in, but as the
points went up, I thought I didn't really need to play anymore and
I should just get another week's worth of rest," James said.
The Gophers entered the game as the Big Ten's top-scoring
offense and owner of the league's best rushing game, but they
gained just 73 yards on the ground, 193 below their average.
"I firmly believe you win championships with defense, and
that's got to be one of the best defenses in the country," Mason
And for one day, an offense that was even more impressive.