Wisconsin stops Buffalo for first 11-win regular season

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin snapped out of what looked like a senior slump on Senior Day, scoring two touchdowns just before halftime to pull away from a surprisingly pesky Buffalo team.

After the Badgers' defense turned the Bulls away with a goal-line stand late in the second quarter, P.J. Hill ran for a score and Tyler Donovan threw a touchdown pass in the last 2 minutes of the half to help spur No. 12 Wisconsin to a 35-3 victory at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.

The Badgers (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) secured the first 11-win regular season in school history and appear headed to a second straight berth in the Capital One Bowl -- although some players said they still hoped something odd could happen in the polls and the Badgers ended up in the Bowl Championship Series.

"I would say we're a very good team that deserves as big a venue as we can," Badgers coach Bret Bielema said.

The Bulls (2-9, 1-7 Mid-American) continued a tough season under first-year coach Turner Gill, but they didn't go away easily.

"I'm very proud of our players," Gill said. "They played hard and they were very competitive today. That is something we talk about, being competitive on every single play. Our guys gave a great effort."

The Badgers started fast, picking off a pass and throwing for a touchdown on the first two plays of the game. But then they nearly let Buffalo come back and take the lead.

"We came out firing on all cylinders, but we kind of got lackadaisical after that first drive," defensive end Joe Monty said.

Buffalo trailed 7-3 and was poised to take the lead after Bulls quarterback Tony Paoli completed a 43-yard pass to wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt to set up first-and-goal at the 3 with just over 4 minutes left in the half. But Wisconsin's defense stopped Buffalo on three straight plays and the Bulls missed a field goal.

"It'd really be an insult to us if they got in the end zone, especially after a big play like that," cornerback Jack Ikewuono said.

The Badgers took over, and Donovan -- who made his second straight start filling in for injured starter John Stocco -- completed a 62-yard pass to wide receiver Travis Beckum to give Wisconsin first-and-goal on the Buffalo 3.

Hill ran in for a touchdown two plays later, giving the Badgers a 14-3 lead.

Roosevelt answered with a kickoff return deep into Wisconsin territory, but a replay review showed that he stepped out of bounds at his own 49-yard line. Monty then sacked Paoli and forced a fumble, and Donovan threw a 35-yard touchdown to wide-open receiver Luke Swan to give the Badgers a 21-3 halftime lead.

Hill lost his second fumble of the game on Wisconsin's first drive of the second half and was injured on the play. Hill returned midway through the third quarter, and had a touchdown run called back because of a holding penalty. After he nearly fumbled again later on the drive, backup running back Lance Smith scored to put the Badgers ahead 28-3.

Bielema said he didn't think Hill, the Big Ten's leading rusher as a redshirt freshman, was wearing down at the end of the season.

"He just didn't hold onto the ball the way we need him to," Bielema said.

Running back Dywon Rowan added another touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Donovan had 308 yards passing in place of Stocco, who hurt his shoulder in the Badgers' victory over Penn State on Nov. 4.

The Badgers got off to a fast start when Ikegwuonu intercepted a pass from Paoli on the first play of the game, giving the ball to the Badgers' offense on the Buffalo 26. On the next play Donovan hit Paul Hubbard on a slant pass for a touchdown, and Wisconsin took a 7-0 lead only 56 seconds into the game.

But Buffalo came back with a 47-yard wide receiver screen to Roosevelt, setting up a 34-yard field goal by Adam Tanalski to cut the lead to 7-3 with 11:07 left in the first quarter.

Gill said his players showed their resiliency by not giving up.

"They didn't let it bother them," Gill said. "They didn't fold their tent. They came back and offensively took the ball down the field and got three points out of it and put ourselves back in the right situation."

Buffalo forced a punt but fumbled on its next possession, giving the ball back to the Badgers at the Buffalo 26-yard line. But Wisconsin failed to get a first down -- and Taylor Mehlhaff's 44-yard attempt bounced off the crossbar no good.

The Bulls punted, and the Badgers used two long completions to wide receiver Travis Beckum to march to the Buffalo 16-yard line. But Hill fumbled a toss on third-and-5 at the 11-yard line and Buffalo's Trevor Scott blocked Mehlhaff's 35-yard field goal attempt, keeping the score 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.