MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Bret Bielema yanked quarterback Tyler Donovan out of the game, all right.
Right after his new starter did most of the heavy lifting in No. 7 Wisconsin's 42-21 victory over Washington State on Saturday.
Donovan, who was installed as Wisconsin's starting quarterback only 10 days ago, threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as the Badgers pulled away from the persistent Cougars in the second half.
Donovan completed 19-of-29 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns, but Bielema was most encouraged by what he heard the quarterback say to his assistant coaches on the sidelines.
"He said, 'We left some things out there today," Bielema said. "So that tells me he's going to be his own worst critic."
Donovan, a fifth-year senior, narrowly beat out junior Allan Evridge for the right to replace last year's starter, John Stocco.
And while Bielema said at the time that Donovan wouldn't have to look over his shoulder after every little mistake, the second-year head coach also made it clear that with the Badgers bringing high expectations into this season, he wouldn't hesitate to make a switch if he needed to -- a mixed message, perhaps, for a player who had started only twice in his college career.
Evridge did play on Saturday -- but only after the game was decided.
Donovan called his performance a "good starting point."
"Last year was last year," Donovan said. "This is a whole new year. I just wanted to come out and be a good leader and make some throws when we had the opportunities."
He had plenty of chances. With Washington State (0-1) focused on stopping running back P.J. Hill, last year's Big Ten freshman of the year, the Badgers had to lean on Donovan and their passing game.
Two of Donovan's touchdown passes went to wide receiver Luke Swan, who caught eight passes for a career-high 170 yards.
Washington State coach Bill Doba said his defense simply gave Donovan too much time to throw the ball.
"If any quarterback has that much time, eventually he's going to find somebody open," Doba said. "Defensively, we just did not get enough pressure on the quarterback."
Cougars quarterback Alex Brink thought the game was winnable.
"We know we're as good as the team we were playing," said Brink, who was 17-of-27 for 171 yards and a touchdown. "We leave with a bad taste in our mouths."
Wisconsin trailed 14-7 late in the first quarter but scored 21 unanswered points before halftime as Donovan got hot and the defense began to contain Brink.
Washington State tried to rally early in the third quarter after a special-teams miscue by Wisconsin. The Badgers' Ken DeBauche hit a short punt, then was flagged for illegally batting the ball forward, giving the ball to Washington State at the Wisconsin 42.
Brink drove the Cougars deep into Badgers territory, then found wide receiver Brandon Gibson on a 7-yard slant pattern for a touchdown, cutting the Badgers' lead to 28-21.
Donovan answered by leading the Badgers on another extended drive that ended with Hill scoring his second touchdown.
Hill carried 21 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns, but he nearly cost the Badgers a chance to put the game out of reach.
Stuck at midfield and trailing by two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter, Washington State tried a fake punt. But punter Darryl Blunt's lazy lob pass was intercepted by Wisconsin's Aaron Henry.
"The snap was high, so it threw off the timing," Blunt said. "I had no time to look, I just had to get rid of it."
The Badgers drove deep into Cougars territory, where Hill fumbled on first-and-goal but was able to recover. Donovan scored on a quarterback sneak on second-and-goal, allowing the Badgers to take a 42-21 lead.
It was an off day for the Badgers defense, at least by the standards set last season.
Wisconsin was No. 2 nationally in scoring defense in 2006, allowing only 12.1 points per game, and the Badgers held all but one opponent to 12 points or less at home.
"We were surprised -- we didn't think we'd be down at all in this game," said cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu, who hobbled into the locker room just before halftime because of leg cramps but returned in the second half. "But it's football. You're going to face adversity, and I think we responded."
Washington State's 157 yards rushing did allow them to leave Madison with some sense of accomplishment.
"I never would have thought we could have done that against them," Doba said.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Tyler Donovan found Garrett Graham and Luke Swan in the second quarter to break open a 14-14 game.
Gameball goes to... Donovan. The senior QB filled John Stocco's shoes: 284 yards and three TDs in the air, plus another on the ground.
Stat of the game... 0-6. With the 42-21 loss, Washington State's record dropped to 0-6 all-time in openers against top-10 teams.