Despite starting the season with a new quarterback, Wisconsin was able to pick up right where it left off in 2006. Now, the Badgers will again look to Tyler Donovan to help them extend their longest winning streak in nearly seven years.
Donovan and the fifth-ranked Badgers seek their 11th straight victory when they visit UNLV on Saturday.
Wisconsin concluded last season with nine consecutive wins to finish 12-1, its best record since an 11-1 mark in 1998.
The Badgers, who haven’t lost since falling to Michigan on Sept. 23, knocked off Washington State 42-21 at Camp Randall Stadium in Saturday’s opener. Donovan keyed the victory by going 19-of-29 for 284 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, and also rushed for a TD.
The fifth-year senior came into the game with five career scoring passes but connected for two with wide receiver Luke Swan, who had eight receptions for a career-high 170 yards. Donovan had played in just 10 games for Badgers, making five appearances last season - two starts - as John Stocco’s backup.
“Last year was last year,” said Donovan, who beat out junior transfer Allan Evridge for the starting spot. “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.”
Donovan, named Big Ten co-player of the week, now has an opportunity to help the Badgers to their first 11-game win streak since they took 11 in a row from Oct. 2, 1999-Sept. 16, 2000.
It may be easier for the Badgers to reach that mark if P.J. Hill can build on his performance from Saturday, when he ran for 84 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. The sophomore, who amassed 1,569 yards and 15 touchdowns to win Big Ten freshman of the year honors, will face a UNLV squad that allowed 161.4 rushing yards per game last season.
While Wisconsin’s offense met last year’s standards in the opener, its defense wasn’t nearly as dominant. The Badgers gave up 253.1 yards a game and were second in the nation with 12.1 points per contest allowed in 2006, but gave up 328 yards and had already surrendered 14 points with five minutes left in the first quarter last week.
“We were surprised - we didn’t think we’d be down at all in this game,” cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu said. “But it’s football. You’re going to face adversity, and I think we responded.”
Wisconsin is 5-2 against UNLV and has won four of the previous five meetings, including an 18-3 home victory Sept. 11, 2004 in the last matchup.
The Badgers have taken two straight in Las Vegas and are 2-1 there against the Rebels. In the most recent meeting at Sam Boyd Stadium on Aug. 31, 2002, power was lost and the game was ruled final with the Badgers leading 27-7 with 7:41 left in what was termed the “Blackout Bowl.”
UNLV finished 2-10 last season - its third straight year with two victories - but is looking to open 2-0 for the first time since 1999. The Rebels are also aiming for a third straight home-opening win.
After allowing conference highs in yards (387.3 per game) and points (31.8) last year, UNLV held Utah State to 234 yards in a 23-16 win Thursday. Frank Summers ran for an 11-yard score with 1:02 left to help the Rebels to their first road win in 16 tries since defeating Brigham Young on Oct. 8, 2004.
In his first career start, redshirt freshman Travis Dixon completed 12 of 20 passes for 141 yards and ran for 129 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.