MADISON, Wis. -- After a lackluster first half, the Wisconsin Badgers
were looking for a way to jump-start its offense.
Aside from many of the players bouncing up and down to "Jump Around," playing on the public-address system at the end of the third quarter, coach Gary Andersen wanted a big play to rock Camp Randall Stadium.
"I'm sure Luds (offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig) and the other offensive staff discussed that as they came out of halftime," said Andersen, who made his Wisconsin coaching debut with a resounding 45-0 win over Massachusetts.
"If it's up in the air and it's close, Abby (Jared Abbrederis
) is going to come down with it."
And with Wisconsin's first play of the second half, Joel Stave
hooked up with Abbrederis for a 65-yard bomb that ignited the 76,306 fans.
Up to that point, Stave didn't look comfortable.
The newly tabbed starter was only 4-for-11 for 36 yards with an interception in the first half and couldn't lead the Badgers into the end zone with first-and-goal from the five-yard-line.
"The inconsistency in the throw game in the first half was not just Joel," Andersen said. "It wasn't just the receivers, it wasn't just the tight ends. It was a combined effort."
Massachusetts had its own problems facing a team that has won 16 consecutive season openers, tied for the third-longest active streak in the country behind Nebraska (27 entering today) and Florida (24).
"Is our football team better than it was a year ago at this time?" said Massachusetts coach Charley Monar, who is leading the Minutemen in the school's second FBS season.
"Absolutely it is. Does our scoreboard show it? I can't tell you."
The Minutemen couldn't generate much offense against the new 3-4 defense that Wisconsin rolled out.
The secondary was generally tabbed as a major weakness heading into the season with a true freshman (Sojourn Shelton) starting in the secondary for the first time in at least a decade.
"I just thought how active their safeties were, how good they were," Monar said. "They were really good football players. Especially No. 7 (Michael Caputo), he was around the ball and on the line of scrimmage all day long and we just couldn't take advantage of that."
The person who racked up the most yardage for the Minutemen was punter Colter Johnson, who punted six times for 188 yards, including kicks of only 28 and five yards.
Massachusetts was able to cross the 50-yard-line only three times.
However, the Badgers didn't have any issues, rolling up 399 yards on the ground by getting the three-headed monster of Melvin Gordon (146), James White (146) and Corey Clement (102) over the century mark.
Wisconsin bulldozed its way to 8.9-yards per carry.
"It's a lot of fun," said White, who had a 13-yard average per carry. "We like watching our teammates have success. A lot of us keep the defense off-balance and keep the offense more explosive."
The same recipe has won time and time again, and Andersen proved he doesn't have to reinvent the wheel even with a reshuffled offensive line.
"Their running game has been honed over two decades," Monar said. "Recruiting a certain profile, offensive lineman, running back, tight ends, you honestly, you could've been watching the 1992 or 1988 Badgers with coach (Barry) Alvarez, with the same plays, just different guys doing the same things."
The Badgers erupted for six touchdowns of 20 yards or more, including four scores of 50 yards or longer.
There's a reason Abbrederis entered Saturday as the active leader in FBS yards per reception. He caught two balls, the first a 65-yard touchdown strike and the second a 57-yard touchdown catch.
Last year's All-Big Ten selection left the game early after getting the wind knocked out of him but returned quickly.
"Stave's got a great arm and with the protection that he got, he can really get it downfield," Abbrederis said. "Especially with our run game, pulling the safeties down."
Stave went 5-for-6 for 161 yards in the second half and led a team as the Badgers were 8-for-11 on third down (72.7 percent), its highest third down rate since 2007.
"We moved the ball in the first half, we just couldn't get it in the end zone," Stave said, who is 5-2 as the Badgers starter. "When we get down in the red zone we need to come away with points and that is what we were able to do in the second half."
NOTES: RB Melvin Gordon showed off his speed with a 70-yard run off right tackle to put the Badgers up, 17-0, at halftime. The sophomore had a career high 13 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown. ... LB Chris Borland had a game-tying nine tackles to lead the Badgers' defense. ... It was Wisconsin's first shutout since Sept. 10, 2011, when Wisconsin beat Oregon State, 35-0. ... QB Mike Megzyn of Massachusetts was 9-for-23 with 73 yards and an interception before being pulled in the fourth quarter. The redshirt sophomore was largely ineffective against the Badgers' new 3-4 defense.
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- American Football
- Wisconsin Badgers
- Gary Andersen
- Jared Abbrederis