MADISON, Wis. -- After a slow start, Wisconsin got it rolling and had an unexpectedly easy time against 19th-ranked Northwestern on Saturday.
Wisconsin's running game stalled in the first quarter but rallied to tally 286 yards, and the defense came through with seven sacks as the Badgers beat Northwestern 35-6 in a Big Ten game at Camp Randall Stadium.
Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon rushed for 172 yards on 22 carries, including a 71-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The sophomore had no lingering effects from a minor knee injury suffered two weeks ago in Wisconsin's loss at Ohio State.
Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave threw three touchdown passes, completing 17 of 28 passes for 241 yards. He also had two passes intercepted.
The Wildcats' quarterback duo of Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter completed just 17 of 39 passes for 197 yards, with one interception.
The Badgers (4-2, 2-1) overcame a sluggish first quarter in which they had a couple of turnovers and couldn't find a rhythm with their running game. Wisconsin had minus-15 yards rushing on its first three drives and eight yards on eight carries in the first quarter.
Chris Borland's third-and-goal sack of Colter in the red zone held the Wildcats to a field goal midway through the first quarter and provided a defensive jolt for Wisconsin. Borland came into the game with 46 tackles, which ranked fourth in the Big Ten. The senior had 10 tackles and one sack in the win against Northwestern.
Wisconsin took the lead when Stave connected with wide receiver Jared Abbrederis on a 63-yard strike that gave Wisconsin a 7-3 lead with 4:09 left in the first quarter.
Abbrederis was sidelined in the second quarter with a head injury and didn't return. The senior, who is the Badgers' top receiver, has 35 receptions for 616 yards and five touchdowns this season.
James White ran for 101 yards on 19 carries, including a 1-yard TD run in the second quarter that put Wisconsin up 14-3. Gordon's 71-yard burst made it 21-3.
One bright spot for the Wildcats (4-2, 0-2) was senior kicker Jeff Budzien, who booted 27- and 43-yard field goals.
Stave capped a 75-yard drive in the third quarter with a 1-yard TD toss to Jacob Pederson, who caught a team-high four passes. Stave hit Derek Watt for a 3-yard TD to finish the scoring early in the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Wildcats senior running back Venric Mark suffered a lower body injury in the second quarter and didn't return. ... The Badgers travel to Illinois next Saturday. Northwestern hosts Minnesota at Ryan Field next Saturday.