Wisconsin Football Report Card: Grading The Win Over UNLV
After a couple of turnovers turned what looked like a sure blowout into a close game at halftime, No. 12 Wisconsin responded like any Big Ten title-contending team should: they dominated from then on out.
The Badgers journeyed into the heat wave that is Las Vegas (where the temperature at kickoff was 99 degrees) and put a beating on the over-matched UNLV Rebels.
So, with their 41-21 win, how did the Badgers fare on my report card?
278 rushing yards. 197 passing yards. 4 touchdowns.
Yeah, the Badger 'O' was basically everything we thought they would be. Running backs John Clay (123 yards), Montee Ball (79 yards) and James White (59 yards) all had success on the ground as Wisconsin appeared almost unstoppable against the Rebels.
Quarterback Scott Tolzien also had an efficient day, throwing for 197 yards on 15-20 passing.
However, two big turnovers by the offense directly led to two Rebel touchdowns.
Tolzien's lone interception was returned 19 yards for a score while Nick Toon's fumble at the goal line was brought back 82 yards, leading to another UNLV touchdown.
That said, the offense looked good.
Going into the 2010 season, the one huge question mark for Wisconsin was their defense.
If the first two and a half quarters are any indication, the Badger 'D' should be of no concern. Although the defense gave up some late yards and points, they still allowed only 217 total yards and 14 points.
Defensive back Aaron Henry returned a fumble 20 yards for a touchdown to turn the momentum firmly in Wisconsin's favor while UNLV starting quarterback Mike Clausen was only 4-10 for 23 yards before getting pulled in the third quarter.
Replacement QB Omar Clayton was able to find some success both through the air and on the ground against the Badgers, but other than that, Wisconsin's defense was virtually impenetrable.
Definitely an encouraging sign.
Although kick and punt returner David Gilreath wasn't able to get much going in either department on Saturday night, Wisconsin's special teams as a whole were solid.
Kicker Phillip Welch, after struggling slightly last year, was 2-2, while punter Brad Nortman averaged 45.2 yards a punt.
Especially impressive was Wisconsin's kickoff coverage. UNLV was actually expected to have a good kickoff return unit, yet the Badgers allowed a long return of only 20 yards and an average of only 18.6.
If Wisconsin can repeat performances like this game after game, they're sitting in great position once the Big Ten season finally opens.
It's undoubtedly a good thing when there isn't much to say when discussing the performance of Wisconsin's coaching staff.
Calling a conservative game, Badger head coach Bret Bielema did exactly what he needed to do. Run, run, run.
Although not exactly flashy or exciting, Wisconsin's coaches called a game plan that took advantage of their strengths while exposing all of UNLV's weaknesses.
Good job coaches.
Final Grade: A-
Although not exactly the most exciting or thrilling win ever, Wisconsin got off to a perfect start in 2010. A 41-21 win over an FBS opponent in their house, even if it is UNLV, is impressive.
The Badger 'O', though they did have two costly turnovers, was basically unstoppable. The Badger 'D' couldn't be moved until midway through the second half. The Badger special teamers made all the right plays while keeping a dangerous Rebel return squad in check.
Despite a halftime score of only 17-14, UNLV never had a chance.
Bring on San Jose State.