Recap: Wisconsin vs. Western Ill
Madison, WI (SportsNetwork.com) - Camp Randall Stadium was relatively quiet during an unlikely tight first half between Wisconsin and Western Illinois, but the 18th-ranked Badgers later riled up the crowd with 28 unanswered points to upend the overmatched FCS program, 37-3, on Saturday.
Wisconsin (1-1) was in need of an easy rebound win after blowing a 17-point lead in a season-opening loss to LSU last weekend, but Western Illinois did everything but play that role for the first 30 minutes.
Tanner McEvoy, though, threw three touchdown passes after the break to turn a 9-3 halftime lead into a blowout victory.
"It was great to get the bad taste out of my mouth from last week and go out there and execute," said McEvoy, who at one point completed 17 straight throws.
McEvoy passed for 283 yards with an interception and added a rushing score while his top target, Alex Erickson, caught 10 balls for 122 yards and a TD.
The Leathernecks (1-1) gifted the Badgers two easy points with a mistake on the opening kickoff, were outgained 456-162 and saw quarterback Trenton Norvell pass for only 108 yards with an interception.
Still, it was a manageable six-point spread before Wisconsin pulled away with touchdowns on their first two drives of the third quarter.
The Badgers opted to keep their offense on the field on 4th-and-2 from the WIU 3-yard line, and McEvoy found Austin Ramesh in the flat for a touchdown with 9:18 remaining in the third.
Erickson caught two passes totaling 41 yards on the ensuing possession to set up Melvin Gordon's 8-yard touchdown catch, and it was suddenly a 23-3 game.
Wisconsin's Rafael Gaglianone's missed a 33-yard field goal attempt early in the fourth, but Erickson's 10-yard score and Corey Clement's 6-yard connection with backup quarterback Bart Houston capped the rout.
"They found a way to control the football in the second half, and we just sputtered offensively trying to get anything going," Western Illinois head coach Bob Nielson said. "When you play a team that has got as big and physical of an offensive line and as talented skill players as they have, that's not a good recipe for success."
It took all of one second for the Badgers to score, as Western Illinois' Kyle Hammonds dropped the opening kickoff in the end zone, took a step over the goal line when retrieving the ball and stepped back into the end zone before going to a knee. The play was originally ruled a touchback, but Wisconsin challenged the call and was awarded a safety upon review.
Overthrown passes, dropped balls and a failed fourth-down conversion filled a Wisconsin drive in the second quarter, with Clement getting stuffed at the line of scrimmage on 4th-and-1 from the 7-yard line.
The Badgers got the ball right back, though, and McEvoy led them to a quick score with a 37-yard pass to Sam Arneson and a pair of tough runs, including a 7-yard draw for a touchdown to give Wisconsin a 9-0 lead.
With 2;16 left in the half, the Leathernecks had enough time to move into field goal range and get on the board via Nathan Knuffman's 29-yard kick.Game Notes
Wisconsin has won 19 straight home openers ... The Badgers have won all three
meetings with Western Illinois ... Hi-C Scott led the Leathernecks with six
catches for 63 yards ... Clement gained 92 yards from scrimmage.