No. 6 Wisconsin 59, South Dakota 10
MADISON, Wis. (AP)
It was a final tune up for No. 6 Wisconsin - starring Nick Toon.
Toon caught seven passes for a career-high 155 yards and two touchdowns as the Badgers recovered from a slow start to rout South Dakota 59-10 at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.
With their last non-conference game out of the way, the Badgers finally can say it: Bring on Nebraska.
''Very excited for this week to get here,'' Badgers coach Bret Bielema said. ''You guys might have heard: We're playing Nebraska.''
Wisconsin (4-0) recovered from a slow start to take control of the game with a 21-point outburst in the final six minutes of the second quarter.
It turned into something of a Toon-up: After James White's 49-yard touchdown run, Toon scored on a 59-yard catch-and-run from quarterback Russell Wilson and added another score with 12 seconds left to send Wisconsin into halftime with a 31-3 lead.
Toon gave the credit to Wilson, who completed 19 of 25 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns before taking a seat in the fourth quarter.
''Obviously, Russell's a great player, a big part of that,'' Toon said. ''I'm not able to do what I can do if I don't have someone that can get it to me. And Russell's done a great job of getting the ball to me this year.''
Wilson said the Badgers' newfound quick-strike ability on offense took the air out of a South Dakota team that stayed in the game into the second quarter. Wilson said that's a function of the talent the Badgers have on offense.
''I think that was huge for our offense, and huge for our team in general,'' Wilson said. ''The defense did a great job of stopping them, getting us the ball back. When we can go down there and score and execute when we really need to, that's a tough thing for an opposing team.''
Quarterback Dante Warren struggled for South Dakota (2-2), a Football Championship Subdivision school. He eventually was replaced by Josh Vander Maten, who led the Coyotes to a late score.
''We're in a different world than this group is,'' South Dakota coach Ed Meierkort said. ''We understood that coming in. We have to move on. They have their agenda and we have ours.''
The Coyotes came into Saturday's game with some experience on the road in the Big Ten, having won at Minnesota last season. What they didn't have was an answer for Toon, the son of former Wisconsin and New York Jets standout Al Toon.
He had 151 yards and both of his touchdowns in the first half alone. And while his scoring plays might get more attention, his most impressive play might have been a leaping one-handed catch early on.
Bielema said he was happy with his team's focus, with a big game looming next week.
''I didn't hear our guys talking about Nebraska, as much as it was brought up to them,'' Bielema said.
But Wisconsin didn't appear headed toward a rout early on, squandering a handful of scoring chances and allowing the Coyotes to stick around into the second quarter.
Trailing 7-0 after a touchdown by Ball, South Dakota drove into Wisconsin territory on back-to-back possessions in the first quarter - only to have them both end with interceptions by Wisconsin's defense, the first by safety Shelton Johnson and the second by linebacker Chris Borland. Johnson would leave with a leg injury later in the half.
But the Badgers managed only three points off of the two turnovers, a 25-yard field goal by Kyle French. French also missed a 50-yard attempt.
Wisconsin then allowed an even deeper drive by the Coyotes, holding on third-and-goal and forcing South Dakota to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Kevin Robb to cut the Wisconsin lead to 10-3 with 6:34 left in the second quarter.
Then Wisconsin took over, scoring three touchdowns in the final six minutes of the half.
White gave the Badgers some breathing room with his long touchdown run. After a South Dakota punt, Toon took a short pass 59 yards for a touchdown.
The Badgers got the ball back in the final two minutes of the half, and a 45-yard pass from Wilson to Toon set the Badgers up for another scoring chance. Facing third-and-goal on the 2, Wilson found Toon in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. After a replay review confirmed the score, Wisconsin went into halftime leading 31-3.
Meierkort said it would take a while for his team to get over Saturday's game.
''But again, put it in perspective,'' Meierkort said. ''I knew this was going to happen. We're not going to be the only team these guys put a whipping on.''
Notes: Already somewhat thin in the secondary, Wisconsin lost Johnson to a leg injury in the first half. Bielema said Johnson had a ''severe'' bruise and might have to be hospitalized overnight, but may be able to play against Nebraska... Abbrederis had a long punt return for a touchdown nullified by a penalty in the third quarter. ... Meierkort began his head coaching career at Wisconsin-Stout.
Connect with AP Sports Writer Chris Jenkins: www.twitter.com/ByChrisJenkins