Badgers look to stay on roll, visit Northwestern
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) The last time Wisconsin won at Northwestern, Ron Dayne was making his run for the Heisman Trophy and the Badgers were on the way to the Rose Bowl.
Yes, it has been that long.
The 17th-ranked Badgers bring a three-game winning streak into their Big Ten opener on Saturday at Northwestern, hoping for their first road win against the Wildcats since 1999.
Wisconsin (3-1) followed a season-opening loss to LSU in Houston with victories at home over Western Illinois, Bowling Green and South Florida.
''It's tougher to win on the road,'' quarterback Tanner McEvoy said. ''Definitely, that LSU game was definitely a great experience for everyone, especially the young. So, they'll learn from that. I don't think it will be too big a deal traveling to Northwestern, but I know we're looking forward to it. I know they had a big win this weekend.''
The Badgers have dropped three straight at Northwestern, most recently in 2009. Wisconsin beat the Wildcats at home last year after the teams did not play each other in 2011 and 2012. They will now meet annually as members of the Big Ten West.
Northwestern (2-2, 1-0) is coming off a 29-6 victory at Penn State last Saturday. It has won two in a row after dropping its first two at home to California and Northern Illinois.
Here are several things to look for when the Badgers visit the Wildcats:
RUN FOR IT: Wisconsin leads the nation in yards per carry at 7.04 and ranks No. 3 in rushing at 343.3 per game, with Melvin Gordon leading the way. He comes in with 612 yards on the ground and needs 60 more become Wisconsin's 11th 3,000-yard rusher.
Clearly, the Badgers figure to test Northwestern's defensive line. The Wildcats got high marks against Penn State last week, holding the Nittany Lions to 50 yards rushing on 25 attempts while registering four sacks.
SPEED IT UP: Three straight wins by at least 17 points would indicate on the surface that Wisconsin is making it look easy since a season-opening loss to LSU. Well, not exactly. In all three games, the Badgers didn't pull away until the second half.
''If we're going to win all the games we want to win, we're going to have to have an all-around performance from everyone from the start of the game to the finish of the game,'' McEvoy said. ''We've got to work on fixing that.''
NO PRAISE FOR THE VICTORS: Never mind that Northwestern's win at Penn State was its most lopsided road win in coach Pat Fitzgerald's nine seasons. The Wildcats weren't exactly patting themselves on the back. Some special teams mistakes allowed Penn State to build some temporary momentum, and Fitzgerald thought Northwestern could have scored 30 more if not for some missed chances.
''Fifty-nine points to six sounds like a pretty darn good performance, and I think that's what we left out there,'' he said.
STRANGE LINE: Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian might not have another performance like the one he turned in last week, particularly when it comes to his rushing statistics. Siemian threw for 258 yards and ran for three touchdowns. But he finished with a net of minus-8 yards rushing on five carries.
ROTATION RETURN: Joel Stave is back in the mix as McEvoy's backup at quarterback after struggling with some throwing issues.
Stave has started 19 games for the Badgers, but he lost the top spot in training camp because of McEvoy's mobility and his own declining performance. Stave threw for just under 2,500 yards last season. He missed time in the spring after injuring his shoulder in the Capital One Bowl in January, but his throwing problems were not related to that.