No. 6 Wisconsin starts strong, tops Michigan 48-28
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Wisconsin's throwback style of football pushed the program one step closer to its first Big Ten title since 1999.
Montee Ball and James White combined for 354 yards rushing and six touchdowns, helping the sixth-ranked Badgers pound Michigan in a 48-28 victory Saturday.
"We're playing as good as anybody out there," coach Bret Bielema said.
If the Badgers (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten) beat Northwestern next week at home, they'll will win at least a share of the title and likely earn a trip to a BCS bowl.
Michigan State, which handed Wisconsin its only loss, rallied from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Purdue and stay atop the Big Ten standings with the Badgers.
"Michigan State sure could've helped us -- I mean Purdue could've," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said.
The Badgers have done plenty for themselves by beating Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa in the same season for the first time.
Wisconsin, who hadn't win at the Big House since 1994, built a 24-0 lead at halftime against the Wolverines (7-4, 3-4) and essentially traded scores in the second half.
The Badgers ran early, often and all over -- left, right and middle -- with a lot of success behind a huge and experienced offensive line that created huge holes against Michigan's three-man fronts and blitzes.
"I said, `They can't stop our run game,'" Bielema recalled telling his players. "Point blank, it's just that simple."
Ball ran for 173 yards and four TDs on 29 carries. White had a career-high 181 yards rushing and two scores on 23 carries. They became the second pair of Badgers to run for 150-plus yards in a game, joining Billy Marek (226) and Ken Starch (184) who did it against Wyoming in 1973.
"Wisconsin has always been built off the running game," White said. "It's a dream school."
The underclassmen duo allowed Wisconsin to overcome the loss of injured John Clay for the second straight week and helped the team set a school record with 40 rushing TDs, breaking the previous mark set in 1974.
"What we do isn't pretty," Bielema said. "A lot of places, there's a certain emphasis on being pretty and being individualized on players."
That seemed to be a shot at Michigan, especially after Bielema was asked about Denard Robinson's 360-yard, four-TD performance.
"For them, that's great," Bielema said. "We would never recruit to that."
Robinson set two records for the Wolverines, who were coming off back-to-back Big Ten wins for the first time in Rich Rodriguez's three seasons.
He broke Beau Morgan's major-college record for yards rushing by quarterbacks and became the first player in NCAA history with 1,500 yards rushing and 1,500 yards passing in one year.
"It don't mean anything to me right now," Robinson said. "We're getting ready to play Ohio State."
The Wolverines, bowl-eligible for the first time under Rodriguez, probably hurt their chances of playing in an upper-tier bowl with their latest loss and an upcoming challenge against Ohio State in the Horseshoe.
Robinson -- who has thrown for 2,229 yards and run for 1,538 -- was 16 of 25 for 239 yards with two TDs, an interception and ran for 121 yards and two scores. He had just 22 yards passing and 74 running before halftime against the Badgers.
"Our whole focus was to stop him," Wisconsin safety Aaron Henry said. "In the first half, we pretty much did."
Robinson missed a wide-open Darryl Stonum on what likely would've been a TD after Ball's first score gave Wisconsin a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter, leading to Seth Broekhuizen missing a 30-yard field goal that went off the right upright.
Michigan shook off a sluggish first half offensively to score 28 points in the second half, but its struggling defense made that moot by allowing the Badgers to score 24 points in both.
"I've never coached before and had five true freshmen playing on defense," Rodriguez said. "Are you kidding me? I'd like to know if anyone else in Division I has five, six true freshmen playing on defense.
Robinson threw for a score and ran for another early in the third quarter, getting the Wolverines to within 10 points, but their defense couldn't slow down the Badgers.
Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien completed his first 13 passes -- 24 straight including the end of last week's 83-20 win against Indiana -- and finished 14 of 15 for 201 yards with an interception.
He completed the only pass he attempted in the 2nd half.
Wisconsin essentially sealed the victory early in the fourth quarter when defensive end J.J. Watt deflected Robinson's pass near midfield and intercepted it.
"We enjoyed this one, but we've already started to look to the next one," offensive guard John Moffitt said. "It's time to finish this season right."
Updated November 20, 2010