Wisconsin Badgers handle BYU's up-tempo offense
MADISON—Chris Borland tried to do a midair split while celebrating a sack with his teammates.
He’d never win a gymnastics title, but among linebackers there are few—if any—better than Wisconsin’s star senior.
James White ran for two touchdowns and caught a pass for another score, Borland led the defense in his return from an injured hamstring, and the 21st-ranked Badgers stalled BYU’s fast-paced offense in a 27-17 victory Saturday.
“He flies around there, he smacked some guys pretty good today,” coach Gary Andersen said about Borland. “There is just a little bit extra when Chris is out there on the field as far as a leadership.”
Borland finished with 13 tackles and two sacks, celebrating his second one with the Camp Randall bounce that offered emphatic proof that he wasn’t bothered by the injury that had sidelined him a week earlier.
Michael Caputo added 12 tackles, helping with the team effort that contained BYU dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill to 207 yards passing and 53 on the ground—97 below his season average for total offense.
A team that had averaged more than 32 points and 511 yards in total offense hit a big red speed bump in Madison, held to 370 yards.
“Wisconsin statistically and rightly so was good on defense,” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said.
Andersen thought it was the best “team victory” of the season, pleased with how special teams and the offense complemented the defense, and vice versa. Maybe this will be the game that gets the Badgers (7-2) more national respect.
White finished with 147 yards rushing on 23 carries to go with six catches for 47 yards receiving. He’s scored five touchdowns in Wisconsin’s last two games.
The senior had been overshadowed much of the season by fellow running back Melvin Gordon, the sophomore who can turn a handoff into a touchdown at any time.
White’s pretty good, too. He ran in from 4 on Wisconsin’s first drive, and bookended the first half with a score on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Joel Stave for a 17-3 lead.
“I just heard the crowd yelling and it sounded like Joel was scrambling,” White said. “And right when I turned around, the ball was coming to me, so it just so happened to work out.”
White locked up the win with his third score on a 14-yard run with 13:51 left in the game for a decisive 27-10 lead, ending the play with another rendition of what’s become a familiar touchdown two-step with Gordon.
“You thought, OK, it’s third-and-2, looks like he got the first down and the next time you look up, he’s in the end zone doing that little dance they do,” Andersen deadpanned. “I love that dance.”
Gordon finished with 86 yards rushing on 19 carries.
“They’re physical and we knew that going in,” Mendenhall said. “It’s one thing to talk about it. It’s another thing to line up and play against it.”
Kyle Van Noy went step-for-step with Borland in a matchup of star linebackers with eight tackles and an interception for BYU (6-3). Hill threw two touchdown passes to Cody Hoffman, but was otherwise held in check by Wisconsin pressure.
But for all the talk during the week about BYU’s up-tempo offense, it was Wisconsin setting the tone. As usual, the even-keeled Andersen had his team well prepared.
“The pace was a non-factor, and that was huge for us,” he said. “There wasn’t confusion, there wasn’t guys running around and looking to see what was going to happen, where we were going.
Nearly half of BYU’s total yardage, 174, came in the fourth quarter during a desperate attempt to mount a comeback against Wisconsin’s safe defense. Otherwise the Badgers turned up the pressure, and made it a point to keep paying attention to Hill, who was 19 for 41 passing.
Pressure up the middle led to Hill’s interception in the first quarter, a floater easily picked off by safety Tanner McEvoy.
“We really controlled the game for the majority of it,” Borland said. “We contained the quarterback, which was huge.”