The Gary Andersen era got off to a successful start in Madison, as Wisconsin took care of business against UMass with an easy 45-0 blowout win.
The Minutemen are barely a step above the FCS level, so you'd expect the Badgers to roll over them at Camp Randall Stadium. Things went mostly according to script, after a slow start. Wisconsin led just 10-0 late in the second quarter but then turned it on big time, thanks to its powerful rushing game.
Is there a better 1-2 punch at running back anywhere in the country? Or maybe it's 1-2-3, because even freshman Corey Clement got in on the act, scoring on a 23-yard run and adding 101 yards of his own on 15 carries as the Badgers nearly got 400 rushing yards as a team. The backs were so good that late in the game, Montee Ball jokingly tweeted, "So y'all trying to embarrass me huh?"
The bigger story was at quarterback, where Joel Stave got the start as expected. But he looked shaky coming out of the gate, going only 4-for-11 for 36 yards at halftime and missing on several throws and decisions. Just as fans were wondering if Andersen might go to Curt Phillips, though, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig signaled confidence in Stave by calling for a deep throw on the Badgers' first offensive snap of the third quarter. This time, Stave connected with -- who else? -- Jared Abbrederis for a 65-yard touchdown pass. Stave also found Abbrederis for a 57-yard score later in the quarter.
If you're the Wisconsin quarterback, that's pretty much all you have to do right now: hand the ball off and be accurate on your deep throws to Abbrederis. I'm not sure how any defense lets Abbrederis get behind them -- he is pretty much the Badgers' only receiving threat -- but he manages to do it over and over. Stave should keep the job going forward and just needs to get more consistent.
As far as that revamped, 3-4 leaning defense? The Badgers showed several different looks up front and for the most part did a great job shutting down UMass and forcing a pair of turnovers. Then again, it was UMass. We're not going to get an accurate read on this defense until Week 3 when Wisconsin plays at Arizona State, going against a spread offense the 3-4 is supposed to be able to counter. Still, we have every reason to suspect that defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's group will be rock solid all year long, and this was a good way to start.
In fact there wasn't much to nitpick in Andersen's first game as Wisconsin coach.