MADISON, Wis. – Indiana coach Kevin Wilson insisted his defense played well at times on Saturday.
It’s just that when it didn’t, the Hoosiers’ defense was giving up seven runs of 30 yards or more as the No. 17 Badgers rolled up 554 yards on the ground during a 51-3 win.
Those seven big runs on Saturday were more than 73 FBS teams had on the season heading into Saturday.
Outside of youth and ability, it was just missed assignments today, Wilson said. Those are things I think are correctable. It’s a young defense, but it’s got a long way to go.
Wilson has stuck up for his defense after past poor performances and was left to do so again Saturday.
Wisconsin’s James White took the handoff on the Badgers’ first play from scrimmage, brushed off a tackle at the line and reeled off a school-record 93-yard touchdown run as he gained a career-high 205 yards.
Melvin Gordon added 146 and another TD for Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten), while backup Corey Clement rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns and receiver Jared Abbrederis had 86 yards on just three carries, two of them for scores.
The Hoosiers (4-6, 2-4) struggled with containment on the edges, and Wisconsin backs regularly were untouched until reaching the second level of defenders.
It’s no surprise that Indiana’s run defense would struggle against the Badgers, who average more than 280 yards a game, considering the Hoosiers have the conference’s 10th-ranked rushing defense and give up an average of more than 217 yards a game.
But Wisconsin topped that just minutes into the second quarter, had 323 yards rushing at the half and finished just short of the school-record 564 yards rushing that the Badgers rolled up in beating Indiana 62-14 last season.
Still, Wilson argued the offense shouldered some of the blame for failing to generate any consistency and running 60 plays, below their season average of 67.
The Hoosiers had only three drives that went more than six plays.
When you’re not an overpowering offense in the run game, you’ve got to be pretty efficient in the passing game. We were just a little bit off in the timing, Wilson said. The wind is a part of that. The rain is a part of that. But the defense is a part of that.
Playing without leading rusher Tevin Coleman, the Hoosiers didn’t have much to offer in the run game with just 102 yards on the ground.
It was a brutal start for the Hoosiers, and they never recovered.
After moving the ball briefly on the opening drive, quarterback Nate Sudfeld was picked off on a deep throw to the Wisconsin 7 after receive Nick Stoner broke one way and the ball went another.
White made them pay with his 93-yard run, which topped the previous record of 91 yards by Tom Brigham vs. Western Michigan in 1963.
Indiana back Stephen Houston fumbled on the second play of IU’s next drive, and the Badgers took three plays to score as Gordon ran it in from inside the 1.