MADISON - Scott Tolzien had the option to change the play with Wisconsin facing a third and two late in the fourth quarter as the Badgers were trying to salt away a harrowing victory over Arizona State.
Good thing he didn't.
Instead, the senior quarterback connected with his senior tight end Lance Kendricks for a critical 17-yard reception. A John Clay 10-yard run and three victory formation snaps later, Wisconsin improved its record to 3-0 against a feisty Arizona State squad.
"I was confident," Kendricks, who finished with 131 receiving yards and a touchdown, said. "It's been successful all the time in practice. It was successful in the game the first time. So there was no problem.
"I was like, let's do it."
The play was just one of many for the senior tight end who hauled in seven receptions en route to his second career 100-yard receiving day. He caught long passes (his 34 yard bomb in the first half) and moved the chains consistently for a Badger squad that racked up 440 yards of total offense.
"Lance is playing great football," Bielema said. "He's played a lot of great football here. He just goes about his business. What he's done this year, he's probably had the most ferocious hit on the whole team. He's hitting people left and right. He's got great hands with that play in the end zone to make that play with that guy draped all over him.
"If you know Lance, that's just kind of who he is."
On the season, Lance is leading the Badgers with 196 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He's fitting right into the mold of talented tight ends to move through the Badger program.
"We've had a lot of great tight ends here," Bielema said. "He's probably playing as good or better than any of them we've had."
Early in the game sophomore linebacker Chris Borland aggravated his surgically repaired shoulder for the second time this young season. After trying to make a tackle and seeing the shoulder extend in a manner it shouldn't, it seems as though this injury may be more serious than the last.
"He kind of aggravated his shoulder again," Bielema said. "We've done some tests in the past and he rehabbed it the past two weeks and obviously had an issue there. We don't really know all the answers yet but we'll kind of take that as the day goes along."
Borland, who was available to reporters following the game, acknowledged his frustration with the injury but also made it clear that he didn't rush his return to the field.
"You really can't prevent what happened," Borland said. "It's not an issue of
my strength is where it should be and my range of motion was where it should be.
"It was just a fluke."
Though he was unsure of the severity of the injury, Bielema did acknowledge that Borland still has the redshirt year available to him this season because he hasn't participated in 30 percent of the snaps to this point and would have an injury deemed worth of it.
If nothing else, BIelema is concerned that the shoulder will be a constant issue throughout the season.
"There is," Bielema said. "But I don't know the answer to it. We definitely want to do what's best for Chris. That's the important part. You can't just keep going when it's not going to be there.
"The fortunate thing is he does have a redshirt year available."
Other injury updates:
J.J. Watt suffered a quad contusion, but nothing more serious than that. Obviously the junior defensive end looked to be in quite some pain on multiple occasions throughout the game, but he returned each time.
After the game, though, Watt was feeling it.
"I'm struggling a little bit," Watt said after the game. "My leg is pretty tight. I've got some serious ice on it now. I'll be fine next week. It's just kind of a couple of Charlie horses."
-Conor O'Neill suffered a concussion midway through the fourth quarter on a kick return. His status for next week is unknown.
-Culmer St. Jean re-aggravated the same ankle injury that plagued him through the latter parts of fall camp. He did return to the game a bit later on.
Clay fine with carries:
At certain junctures of the game, it looked as though junior tailback John Clay was trying to subtly (or not so subtly) trying to call for more carries. By the end, the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year had tallied 22 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown.
After the game, Clay was asked about the number of touches he received.
"That's fine with me," Clay said. "My body feels great and we came out with the 'W.' Scott Tolzien was throwing the ball and we had clutch catches by Isaac Anderson during the late drive. Jared Abbrederis was doing his thing out there.
"It was great."
With Big Ten play just two weeks away, its obvious the coaching staff is trying to keep all three tailbacks as fresh as possible, particularly Clay.
"Yeah, just because we know what kind of football the Big Ten is," Clay said. "We're ground and pound football. We're a run the ball team and that's what we like to do. That's what we're going to do from here out."
A hungry Badger:
Gabe Carimi, of Jewish faith, didn't miss an opportunity to participate in Yom Kippur. Having fasted since noon on Friday, Carimi not only participated in Saturday's game against Arizona State, he did so at a high level.
And his head coach much appreciated the effort.
"For him to go out there today I want to give him a special thanks," Bielema said. "He's somebody special to this football team and does a lot of great things for us that you never really see except for the guys behind the scenes."
Carimi did receive the benefits of an IV prior to Saturday's game. So he wasn't running completely on fumes.
-Alec Lerner also participated in Yom Kippur festivities.
-UW reached the 3-0 mark for the seventh consecutive year. In doing so, the Badgers extended their non-conference regular-season winning streak to 27 games, dating back to 2003.
-Under Bielema, UW is 14-0 at home against non-conference opponents and under Tolzien, UW is 13-3.
-The Badgers completed a game turnover-free for the first time since playing Hawaii last season.
-Tolzien completed the game with a season high mark with 246 passing yards. He also helped sophomore tailback Montee Ball set a new career high in receptions (four).
-Jay Valai's blocked extra point was the first block of any sort of his career. It also marked the first time a Badger player blocked an extra point since Roderick Rogers did so at Northwestern in 2005.
-Kevin Rouse and Louis Nzegwu recorded one sack each.
-Speaking of Nzegwu, the junior defensive end finished the game with a team-high and career-best seven tackles.
-Watt's batted down pass in the second half have him four for the season. That is a team high for pass break-ups.
-Abbrederis on the way he was utilized in Saturday's win:
"I like getting the ball in my hands and being able to make a move on a guy and get up field. Whatever works, though. Whatever the coaches have planned for me I'll do my best and see what happens."
-Clay on the offensive approach during the final drive of the game:
"I take pride in the coaches having confidence in me and putting the ball in my hands. I couldn't do it without the guys in front. They said we're going to grind the clock down and run the ball and that's what we did."
-Tolzien on whether a play like Valai's are the ones that make a season great:
"You look at plays from a lot of different teams and there's a lot of, I don't know if I would say luck, but big plays that could swing one way or another. I think when you put in that hard work and everyone believes, I do think that it's contagious and I think it pays off."
Watt on Valai's blocked extra point:
"My vantage point was where it was during that San Jose State kick I blocked. Gabe Carimi, Ricky Wagner and I were all coming up the middle If Jay hadn't blocked it we would have. That's a monstrous play for our team and something that obviously wins the game for you."
Shelton Johnson on the team's struggles:
"I don't know if it was their speed, or our fundamentals broke down, or what it was. We'll find out tomorrow in our evaluation. They were a good team with a good scheme."
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