MADISON -- On a day when the Wisconsin offense put up 70 points, it was defensive end J.J. Watt that stole the show. Quite easily, too.
Watt showed off his relentless motor Saturday, wreaking havoc on the Northwestern offense as the Badgers won 70-23 to clinch a share of the Big Ten title. Anyone who watched would have had a tough time not being impressed by the Pewaukee, Wis., native.
"He's good football player, he's a great football player," said NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald. "I know how you want me to expand on some superlatives, but he's a tremendous football player."
For the game, Watt recorded seven tackles. All seven were solo tackles, as he did not assist any tackles in the game.
Watt was credited with one sack, for a loss of 12 yards, while recording three tackles for loss, for a total of 19 yards. He also added three quarterback hurries. With his performance, Watt easily put his name in the conversation for Big Ten defensive player of the year.
"J.J., at his position, with what he's done for our defense, I can't say there's anybody in our league that's been comparable," head coach Bret Bielema said.
"He's got great instincts. He has the ability to anticipate plays, knocking down balls, running down plays from behind. He plays 100 miles an hour with a huge heart. One of four finalists for the Lott award, and if anybody's playing better than him, I'd like to know."
Watt showed those instincts and his ability to anticipate throughout his dominating performance on Saturday.
In the first quarter, NU quarterback Evan Watkins was intercepted by Jay Valai on the Wildcats' second play from scrimmage. Watt had one of his three quarterback hurries on the play, forcing a bad throw from Watkins.
On the Wildcats' next drive, following a three-and-out by the Wisconsin offense, Watt sacked Watkins, while also stripping him of the ball. Tyler Dippel recovered the fumble for Wisconsin, and the Badgers punched it in for a touchdown on two plays.
When Northwestern got the ball for the first time in the second quarter, trailing 21-3, quarterback Kain Colter was intercepted by Mike Taylor at the Wisconsin 32-yard line. Taylor picked up 47 yards on the return.
Once again, Watt forced the bad throw as he picked up a quarterback hurry on the play.
Late in the first half, Watt tackled Watkins following a 21-yard pickup, separating the quarterback from the ball, which allowed Aaron Henry to recover the football with 2:55 to go in the second quarter.
"I was just trying to have some fun," Watt said of his performance. "It's the last game of the year in Camp Randall, I've got to give our fans a little bit of a show. Our offense obviously put on a big show, so on defense we had to put on a show as well.
"We did that in a big way."
Watt capped things off in the second half with one of the plays of the game.
In the third quarter, Northwestern scored on a 20-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 40 points at 63-23. On the extra-point attempt, Watt came up with the block, his third of the season.
"We're always taught to give 110 percent every single play," Watt said. "If they're going to kick an extra point, that's a point on the board that we don't want to have.
"I'm going to give 110 percent effort on that play, I'm going to give 110 percent effort on my last play of the game and whenever I have a chance to be on that football field, I'm going to give every single thing I've got."