MADISON, Wis. — A week ago, Northwestern outplayed the fourth-ranked team in the country. They lost by 29 Saturday.
“I hope it gives our guys a punch right in the face,” Pat Fitzgerald said.
Seemingly nothing went right for the No. 19 Cats, who sputtered to 243 total yards while allowing seven sacks in a 35-6 blowout. Wisconsin (3-2, 2-1 Big Ten) notched touchdowns of 71 and 63 yards in the first half, and held Northwestern (4-2, 0-2 Big Ten) out of the endzone all afternoon. It’s the Wildcats’ worst loss since a 70-23 beatdown at Camp Randall in 2010.
“We know we can play better. We didn’t go out and execute,” Damien Proby said. “The morale this morning was very high. We’ll go back and watch film, we’ll scout ourselves.”
Northwestern cracked the scoreboard first with a 27-yard field goal from Jeff Budzien, set up by a Chi Chi Ariguzo fumble recovery. The Badgers would respond three possessions later with a 63-yard bomb from Joel Stave to Jared Abbrederis, who split the safeties and walked in for a 7-3 Wisconsin lead. It would never look back.
The Wildcats’ subsequent seven drives resulted in punts, while the Badgers added scores from running backs James White and Melvin Gordon. The latter’s 71-yard touchdown topped Northwestern’s total rushing yardage.
The vaunted Badgers defense held up on the other end, forcing the Cats to adjust their usual run-heavy game plan to bubble screens and flat passes. Without Kain Colter and Venric Mark, who were both knocked out with lower-body injuries, Northwestern failed to score a touchdown for the first time since 2007, and didn’t register a single first down in the third quarter.
Stave engineered lengthy touchdown drives of 75 and 56 yards in the second half, and finished with 241 yards and three TDs. The few standouts for Northwestern Saturday were Ibraheim Campbell, who filled the stat sheet with a forced fumble, interception and a sack, and Rashad Lawrence, who lead the team in receiving for a second straight week with four grabs for 67 yards. Stephen Buckley was Northwestern’s top rusher with 19 yards.
“The good thing about our program...we don’t recruit quitters. We don’t have any quitters across our program,” Proby added. “We’re excited to get back on our home field.”