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Badgers at last get their 'GameDay' stage for Huskers

The University of Wisconsin football team's game against Nebraska on Saturday night has been the talk of the town for months. Everywhere, it seems, but inside the Badgers locker room. After a lackluster non-conference slate that had UW outscoring...

The University of Wisconsin football team's game against Nebraska on Saturday night has been the talk of the town for months.

Everywhere, it seems, but inside the Badgers locker room.

After a lackluster non-conference slate that had UW outscoring four overmatched opponents 194-34, head coach Bret Bielema spoke the words fans have been waiting to hear. "Very excited for this week to finally get here," Bielema told the media following the 59-10 win over South Dakota on Saturday. "You guys might have heard, we're playing Nebraska."

The people outside of the program have heard about little but Nebraska since it was announced the Cornhuskers would play their first Big Ten Conference game at Camp Randall Stadium. As expected, ESPN's "College GameDay" will be here.

To the Badgers' credit, they have done a good job of not looking ahead to this game, until the finishing touches were put on the latest blowout.

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Bielema said last week was the ultimate test of the one-game-at-a-time approach. If ever there was a temptation to let the focus drift to Nebraska, last week was the time, given a game against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.

"This team, we have like a professional mentality to it," senior right guard Kevin Zeitler said. "It wasn't hard (focusing on South Dakota). I don't think I heard anyone ask about Nebraska all week, or any talk about it."

Other players and coaches echoed the same sentiment. Bielema called it the best week of preparation all season, in terms of the heavy work days on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Indeed, the Badgers looked like the focused team they have been throughout a non-conference schedule that was only challenging in terms of staying motivated.

"They followed the (senior) group from last year," tight ends coach Joe Rudolph said. "Probably that's the best thing that group did, they really felt they kept trying to get better. I thought that was really reflected in the second half of (last) season. I think (these players) have that mind-set. Now they've got to put it into action."

While the Badgers appear to be humming on both sides of the ball, all of the lopsided games are having a negative impact on the national perception. They dropped a spot on Sunday in the Associated Press media poll to seventh. Oklahoma State, which rallied to beat No. 8 Texas A&M 30-29, moved up two spots to fifth.

With Ohio State and Michigan State out of the Top 25 for now, No. 8 Nebraska (4-0) and No. 24 Illinois are the only current ranked opponents on UW's regular-season schedule.

Still, with an offense averaging 48.5 points per game and a defense allowing 8.5, the momentum generated from that start will have to compensate for the lack, so far, of a competitive four-quarter game.

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It helps to have one of the hottest quarterbacks in the nation in senior Russell Wilson. He continues to rank second nationally in passing efficiency (218.38), completing 75.8 percent of his passes (69 of 91) for 1,136 yards, with 11 touchdowns and one interception.

The confidence he brings to the team is evident going into Wilson's first huge game as the UW starter.

"I think the main thing is just staying relaxed, staying poised in terms of playing quarterback, making sure the offense feels the same way," Wilson said.

"Inside that huddle, everybody's got to feel confident. I'm the guy that's got to make sure that's in place."

The Cornhuskers have done their part coming into the game, although their defense has not been as formidable as expected. They rank No. 52 nationally in total defense, allowing 349.8 yards per game. They are tied for No. 46 in scoring defense, allowing 22 points per game.

Standout defensive tackle Jared Crick was held out of the 38-14 win over Wyoming on Saturday after a hit to the head in the previous game. He is expected to play against the Badgers.

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard played in his first game of the season after suffering a pulled muscle in his right leg in mid-August. He sat out most of the second half but said afterward he had no soreness.

Both Crick and Dennard are regarded as potential top-15 NFL draft picks.

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South Dakota 0 3 0 7 -- 10

Wisconsin 10 21 14 14 -- 9

First Quarter

Wis--M.Ball 5 run (French kick), 8:25.

Wis--FG French 25, 3:11.

Second Quarter

SDak--FG Robb 24, 6:34.

Wis--White 49 run (French kick), 5:48.

Wis--Toon 59 pass from Wilson (French kick), 3:04.

Wis--Toon 2 pass from Wilson (French kick), :12.

Third Quarter

Wis--Abbrederis 51 pass from Wilson (French kick), 13:08.

Wis--M.Ball 2 run (French kick), 5:57.

Fourth Quarter

Wis--Gordon 4 run (French kick), 12:28.

SDak--Neilson 4 pass from Vander Maten (Robb kick), 6:44.

Wis--Lewis 41 run (French kick), 2:06.

A--78,880.

___

SDak Wis

First downs 9 25

Rushes-yards 37-124 43-267

Passing 49 345

Comp-Att-Int 10-17-2 19-27-1

Return Yards 44 84

Punts-Avg. 6-39.3 1-38.0

Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0

Penalties-Yards 3-25 6-74

Time of Possession 30:42 29:18

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING--South Dakota, Sims 15-64, Ganious 11-42, Warren 7-14, Powell 1-4, Vander Maten 3-0. Wisconsin, White 9-95, M.Ball 15-88, Lewis 5-49, Gordon 8-32, Abbrederis 1-5, Wilson 5-(minus 2).

PASSING--South Dakota, Warren 8-15-2-41, Vander Maten 2-2-0-8. Wisconsin, Wilson 19-25-0-345, Brennan 0-2-1-0.

RECEIVING--South Dakota, Powell 2-19, Neilson 2-8, Sims 1-14, Nowotny 1-5, A.Williams 1-3, Burns 1-1, McMartin 1-1, Blount 1-(minus 2). Wisconsin, Toon 7-155, Abbrederis 5-101, M.Ball 2-21, White 2-16, Garner 1-27, Ewing 1-14, Pedersen 1-11.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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