Hill runs over helpless Zips

first_imgBEN CLASSON/Herald photoThere was no stopping P.J. Hill.Rushing for 108 of his 211 yards and one of his two touchdowns in the first quarter Saturday, the junior running back got it going early and often as he led Wisconsin to a 38-17 win over the Akron Zips at Camp Randall Stadium.The Badgers’ rushing attack combined to finish with 404 yards and four touchdowns as UW moved past a second quarter letdown to handle their first opponent of the season with ease.“One of the things we talked about was starting fast,” Badgers head coach Bret Bielema said. “We wanted to hit the ground running, and I do feel we did that.”Wisconsin scored on each of its first three possessions and jumped out to a 17-0 lead after Philip Welch connected on a 32-yard field goal early in the second quarter.But a pair of Badger turnovers later in the quarter helped the Zips back into the game, and the UW lead was just 17-10 at halftime.“[We] probably should’ve emphasized playing in the second quarter a little bit,” Bielema said, “because we obviously didn’t do things as well in the second quarter.”There was no letdown from the Badgers’ rushing attack though, and Hill — whose performance was the second 200 yard game of his career — wasn’t the only Wisconsin running back trampling over Akron.Sophomore Zach Brown finished the game with 87 yards on 15 carries and a score and John Clay was impressive in his debut, running for 71 yards and a touchdown.“We prepared ourselves. … We went into this game saying we were going to run the ball a lot and we did,” Hill said. “That’s what Badger football is, downhill running at the defense.”Quarterback Allan Evridge, making his first start as a Badger, threw just 10 passes in the game as UW notched 63 rushing attempts.“Game plan was coming in we were going to run the football,” Bielema said. “We wanted to grind the clock, do what we do.”Wisconsin’s ability to run the football was due largely to the play of the offensive line as the unit had no difficulty handling the Akron defense.“[The offensive line] controlled the line of scrimmage and were able to move Akron up front,” Bielema said.Thanks to the linemen, there was no shortage of holes for the Badger backs to run through.“The run was working so well; we were just happy to pound it all day,” center John Moffitt said. “I think we want to put the ball on the ground, we want to run the ball — be that tough, physical offensive line.”While Hill earned the bulk of the carries, Brown and Clay finished the game with a high number of reps as well at 15 and 12 attempts respectively, and the group’s rotation helped to keep fresh legs on the field.“We just knew when our name was called we had to come out and play our best and that’s what happened,” Brown said, explaining it wasn’t known before game time how many carries each player would get.Despite the team’s ability to pound the ball, the Badgers did appear to struggle in other phases of the game in the second quarter.After stalling on its first quarter possessions, the Zips’ offense came to life after receiver Deryn Bowser beat Badger defender Jay Valai for a 26-yard reception that helped set up Akron’s first touchdown.“That gave us a little wakeup call,” Valai said of Akron’s second quarter play. “We got a little relaxed in the second quarter and that hurt us a bit.”On the ensuing possession, Hill made his lone slip of the day, fumbling the ball as he attempted to stretch it across the goal line for a touchdown.A score would have extended the Badger lead back to 17 points, but instead the play was ruled a touchback and Akron got the ball back at its 20-yard line.“I stretched the ball out, the guy made a very good play; he met there,” Hill said. “Next time I know to just keep it high and tight and probably run through him.”The red zone turnover was the first of two for UW.Late in the first half Wisconsin was looking at first and goal, but Evridge threw an interception and the return helped set up an Akron field goal with just two seconds to go in the half.Although Wisconsin still held the lead at the break, the Badgers left plenty of points on the board and might have given up another score as well had Akron quarterback Chris Jacquemain not missed on a couple of open throws.“We came out in the second quarter and we were kind of lackadaisical,” cornerback Allen Langford said. “We missed some tackles and we didn’t do everything we should have. But we picked it up in the second half and that’s what you want to do.”After the half, Wisconsin had no trouble reverting back to its early form, scoring three more touchdowns while shutting down the Akron offense until the Zips scored a touchdown in the game’s closing seconds.“Definitely a lot of positives out there,” Bielema said. “I think we are a good football team, and we can move forward if we just have big ears and coaches do what they are supposed to do.”last_img

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