MADISON, Wis. — James White took the handoff on Wisconsin’s first play from scrimmage, brushed off a tackle at the line and looked for the next defender.
But no one was there.
It was like that all day for the Badgers with White’s school record 93-yard run just the beginning of another dominating rushing performance as No. 17 Wisconsin beat Indiana 51-3 on Saturday.
“I was expecting for me to have to make at least one person miss, but it just so happened they were out of their gaps and I was just able to run straight,” White said.
The Badgers (8-2, 5-1) gouged Indiana (4-6, 2-4 Big Ten) for 554 yards on the ground. That included seven runs of 30 yards or more — more than 73 FBS teams had on the season entering Saturday.
Along with White’s career-high 205 yards, Melvin Gordon added 146 and another TD, while backup Corey Clement rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns and receiver Jared Abbrederis had 86 yards on just three carries, two of them for scores.
The Hoosiers struggled with containment on the edges and Wisconsin backs regularly were untouched until reaching the second level of defenders.
White said Wisconsin noticed the Hoosiers started taking more chances on defense after getting into an early hole.
“They started doing run blitzes a little more and if you’re able to pick those up correctly, you get big gains, and we were just trying to take advantage of that,” he said.
It’s no surprise that Indiana’s run defense would struggle against the Badgers, who average more than 280 yards a game, considering the Hoosiers have the conference’s 10th-ranked rushing defense and give up an average of more than 217 yards a game.
But Wisconsin topped that just minutes into the second quarter, had 323 yards rushing at the half and finished just short of the school-record 564 yards rushing, which the Badgers rolled up in beating Indiana 62-14 last season.
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson has stuck up for his defense after some poor performances this season and did so again Saturday, arguing the offense shouldered some of the blame for failing to generate any consistency and running 60 plays, below their season average of 67.
The Hoosiers only had three drives that went more than six plays.
“When you’re not an overpowering offense in the run game, you’ve got to be pretty efficient in the passing game. We were just a little bit off in the timing,” Wilson said. “The wind is a part of that. The rain is a part of that. But the defense is a part of that.”
Second in the conference at 527 yards a game, the Hoosiers gained just 224 yards and were held without a touchdown for the first time in almost two years.
Wilson has often switched between Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson at quarterback, but neither was effective. Sudfeld was 9 of 22 for 99 yards, while Roberson was 3 of 8 for 23.
Playing without leading rusher Tevin Coleman, the Hoosiers also didn’t have much to offer in the run game with 102 yards on the ground.
Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said he was “petrified” of the Indiana offense coming into the game, but his defense didn’t allow Indiana to get into its normal up-tempo rhythm.
“They were able to kind of dictate tempo, they got themselves into position to change calls when needed, their communication was off the charts, they got on and off the field, the pace was a non-factor,” Andersen said.
It was a brutal start for the Hoosiers, and they never recovered.
After moving the ball briefly on the opening drive, Sudfeld was picked off on a deep throw to the Wisconsin 7 after receive Nick Stoner broke one way and the ball went another.
White made them pay with his 93-yard run, which topped the previous record of 91 yards by Tom Brigham vs. Western Michigan in 1963.
Indiana running back Stephen Houston fumbled on the second play of Indiana’s next drive, and the Badgers took three plays to score as Gordon punched it in from inside the 1.
The Hoosiers turned in a pair of three-and-outs on their next two possessions, Wisconsin countered with two field goals and the rout was on.
Wisconsin linebacker Brendan Kelly said the Badgers noticed the two early Indiana turnovers sucked the emotion out of the Hoosiers.
“But I think throughout the course of the game, we kept our foot on their neck and we didn’t let them up,” he said.