(Thursday, September 1st)
Final Score: (11) Wisconsin 51, UNLV 17
Madison, WI (Sports Network) - Russell Wilson's debut at Wisconsin was a successful one, as he threw for 255 yards and a pair of scores while the 11th- ranked Badgers blasted UNLV, 51-17, in the season opener for both teams.
The powerhouse backfield of James White and Montee Ball had a big hand in Wisconsin's success last year and made an immediate impact in the 2011 lid- lifter. Ball rushed 10 times for 63 yards and three touchdowns, and also caught a scoring pass. White had 11 carries for 64 yards and a TD.
Wilson, a transfer from NC State, completed 10-of-13 passes. The redshirt senior, who came to Wisconsin after starting 36 games for the Wolfpack, also rumbled 46 yards for a touchdown for the Badgers (1-0), who went 11-2 in 2010 and closed the campaign with a 21-19 loss to TCU in the Rose Bowl. The Badgers won a share of the Big Ten title, the team's 12th in history and first since 1999.
"I've never seen someone take charge like he did." Ball said of Wilson. "That man is making some phenomenal plays out there, especially on his feet. He's a great playmaker and is getting the job done."
Redshirt sophomore Caleb Herring connected on 18-of-27 throws for 146 yards and two TDs for the Rebels (0-1), who are coming off a 2-11 mark in Bobby Hauck's first season as head coach.
Herring is the seventh different opening-day starter for the Rebels in the last eight years.
Wilson culminated Wisconsin's opening seven-play drive with a four-yard TD pass to Ball, who was left open on the left side on a 3rd-and-goal situation.
Ball, who was four yards shy of 1,000 on the ground last year, shed a couple of tackles up the middle on the way to a 22-yard TD run midway through the first quarter. Redshirt freshman Kyle French pushed the extra point wide right.
"I had a chance to watch the (2011) Rose Bowl this afternoon," Hauck said. "I replayed that in the hotel and it's the same thing, everyone had trouble with these backs and we certainly did, too. They are good with the football in space and run hard. They have make-you-miss ability and they can get tough yards. They're impressive."
The Badgers widened the lead on the possession after Nolan Kohorst missed a 34-yard field goal try for UNLV. White, who ran for a team-best 1,052 yards in 2010, capped an 80-yard march with a one-yard plunge for a 20-0 lead inside the final minute of the quarter. The drive featured a 39-yard connection from Wilson to Nick Toon.
On the possession after Kohorst hooked a 52-yard kick wide left, Ball scored standing up on a one-yard run up the middle. He also caught a 63-yard pass during the four-play drive, which ended with 8:50 left in the half.
UNLV finally broke its scoring drought on Kohorst's 37-yard field goal, but Wilson took off on a 46-yard scramble up the middle and then down the right sideline, into the end zone with 1:14 remaining until halftime.
"I thought I could outrun the defenders, but I was just trying to get the first down," Wilson said. "Nothing was really open down field so I was just trying to get something positive. We made some great key blocks down field. I know Nick made one on the 2-3 yard line that helped me get in the end zone, so that was crucial."
The Badgers then forced a punt and White caught a 40-yard pass, which led to 29-yard field goal from French on the final play of the second quarter and a big 37-3 lead.
Wilson hit Jacob Pedersen with an eight-yard scoring pass, and Ball scored from a yard out later in the third. Ball's TD came immediately after Wilson connected with Bradie Ewing for a 41-yard gain.
The Rebels finally found the end zone with 2:53 left in the third on a six- yard tightrope catch from Phillip Payne.
William Vea caught a nine-yard TD pass from Herring early in the fourth quarter.
By that time the Badgers had replaced Wilson with redshirt freshman Joe Brennan.
UNLV is 2-10 all-time vs. the Big Ten...Wisconsin, which had 499 yards of offense, leads the all-time series 8-2...Badgers coach Bret Bielema is 21-0 in regular-season non-conference games...Wisconsin has won its season opener every year since 1998 and has captured 29 consecutive regular season non- conference games. The Badgers have also won their last 16 home openers...UNLV's Bradley Randle had 65 yards rushing, four more than teammate Tim Cornett...Michael Johnson caught seven passes for 51 yards in defeat... It was 90 degrees at kickoff. That is the hottest home game in Badgers history.
09/02 01:15:49 ET