MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Melvin Gordon ran for 140 yards and a score, and No. 21 Wisconsin’s overpowering defense got its second straight shutout in a 48-0 win over FCS school Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
Joel Stave was 24 of 29 for 219 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, while defensive back Darius Hillary set the tone early by forcing a fumble that set up a score for the Badgers (2-0).
The early-season tuneup went about as well as could be expected for first-year coach Gary Andersen, who’s breaking in a new 3-4 defense in Madison. Wisconsin had no problems against the Golden Eagles (1-1), whose spread offense got outmuscled by the bigger Badgers. Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown could have used a few players from younger brother Mack Brown’s team at Texas.
The brightest spot for Tennessee Tech may have been punter Chad Zinchini, who had a career-best 70-yard boot in the third quarter. That superseded a 64-yard punt earlier in the day for Zinchini, a senior who last year set the school record by averaging nearly 45 yards a punt.
Didn’t matter to the Badgers, who moved the ball at will. Including Gordon, three backs went over 100 yards for the second straight game. Gordon accumulated all his stats in the first half on nine carries. He had more yards rushing by himself than Tennessee Tech had in total offense (83) at halftime.
Stave had a stretch 13 straight completions. He was 10 of 10 during a late drive in the first half during which the Badgers decided to brush up on their two-minute offense, ending with a 6-yard scoring pass to Brian Wozniak for a 28-0 lead at the half.
James White got in on the fun with a 2-yard touchdown run at 9:13 of the third. Kyle French’s extra-point attempt bounced off the right upright — one of the few flubs on the day for Wisconsin — to keep the score at 34-0.
Freshman Corey Clement picked up the load the rest of the second half, gaining 149 yards rushing on 13 carries and two touchdowns. The second score came on a 75-yard run down the left sideline to put Wisconsin up by seven touchdowns late in the game.
Even 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne is impressed by this current crop of Badger backs. That’s saying a lot given Dayne holds the school career rushing record with 7,125 yards.
“It’s nice … I’d be a little greedier. I don’t think everybody’s got their 100 yards in a game,” Dayne quipped in the press box after being honored at halftime as part of the 2013 College Football Hall of Fame class. “I’m enjoying it.”
Tennessee Tech made it past the 50 just once in the first three quarters. Dual-threat quarterback Darian Stone rarely had time to make any plays, going 8 of 19 passing for 69 yards, and carrying seven times for 16 yards. Dangerous sophomore Ladarius Vanlier, who had a 93-yard punt return for a TD last week against NAIA school Cumberland, was never a factor Saturday on special teams.
After trouncing Massachusetts 45-0 last week, the Badgers have back-to-back shutouts to open a season for the first time since holding Miami and Marquette scoreless in 1958.
The student section began clearing out early in the fourth quarter on a warm, sticky afternoon at Camp Randall, content with another Badger blowout. Wisconsin held huge edges in total offense (606-113) and first downs (29-6).
The first play from scrimmage was a harbinger of things to come for Tennessee Tech, when Hillary forced a fumble after running back Stephen Bush tried to push for extra yardage. Dezmen Southward recovered, and six plays later, Stave connected with fullback Derek Straus for a 3-yard touchdown pass only four-plus minutes into the contest.
The rout was on.
Wisconsin got the reps and confidence boost it needed headed into much tougher game next weekend at Arizona State.
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP