Wilson's near-perfect game keeps Wisconsin rolling

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 13, 2011
(Eds: Stands as 1st Ld-Writethru on state lines to update with quotes, details. With AP Photos.) By DAVE CAMPBELL AP Sports Writer As Wisconsin's lead over Minnesota grew, the Badgers began to realize their record-setting quarterback had a perfect game going. Their reactions were hardly awe-struck. They've become well-accustomed to the masterpiece of a one-and-done season that Russell Wilson has put together. ''Doesn't surprise me at all, with how hard he works,'' running back Montee Ball said. ''That's why we chose him as a captain of this team.'' Wilson put every pass right on target in Wisconsin's 42-13 win at Minnesota on Saturday. Only his last throw of the afternoon fell incomplete, when Nick Toon couldn't keep the ball from slipping out as he landed on the turf midway through the third quarter at the end of a deep post route. Wilson finished 16 for 17 - he attempted only four passes in the second half with the Badgers leading big - for 178 yards and a season-high four touchdowns. His 25 scoring passes this season are already an all-time record for Wisconsin, another highlight on his resume in this almost-too-good-to-be-true senior year. After consecutive crushing losses last month at Michigan State and at Ohio State on last-second touchdown passes that knocked them out of the national championship chase, the Badgers (8-2, 4-2) have bounced right back. The Big Ten title is well within reach. ''We had two weeks back to back that were about as gut-wrenching as anybody could imagine,'' coach Bret Bielema said. ''I'm under the philosophy: Whatever happens, you have to embrace it. It has to make you stronger. I know we're a stronger team today than we were four weeks ago.'' Bielema was so determined to keep the Badgers on task that he didn't tell them until after they beat the Gophers that Leaders Division foes Penn State and Ohio State both lost. Some of the players sneaked peeks on the sideline at the out-of-town scoreboard, but they insisted they weren't distracted by those developments. Wilson, the transfer from North Carolina State, expressed the same kind of attitude about his near-perfect game. He said he was aware he didn't have an incompletion as the second half started, but he just smiled and shrugged, as did his teammates. ''I'm not surprised. It's just something you come to expect from Russell,'' tight end Jacob Pedersen said. ''He does it game in and game out, and hopefully he does it the rest of the year.'' Pedersen said Wilson started a contest at Thursday practices to see if the Badgers can go through all of their drills without an incompletion. ''I made a note of it about two weeks ago: `Hey, let's go, no incompletions.' We always do a great job,'' Wilson said. ''The past couple weeks we haven't really had many incompletions, to be honest with you. We throw the ball a lot in practice.'' That showed against the Gophers (2-8, 1-5), who watched their rival carry Paul Bunyan's Axe around the field for the eighth straight year. The Badgers started their parade in the end zone where the Gophers sing their fight song in front of the student section, which caused some minor jawing and shoving. Bielema said afterward he should've advised his team to start on the other end to respect Minnesota's space. But that was about the only tension for the Badgers, other than an ankle injury to stalwart center Peter Konz, who left the field on a cart. Right guard Kevin Zeitler said it looked bad, but Bielema didn't have a status update. The Badgers outgained the Gophers in total yards 461-156 and had 29 first downs to Minnesota's nine on an unseasonably warm afternoon with a kickoff temperature in the low 60s. Wisconsin, which leads the FBS in red zone scoring, has reached the end zone 45 times in 52 trips inside the 20-yard line this season. Whether Konz can play or not, Wisconsin is in prime position to win the conference, a scenario that appeared unrealistic after those October losses to the Spartans and the Buckeyes. If the Badgers win at Illinois next week and beat Penn State in Madison on Nov. 26, they'll win the Leaders Division and advance to the inaugural Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis on Dec. 3. ''We have to capitalize on it and have a great week of practice,'' Wilson said. --- Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP
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