GAME NOTES: The Wisconsin Badgers are set to close out the non-conference
portion of their schedule on Saturday afternoon when they host the Texas-El
Paso Miners at Camp Randall Stadium.
This marks the first-ever meeting on the gridiron between these two schools.
Wisconsin will put its 18-game home winning streak on the line, which is
currently the second-longest active home win streak in the nation behind LSU
(20). The Badgers are also riding a 25-game home win streak against non-
conference opponents, which dates back to 2003. A week after suffering a 10-7
loss at Oregon State, the Badgers had to sweat out a 16-14 home win over Utah
State this past weekend.
This also marks the final non-conference tuneup for UTEP. Beginning this week,
the Miners will play three of their next four on the road. After opening the
2012 campaign with losses to Oklahoma and Ole Miss, the Miners broke into the
win column with a 41-28 triumph over New Mexico State last weekend.
UTEP senior quarterback Nick Lamaison was named the C-USA Offensive Player of
the Week for his role in the Miners' win over New Mexico State. Lamaison threw
for 300 yards and four touchdowns in that game, as he helped the Miners jump
out to a 27-7 halftime lead by throwing for 204 yards and two scores on 16-
of-22 passing. UTEP's offense scored touchdowns on each of its first four
possessions en route to its best offensive performance of the season. Wideout
Jordan Leslie hauled in seven passes for a career-high 147 yards, while
Lamaison also got his tight ends involved with two TD throws. In addition to
the passing game working in high gear, the Miners finished with 177 yards on
the ground. Freshman Autrey Golden ran for a personal-best 69 yards on 12
UTEP's defense also put forth a solid effort against the Aggies, totaling
seven tackles for losses and three sacks for the game. NMSU was held to 14
points until adding a pair of touchdowns late in the fourth quarter with the
game well out of reach. The Miners were strong against the run, limiting the
Aggies to 3.2 yards per carry on 35 attempts as a team. It was a good sign for
the Miners defense after getting gashed on the ground by Ole Miss (332 yards)
and Oklahoma (205 yds, 5.5 ypc) in the first two games. However, they had some
trouble with Aggies wideouts Austin Franklin and Kemonte Bateman, who combined
for 14 catches, 222 receiving yards and three TDs.
The Badger offense has been slow to get going in the early part of the
season. They were able to squeak out a victory over Utah State thanks mostly
to a missed 37-yard field goal by Aggies kicker Josh Thompson in the final
seconds of regulation. One of Wisconsin's two touchdowns came on an 82-yard
punt return by Kenzel Doe in the third quarter, while senior running back
Montee Ball scored the go-ahead TD on a 17-yard run with 3:06 to play in the
third. The Badgers enter this tilt ranked 113th nationally in scoring offense
(16.3 ppg) and 116th in total offense (276 ypg). Against USU, they converted
only 3-of-15 third downs.
Ball, who has scored 63 touchdowns already at Wisconsin, enters the weekend 16
TDs short of breaking the NCAA career record. He is currently tied with former
Badger Ron Dayne for eighth in NCAA history and leads all active players. In
fact, he is 24 touchdowns ahead of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson's
total of 39, which ranks second among active players.
Through two games, Wisconsin's defense is allowing just 82.0 rushing yards
per game to rank 17th nationally. After allowing just 19.0 points per game
last season, the D is yielding just 15.0 ppg three games into the 2012
campaign. In three games, the Badgers' opponents have combined for a mere four
trips inside the red zone. Last week, Utah State managed only 13 first downs
and 308 yards of total offense, as the Aggies converted just 6-of-19 third
downs. Senior Mike Taylor leads the way for UW with 12.0 tackles per game, as
UW's starting linebackers have combined to average 26.0 tackles.
Since Bret Bielema became the head coach in 2006, Wisconsin has gone 41-3 at
home, with the three losses all coming at the hands of BCS bowl teams.
Meanwhile, the Miners are 0-16 all-time in road games versus BCS conference
teams. The Badgers may not be firing on all cylinders just yet, but this is
the kind of matchup that could propel them in that direction.