Madison, WI (Sports Network) – Montee Ball ran for four touchdowns and Scott Tolzien threw four touchdown passes, leading fifth-ranked Wisconsin in a 70-23 thrashing of Northwestern to claim a share of the Big Ten title.
Wisconsin (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) has really put on a show at home in its past two games at Camp Randall Stadium, outscoring its two opponents by a total of 153-43. With the victory, the Badgers have a good chance at advancing to the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten representative due to their high standing in the BCS rankings entering this week.
After victories by both Michigan State and Ohio State earlier Saturday, Wisconsin stands tied with the pair atop the Big Ten. The tiebreaker is the BCS rankings on Sunday, and the Badgers entered this week at No. 7, while Ohio State was No. 8 and Michigan State No. 10.
It’s the first conference title for Wisconsin since 1999.
Ball finished with 178 yards on 20 carries, while Tolzien recorded 230 passing yards on 15-of-19 throws for the Badgers, who finished their season with seven straight victories.
Evan Watkins completed 13-of-22 passes for 123 yards and a score, but was intercepted four times for Northwestern (7-5, 3-5), which lost three of its final four games.
Wisconsin scored often throughout the first half, taking advantage of five Northwestern turnovers.
Ball capped the opening drive with a 32-yard touchdown, and Jay Valai intercepted Watkins’ first pass attempt and took it back to the Wildcats’ 40.
The Badgers punted, but recovered a fumble on Northwestern’s ensuing possession, which put Wisconsin at the opposing 13. Two plays later, Ball ran in from the one-yard line for a 14-0 lead seven minutes into the game.
Stefan Demos got Northwestern on the board with a 47-yard field goal, but Ball scored his third touchdown of the day to finish off an 11-play, 82-yard drive that ended early in the second quarter.
Watkins was intercepted on the following series, leading to Tolzien’s 18-yard touchdown pass to David Gilreath for a 28-3 advantage with 9:03 left until halftime.
The Wildcats found the end zone for the first time on Watkins’ six-yard rush up the middle with 5:41 to go in the second quarter, but Tolzien responded with a 29-yard scoring pass to Lance Kendricks to restore the 25-point margin with 3:14 left.
Northwestern fumbled on the following kickoff, and Tolzien turned it into an 11-yard touchdown toss to Nick Toon to make it 42-10.
Venric Mark returned the next kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown for the Wildcats, but Tolzien hit Toon for another 11-yard score with 14 seconds left in the half for a 49-17 margin at the break.
Ball’s 44-yard touchdown run and James White’s subsequent 16-yard scoring run started the second half for Wisconsin, and Northwestern got on the board in the third on Watkins’ 20-yard touchdown pass to Drake Dunsmore.
With time winding down in the third, Aaron Henry picked off a Watkins pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown, giving the Badgers a 70-23 lead heading to the fourth.
Neither team scored in the fourth, as Wisconsin cruised to the easy victory.
Wisconsin has not taken part in the Rose Bowl since January 1, 2000…The Badgers lead the all-time series with Northwestern 56-33-5…Wisconsin notched its 11th perfect home record in its history (including only seasons with six or more home games)…White ran for 134 yards on 20 carries.