MADISON, Wis. | Clobbered by the pass rush. Shut down in the running game.
No. 19 Northwestern's high-octane offense hit a cardinal red speed bump Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
Wisconsin recorded seven sacks and held the Wildcats to 44 yards rushing, their lowest total in six seasons in an easier-than-expected 35-6 victory that handed Northwestern its second straight loss.
But after falling by just 10 to Ohio State last week, coach Pat Fitzgerald's team took a step back on the road.
"I didn't think they came out and weren't ready to play," he said. "I just think that as the game went along, we lost our focus somehow, some way."
Melvin Gordon ran for a 71-yard touchdown and Chris Borland led a front seven that figured out the 19th-ranked Wildcats' high-octane offense in a 35-6 win Saturday.
The Badgers (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten) spent much of the afternoon chasing down quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trever Siemian. Jared Abbrederis burned the secondary for a 63-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter before leaving with a head injury.
Northwestern (4-2, 0-2) the league's peskiest defense, grabbed three more turnovers to increase its season total to 17.
The Wildcats just couldn't turn those mistakes into enough points against aggressive Wisconsin.
"You can kind of feel the offense on their heels. Getting really aggressive is always a good time," said Borland, who had a team-high 10 tackles. "That's how you play defense."
Do-everything quarterback Colter was held to 10 yards rushing on six carries for Northwestern. The Wildcats tried to stretch the field horizontally to find holes but Borland and his fellow linebackers filled the lanes while the secondary did an admirable job covering up the receiving corps.
Colter finished 4 for 5 passing for 34 yards and an interception. Siemian was 13 for 34 for 163 yards.
The Wildcats also suffered a damaging blow to their chances of winning the Legends Division after a second straight loss.
"We dug ourselves a nice little hole here," Siemian said.
And they were doomed by the big plays by Gordon and Abbrederis.
Gordon had 22 carries for 172 yards and the long run that gave Wisconsin a three-possession lead before halftime.
Back from what turned out to be a minor left knee injury that knocked him out of the loss to Ohio State two weeks ago, Gordon ran left on a sweep and burst through the hole on second-and-3. Ibraheim Campbell tried to close out inside the 10, but the speedy, 207-pound back lowered his right shoulder into the safety to just get the ball over the goal line on a play upheld on replay review.
The Badgers pushed around Northwestern on both sides of the ball.
A few drops hurt too, like the one receiver Christian Jones had over the middle that could have led to a first down with Northwestern buried deep in its own territory in the third quarter.
Three third-quarter drives, three three-and-outs for the Wildcats. No way to mount a comeback.
It didn't help that running back Venric Mark, who had just returned last week from an injury, got knocked out in the second quarter with a left ankle injury. Colter also suffered what Northwestern called a "lower body injury" in the first half but quickly returned.
Later, Fitzgerald revealed that Colter had injured an ankle that he initially rolled in practice earlier in the week.
Northwestern even picked up three more turnovers, including two interceptions of Joel Stave and a fumble recovery after Abbrederis coughed up the ball following a short gain in the first half.
But the offense got stuffed. Wisconsin had more sacks than Northwestern had points.
The Wildcats only managed two first-half field goals by Jeff Budzien from 27 and 43.
The Badgers had huge edges in first downs (24-10) and total yards (527-241). They held Northwestern to 2 of 17 on third downs.
"You can't go 2 for (17) on third down and expect to win a lot of football games. You can't drop balls. You can't miss wide open guys," Fitzgerald said. "I'm shocked at all those things happened. But when you play that way, I'm not shocked at the outcome if that makes sense."
Abbrederis had two catches for 74 yards. Coach Gary Andersen said after the game that his top receiver looked OK and should be back next week to face Illinois.