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Clay punishes UH


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POSTED: Sunday, December 06, 2009

His name is clay, but he was rock solid again for Wisconsin.

John Clay, a 6-foot-1, 248-pound sophomore, wriggled, battered and galloped his way to 172 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries behind his mammoth offensive line as bowl-bound Wisconsin (9-3) closed regular-season play with a 51-10 rout of Hawaii last night. Clay, the Big Ten's leading rusher, was every bit as impressive as billed, scoring three touchdowns—the last coming on a gallop over a fallen offensive lineman for a 15-yard jaunt to the pylon.

“;It was either run around him, fall down or jump over him,”; Clay said.

Even with that, Clay wasn't the most impressive Badger by any means. Quarterback Scott Tolzien, a junior, was on point all night (16-for-20, 253 yards) against a UH defense that offered little resistance.

“;Hawaii is a good team down the stretch. We thought it would be tough for four quarters,”; Tolzien said.

When the Badgers weren't lining up in double-tight-end sets, using Lance Kendricks as a wingback blocker, Tolzien knew precisely where UH's coverage was soft. He targeted seven different teammates in the first half and passed for 179 yards as UW took a 27-3 lead.

“;Hawaii started throwing five defensive linemen out there and you have to be able to throw the ball down the field,”; Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said.

Speedsters Nick Toon and David Gilreath spread the Warriors out, while tight end Garrett Graham caught almost everything thrown his way.

When the Badgers got their second-and-short scenarios, they often went airborne. Hawaii could do little once Wisconsin's red machine was humming.

“;It's awesome. I know we could easily run the ball in those situations, but my coaches have confidence in me,”; Tolzien said.

The Badgers did it without starting center Peter Konz, who was hospitalized with inflammation of a lung before the game. Left guard John Mofitt, last year's starting center, moved over to his old position for the night and UW didn't miss a beat.

The first nine possessions for Wisconsin went this way: touchdown, punt, touchdown, touchdown, missed field goal, touchdown, punt, touchdown, field goal.

By then, UW led 37-3 early in the fourth quarter. Even then, Clay was working on a bruised arm on the sideline, hoping to return to the game.

“;I want to be out there fighting with my teammates,”; he said, admitting that he knew about the torrent of great rushing performances by other UW backs, including Ron Dayne, who had 339 yards against Hawaii in 1996.

“;I was in a nice little groove, but there was no point in me going back in. We let my teammates get in there and shine,”; Clay said.

Defense was another dominant factor. Hawaii's run-and-shoot offense didn't score a touchdown until the final 5 minutes, as Bryant Moniz was slightly off-target and was sacked six times by the Badgers, twice by O'Brien Schofield.

“;They were real good up front. We knew they had good protection,”; Schofield said. “;We just played them mostly straight up.”;

It was another happy visit to the islands for Wisconsin, which won the last meeting 41-24 in '05 despite more than 400 passing yards by Colt Brennan.

The visitors seemed to have no problem with the climate change; it was 25 degrees in Madison, Wis., yesterday and in the mid-80s here, not to mention a contrast in humidity. The flags above Aloha Stadium were motionless most of the night.