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The Early Lead
Posted at 11:35 AM ET, 09/02/2011

No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers roll over UNLV in NCAA football opener


Montee Ball (28), Russell Wilson (16) and Wisconsin took care of business in their season opener. (Andy Manis - AP)
Smash-mouth football has long been a staple of Wisconsin Badgers football, so it’s hardly a surprise they pounded away on the ground in their season-opening 51-17 thrashing of UNLV on Thursday night.

But now they’ve added a proven quarterback with game-breaking ability to add another dimension to their offense.

Russell Wilson, a senior transfer from North Carolina State, dazzled in his first start for the No. 11 Badgers, completing 10 of 13 passes for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns and rushing for a 46-yard touchdown.

Wilson’s play thrilled the 80,000 fans in attendance (79,961 after a number of students were ejected) and impressed coach Bret Bielema, too.

“Some moxie, some savvy, some God-given ability. Russell has been very impressive how he’s handled everything.”

Of course the Badgers got plenty of production from their meat-and-potatoes rushing game, too. Junior Montee Ball rushed for 63 yards and four touchdowns on 10 carries, helping Wisconsin display the toughness that has some pundits projecting the Badgers to win the conference and play in the Rose Bowl.

Elsewhere on Thursday, No. 20 Mississippi State crushed Memphis 59-14 behind three touchdowns from senior running back Vick Ballard who rushed for 166 yards on only 10 carries. The Bulldogs gained 405 total yards in the first half alone while building a 31-7 lead.

On a night full of blowouts, the only real drama came in the Carrier Dome where Syracuse rallied from a 29-14 deficit with 11:02 left in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Ryan Nassib’s four-yard touchdown pass to a diving Van Chew in overtime gave the Orange a wild 36-29 victory when the Deamon Deacons failed to answer with a score of their own.

The action really heats up Saturday with a full slate of games including a pair of primetime matchups as No. 3 Oregon takes on No. 4 LSU and No. 5 Boise State visits No. 19 Georgia.

While you’re nestling into your couch with your beverage of choice and a handful of something crunchy/greasy/fried/green, don’t forget to throw on your college t-shirt/hat/helmet. In fact, you should be sporting your alma mater’s colors today per the orders of the Senate Sergeant at Arms Office. You didn’t forget, did you? It’s College Colors Day!!!

By  |  11:35 AM ET, 09/02/2011

 
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