Western Michigan Falls Short in Upset Bid, Loses 19-7 to No. 4 Wisconsin

Updated 8/31/2000
MADISON, Wis. (AP) (August 31, 2000) -- Michael Bennett rushed for 128 yards and a touchdown as No. 4 Wisconsin survived the suspension of five starters in a lackluster 19-7 victory over Western Michigan on Thursday night.

Eleven Wisconsin players served all or part of a suspension against Western Michigan.

In the Badgers' first game since the graduation of NCAA career rushing leader Ron Dayne, Wisconsin's offense struggled to produce the methodical drives once led by the Heisman Trophy winner. Bennett got 30 carries but rarely broke into the Broncos' defensive backfield, and Wisconsin's passing game was erratic.

But Wisconsin's underwhelming performance can't be attributed entirely to the suspensions. Only four Badgers expected to play a significant amount were suspended.

Wisconsin didn't get an offensive touchdown until a 68-yard drive capped by Bennett's 8-yard run around the left end with 9:31 to play. Thirteen seconds later, defensive end Ross Kolodziej sacked Broncos quarterback Jeff Welsh in the end zone for a safety.

Josh Hunt scored on an 89-yard punt return in the second quarter for the Badgers.

Wisconsin quarterback Brooks Bollinger frequently scrambled but found no one open. Bollinger, the Big Ten freshman of the year last season, was 6-for-10 for 96 yards while improving to 9-0 as a starter.

Western Michigan's wide-open passing offense capitalized on Fletcher's absence. Welsh, in his first start since replacing Tim Lester, was 20-for-39 for 243 yards and was intercepted once.

Wisconsin's first drive in the post-Dayne era ended on downs when Bennett was hit for a 3-yard loss by Jared Pike at Western Michigan's 29. But linebacker Ben Herbert recovered a fumble moments later, and the Badgers scored on a 21-yard field goal by Vitaly Pisetsky.

The game then descended into a turf war, with neither team able to gain significant yardage. Wisconsin's offense even heard a smattering of boos when it failed to move the ball midway through the second quarter.

The Broncos trailed 10-7 at halftime after Welsh capped an 80-yard drive with a 2-yard TD pass to Mobolaji Afariogun with 1:54 left in the second quarter.