Jared Abbrederis, UW football vs. South Dakota

University of Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis (4) breaks loose on a 51-yard touchdown catch early in the third quarter against the South Dakota Coyotes at Camp Randall Stadiumon Sept. 24, 2011.

It's like putting a turbo-charged engine on a John Deere tractor.

As productive as the University of Wisconsin football team's offense was a year ago, setting a school record by averaging 41.5 points per game, it didn't have a lot of quick-strike potential.

UW tended to grind up the clock, along with opponents. UW led the Big Ten Conference and ranked sixth nationally in time of possession, averaging 32 minutes, 57 seconds.

Through four games, the Badgers rank No. 49 nationally in time of possession, averaging 30:42. But it's not an issue, unless you consider scoring too quickly a problem.

"I know the O-line likes it, getting off the field (quickly)," tight end Jacob Pedersen said. "Those big plays really get momentum going for us."

As efficient as former quarterback Scott Tolzien was last season, deep passes were not one of his strengths. The Badgers had only three completions of 40-plus yards, and one of them was a 74-yarder by backup quarterback Jon Budmayr late in the 83-20 win over Indiana.

Tolzien's longest completion was 45 yards, and it came in the first quarter of the first game.

Throwing the deep ball isn't an issue for new quarterback Russell Wilson, a senior transfer from North Carolina State. He already has seven completions of 40-plus yards.

"He really has all the throws," UW coach Bret Bielema said. "That's the comment a lot of scouts (make) when they come in."

Not all of Wilson's big pass plays have been long throws, like the three short passes to backs that turned into three of the 40-plus gains. But he showed from the opening game, with a 39-yard completion to Nick Toon in first quarter, that he brings a new element to the offense.

"I like throwing the deep ball, but at the same time, I just like facilitating the ball to the right guy at the right time," Wilson said. "It's what playing quarterback is all about."

The big plays — as defined by 20 or more yards from the line of scrimmage — have not been limited to the passing game. The Badgers already have 10 running plays of 20-plus yards, to go with 15 passing plays. They had 20 runs and 35 passes of that length in 13 games last season.

As a result, an offense that seemed to be running at peak efficiency last season is even better, averaging 48.5 points per game.

"Coming into fall camp, we all talked about being explosive," Jared Abbrederis said of the receivers. "Whether that's down-the-field blocking helping get explosive runs, or explosive catches, whatever it is. The coaches have stressed that and we've focused on it."

A common denominator in the explosive plays has been the receivers, either making catches or throwing blocks that help spring backs.

Two of the long touchdowns against South Dakota last week were directly a result of the receivers' blocking.

James White had a 49-yard touchdown run in which he broke into the open, thanks to a Toon block, then scored due to an Abbrederis block near the goal line. Toon also had a 59-yard scoring pass in which he caught the ball at the line and got around the corner thanks to an Abbrederis block.

Much of that starts with receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander, who focuses on blocking every day in practice.

"Coach Alexander really works them on that because they know we're going to run the football and in order for us to get to the second level, they have to make those big blocks," White said. "That's what they've been doing all year."

But the receivers have hardly been glorified blockers. Toon ranks fourth in the Big Ten in receptions with 21 and his average of 16.8 yards per catch leads the top 10. Abbrederis is ninth in receiving yards, averaging 58.2 per game, while averaging 15.5 per catch.

Toon's long catch last season was 30 yards. He has three catches longer than that already this season.

"As a receiver, as a playmaker, as a competitor, any time you can get your hands on the ball, you want to make a big play," Toon said. "That's the way I think."

Of UW's 27 touchdown drives, 12 have lasted less than 2 minutes. Scoring too quickly is usually not an issue, though the Badgers' defense probably wouldn't mind a few more lengthy drives on Saturday night against Nebraska at Camp Randall Stadium.

The Cornhuskers come in averaging 42.8 points per game, and keeping their offense off the field could be a key. But nobody's going to complain about a UW offense that now has an extra gear it once lacked.

"It's never bad," senior right guard Kevin Zeitler said of all the quick TD drives. "Whatever happens in a game, we'll make sure we get our job done, whether it's slow and grind it, or sweet, awesome short drives."


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