Shortly after noon on Thursday, Harrison Wilson IV picked up his BlackBerry and continued a gameday tradition by sending his younger brother an inspirational text message.

"Go get it today," it read. "Play smart and have a killer instinct."

Check, check and check.

In one of the most anticipated debuts in University of Wisconsin football history, senior quarterback Russell Wilson managed to live up to the hype with a dazzling performance inside a steamy Camp Randall Stadium on Thursday night.

The transfer from North Carolina State accounted for 317 yards of total offense and three touchdowns as the Badgers opened the 2011 season with a 51-17 victory over UNLV.

Afterward, UW coach Bret Bielema used the words "moxie" and "savvy" to describe Wilson, who led UW to scores on all eight of his possessions (seven touchdowns and a field goal) before giving way to backup Joe Brennan with 2 minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Not only did Wilson finish 10-of-13 through the air for 255 yards and two touchdowns, he also ran for 62 yards and a touchdown on two carries.

"Two words: Russell Wilson," UW senior safety Aaron Henry said. "The guy put on a show."

Only four quarterbacks had thrown for at least 200 yards in their UW debuts prior to Thursday's game. Wilson became the fifth by halftime, completing 8 of 11 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown as the Badgers coasted into the locker room with a 37-3 lead.

Thirty minutes before kickoff, Harrison Wilson sat in Section G and looked out on the field as his brother went through final preparations for his debut.

"I'm more nervous than he is," said Harrison, who played football and baseball in college at Richmond. "He doesn't tend to get nervous. That's the difference between him and I. For some reason, Russell's never nervous. And I'm jealous of that."

UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst called three running plays for tailback Montee Ball to open the game before unleashing Wilson, who rolled to his right and threw a pretty ball that wide receiver Jared Abbrederis caught along the sidelines at the UNLV 9 for a 23-yard gain. Two plays later, Wilson executed a play-action fake and hit a wide-open Ball for his first touchdown pass with the Badgers.

Wilson's second series was his worst - he overthrew tight ends Jake Byrne and Jacob Pedersen in a span of three plays in UNLV territory - but he finished the night by completing eight of his final nine passes for 228 yards.

Wilson looks every bit as accurate as his predecessor, Tolzien, but what sets Wilson apart is his running ability.

He scored a touchdown on a 46-yard scramble late in the first half, showing off his speed as he darted around UNLV defenders while taking advantage of nice blocks by Pedersen and wide receiver Nick Toon. He also had a 16-yard gain to convert on third-and-6 and set up an 8-yard touchdown pass to Pedersen in the third quarter.

Wilson would be the first to admit that he had a lot of help in the opener.

Ball (63 yards), fullback Bradie Ewing (41) and tailback James White (40) turned short passes into huge gains, while Toon made a great catch in traffic for a 39-yard completion Wilson's linemen gave him plenty of time in the pocket and opened huge holes that Ball and White took full advantage in a relentless rushing attack that opened up the play-action game.

"I don't think I got touched at all today, which is pretty unbelievable," Wilson said. "The offensive line did a great job. They're tremendous up there."

But Wilson did his part as well, somehow managing to live up to a buildup that even his older brother thought might be difficult to match.

Wilson's secret was to ignore the hype as he put in extra hours to get ready for the opener.

"I think when you're prepared, you're not nervous," Wilson said. "You're confident and ready to go. I think experience helps; I think the leadership that we have on this team across the board helps. So I was excited about it."

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