Junior quarterback Scott Tolzien has been like a Zen master, bringing balance and harmony to the University of Wisconsin football team's offense.
The Badgers have had more than 400 yards of offense in each of their first five games. It's the longest streak since 2000 and the first time they have opened the season with a run like that since 1993.
The reason, in a nutshell, is almost perfect balance between the run and pass. The Badgers are averaging 217.2 rushing yards and 216 passing yards per game.
"It's a rarity when that happens," running backs coach John Settle said of the nearly equal balance. "Some people want to get to 60-40."
Even a running backs coach has to like it when an offense can throw as effectively as it runs. The Badgers are first in the Big Ten Conference in rushing. They are eighth in passing, but it's misleading, since they are first in passing efficiency (152.9).
So, what's it going to be, defensive coordinators? Do you start out trying to stop the run or pass?
"I think it's always going to be the run," junior left tackle Gabe Carimi said. "If you don't come in with the mind-set to stop the run, we're going to run."
But Tolzien, who is completing 65.6 percent of his passes, is making teams pay if they commit too many bodies to the run.
"In the past, teams have been able to load up the box and they were like, 'Beat us with the pass,'" junior running back Zach Brown said. "They would just dare us.
"Now, we play the same teams and you see the linebackers further back. It's interesting to see that difference."
When those linebackers inch back, sophomore running back John Clay is even more effective. He leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth nationally, averaging 116.4 rushing yards per game.
Yet, it's only in the last two games, when Clay has rushed for 326 yards, that the running game has started rolling. It also coincided with the offensive line getting healthy and junior John Moffitt moving from center to left guard.
As a result, offensive coordinator Paul Chryst has been able to take what defenses give him.
"Our goal is to make defenses defend the whole field," Settle said. "To be able to keep them off balance is something we pride ourselves on, something we try to do week in and week out."
The next challenge is to do it Saturday at Ohio State, which is the defensive equivalent of the Badgers' offense in terms of balance. The Buckeyes are first in the conference against the pass (169.2 yards per game) and the run (83.4). They are second in scoring (11.8 points per game).
One of the best ways to illustrate the trouble defending UW's balance is the double tight ends it uses as its base offense. Most teams consider that a running formation but the Badgers are just as content to throw out of it.
Senior tight end Garrett Graham leads UW with 23 receptions for 268 yards and four touchdowns. Junior H-back Lance Kendricks is tied for third with 12 catches for 135 yards and two TDs.
"You can tell the QB has got great confidence in those guys and has great chemistry with them," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "Any time there's the threat of run and pass, like there is when you have tight ends in the game and the big power O-line and backs they have, that gives our defense a whole bunch to consider."
Toss in a couple deep threats in receivers Isaac Anderson (21.2 yards per catch) and Nick Toon (22 catches) and the field is balanced, too.
Tolzien has been the perfect trigger man, going through his progressions and finding the open man.
"First thing I think about, when you think of a balanced offense, is what that does to the defense," Tolzien said. "Having to prepare for both, not knowing what's coming next and not being predictable."
The Badgers set a school record for total offense in 1993, averaging 455.2 yards per game. That team averaged 250.8 rushing yards and 204.4 passing yards, one of only two teams in records dating to 1946 to average more than 200 yards rushing and passing. The 2007 team averaged 200.8 rushing and 208 passing.
With that balance comes harmony. When everybody's involved, everybody's happy.
"What I like about this team, nobody cares who gets the credit," Settle said. "If we end up having to throw the ball for 300 yards, we'll throw it for 300. If we need to run it a little more, we'll run it. Everybody is focused on the bottom line and that's winning ballgames."