Austin Peay didn't count and the University of Wisconsin football team had fallen alarmingly short of expectations in the other five games it played this season.

Still, the 18th-ranked Badgers knew exactly what they had to do against top-ranked Ohio State when the Big Ten Conference powers met under the really bright lights Saturday night at Camp Randall Stadium.

"To beat Ohio State," UW defensive end J.J. Watt said last week, "you have to play 60 great minutes of football. (But) you don't have to be perfect by any means."

Yes, but what would happen if the Badgers actually played the 60-minute game they've been talking about all season? Better yet, what would happen if they were perfect?

Well, now we know because it finally happened.

From the moment David Gilreath's 97-yard kickoff return gave UW a rocket-fueled start to the time the history-challenged students stormed the field in celebration, the Badgers played the four-quarter game they and many others thought they should have been playing all season.

Indeed, their 31-18 victory over the Buckeyes was so stunningly complete it had only a few minutes of real tension. Even then, the Badgers had an answer with a 10-play, 73-yard drive that ended with James White's 12-yard, game-clinching touchdown run on which seemingly every Buckeyes player except Heisman Trophy candidate Terrelle Pryor missed a tackle.

In one scintillating 3-hour stretch, UW thrust itself back into the race for the Big Ten championship, whacked Ohio State's national title hopes and set the stage for a great new rivalry when the Badgers and Buckeyes move into the same division after the conference splits in two next year. Mostly though, the Badgers showed what they are capable of doing when they play hard and avoid mistakes from start to finish.

This certainly will be viewed as a major upset nationally, but it wasn't in the UW locker room, which might explain why the Badgers were able to do what they did in beating the No. 1 team at home for the first time since 1981.

"There's no pinching going on with me," UW coach Bret Bielema said. "I really felt that we would have success if we do what we do, if we go out and execute the fundamentals of what our plan is."

It would have been an awful waste if UW hadn't done that because the setting will never get any more perfect than it was for the Badgers to play well and spring an upset. They had everything going their way.

They had won 40 of 44 home games since Bielema first signed on as defensive coordinator in 2004. They had won 25 of their past 28 night games. They had a veteran team with its back to the wall after the loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten opener. They had the jazzed-up atmosphere of Camp Randall on their side and most of the nation's football-watching eyeballs trained on them.

Heck, even the students showed up on time. Well, most of them anyway.

It's not like the crowd needed a warm-up act to get juiced for the Buckeyes, but Gilreath gave them one anyway by returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown. That sent an electrical charge through Camp Randall unlike any seen at the stadium in a long, long time. By the time the Buckeyes recovered from the shock, they were down 21-0.

Of course, they had Pryor, the dual-threat junior quarterback who had played well against UW only in brief stretches the last two years. Each time, however, that had been enough to beat the Badgers.

This time, it wasn't. Pryor led a second-half charge, but UW made almost no mistakes and never wavered even when Ohio State started tailgating them early in the fourth quarter. White's TD restored order and, between Watt's pressure and Blake Sorensen's game-clinching interception, UW finally got Pryor stopped.

In the end, this was the vision of UW football that Bielema — and everyone else — was hoping to see starting at UNLV in early September. Since a loss would have all but eliminated UW from title contention, its 60-minute effort came just in time.

"It's justification for me that we are doing the right things," Bielema said. "What we do 365 days a year, you saw today. And I know it can be successful."

It certainly was Saturday night.

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