MINNEAPOLIS — Maybe it's because he's from Florida, but University of Wisconsin senior free safety Aaron Henry can feel a noticeable difference when the calendar flips to November.

"A little cooler, the hits are a little more impactful," Henry said. "This is when titles are won."

It's also the time of year when the Badgers get rolling. After two crushing losses in October, No. 16 UW continued its November redemption by drilling Minnesota 42-13 on Saturday in front of 49,158 fans at TCF Bank Stadium.

Thanks to losses by Ohio State and Penn State earlier in the day, the Badgers regained control of their own destiny, improving to 8-2 overall and 4-2 in the Big Ten Conference. If they win at Illinois and at home against Penn State in the final two games, they will win the Leaders Division and advance to the inaugural Big Ten title game.

"We had two weeks back to back that were about as gut-wrenching as anybody could imagine," UW coach Bret Bielema said of the road losses to Michigan State and Ohio State.

"I'm under the philosophy, whatever happens, you have to embrace it. It has to make you stronger. I know we're a stronger team today than we were four weeks ago."

Indeed, one of the reasons the Badgers are 16-3 in the month of November during Bielema's six seasons is they tend to learn from their mistakes. And there was plenty to be gleaned from those two losses, from defensive breakdowns to problems on special teams.

"I think it comes down to being able to learn and get more experience with each game," guard Travis Frederick said. "By the time November hits, we had two losses, we've seen what we do good and what we haven't done well and you build off of that.

"The way our team is, the way our team responds to things and learns from things, you keep getting a bigger repertoire."

Right now, that repertoire is bulging on offense, thanks to the red-hot combination of quarterback Russell Wilson and Montee Ball.

Wilson was almost perfect, completing 16 of 17 passes for 178 yards and four touchdowns, giving him a school-record 25 TD passes and smashing the previous record of 21 set by John Stocco in 2005.

Ball was nearly as efficient, rushing for 166 yards and two scores on 23 carries, an average of 7.2 yards per carry. He also caught a touchdown pass to give him 27 TDs on the season, breaking the Big Ten record of 26 held by three players.

The Badgers have defeated the Gophers (2-8, 1-5) eight straight times and 15 of the last 17. But nobody on the UW sideline wanted to take any chances, since games here usually are close and sometimes include crazy happenings.

"When we came in, we wanted to make sure we started out fast because it's a hostile environment and it's a rivalry game, so anything can happen," guard Kevin Zeitler said.

"As far as efficiency, I think everything was working. Everyone was on and hitting their assignments."

The Gophers tried blitzing Wilson on the opening drive, including a couple of corner blitzes. A corner blitz forced a key red-zone fumble in Minnesota's upset of Iowa two weeks earlier.

But the Badgers were ready for it. When cornerback Kyle Henderson blitzed from Wilson's left, the quarterback saw it and hit Ball in the vacated area for an easy 5-yard touchdown pass.

"The key for those things, you have to be able to see them and Russell saw them," Bielema said.

Still, the Badgers haven't cleaned up all their October mistakes. The Gophers finished with only nine first downs and 156 yards of offense, but got both scores due to UW special teams blunders.

On a fake field goal attempt in the first quarter, holder Adam Lueck flipped the ball to kicker Jordan Wettstein. Cornerback Antonio Fenelus had Wettstein dead to rights but missed the tackle at the 12. Wettstein's 5-yard touchdown run gave the Gophers life at 21-6.

Kickoff returns continued to be an issue and Duane Bennett wasn't touched on a 96-yard touchdown to start the second half.

But part of winning on the road is dealing with momentum swings. The Badgers didn't do that in losing their previous two conference road games.

Fenelus made up for his gaffe by intercepting a MarQueis Gray floater, which came after a rare three-and-out by UW's offense following the fake field goal.

Nick Toon caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Wilson on the next series. Toon finished with eight catches for 100 yards and two scores.

After the kickoff return for a touchdown, Wilson converted on third-and-8 with a 9-yard scramble, then hit tight end Jacob Pedersen for a 3-yard TD to push the lead to 35-13.

Zeitler wasn't aware of UW's November record, but with two more wins in the month, the Badgers will play where they hoped to play all along, in the title game on Dec. 3 in Indianapolis.

"I'm guessing, it's just because by this time, the team is starting to click more," Zeitler said of the late-season success. "We're used to all of the calls and changeups. A lot of defenses do similar things. It's just recognizing it and doing the assignments."

Click here to access our app for iPhones and Android mobile devices, offering all the latest Badgers news, scores, stats, photos and more from the Madison.com reporting team.

You might also like

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Exchange ideas and opinions on posted articles. Don't promote products or services, impersonate other site users, register multiple accounts, threaten or harass others, post vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language. Don't post content that defames or degrades anyone. Don't repost copyrighted material; link to it. In other words, stick to the topic and play nice. Report abuses by clicking the button. Users who break the rules will be banned from commenting. We no longer issue warnings. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.