Madison, Wis. — No. 22 Wisconsin rediscovered its swagger on the ground against Hawaii.
The defense looks as if it’s already in midseason form.
Taiwan Deal ran for 147 yards and two scores, and the Badgers held a nonconference opponent without a touchdown for the third straight game in a 28-0 victory Saturday night.
Linebacker Joe Schobert had two sacks. Wisconsin (3-1) held Hawaii (2-2) to 15 yards rushing in the first night game at Camp Randall Stadium in three years.
“Some things we can build on. But looking forward to getting better with this group,” coach Paul Chryst said in typically low-key fashion.
The running game was anything but in churning out 326 yards.
Deal had a pair of 2-yard touchdown runs in the first half. With Big Ten play looming, Deal’s day was a promising sign for a Wisconsin team that will be without injured starting tailback Corey Clement for at least a month.
Opening with two fullbacks and a tight end from its own 3, Wisconsin handed the ball to the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Deal for four straight rushes to the 32. He finished off the workmanlike drive 12 plays later with his first touchdown run.
It was a throwback Saturday with the way the Badgers were pushing people around. An offensive line beset by injuries and inexperience opened up holes for Deal, a redshirt freshman who ended the night with 26 carries.
“It was a lot of fun. It’s Wisconsin football,” fullback Derek Watt said.
The Rainbow Warriors’ best scoring chance came in the third quarter in a drive to the 1. Penalties pushed Hawaii back 30 yards, and Rigoberto Sanchez missed a 49-yard field goal.
They were foiled in part all night by their own blunders, including 11 penalties for 100 yards.
“That’s what I told the players I was most disappointed in. We play with toughness. We play with class,” coach Norm Chow said. “We have to be disciplined.”
Max Wittek finished 15 of 32 for 189 yards. He was sacked three times.
Wisconsin hasn’t allowed a touchdown since the fourth quarter of the season-opening loss to Alabama. For the first time since 1937, Wisconsin has held three straight opponents to three or fewer points.
The Badgers have had breathers at home in beating up on Miami of Ohio, Troy and Hawaii. But Wisconsin has used these tuneups wisely by sharpening its defense and building confidence in the passing game behind quarterback Joel Stave. He finished 14 of 23 for 164 yards and a score.
The defense bent against Hawaii’s no-huddle spread attack, but kept coming up with big stops. Hard-hitting safety Michael Caputo led the way again, including a pass breakup on fourth-and-3 from the Badgers 33 in what amounted to Hawaii’s last serious threat with 11:30 left in the game.
Chryst’s defense has found its identity heading into next week’s conference opener against Iowa.
“Just being an attack-style defense, trying to get after the quarterback,” Schobert said. “Make them uncomfortable and make them make some mistakes.”
The Rainbow Warriors were shut out again on the road by a Big Ten power, having lost 38-0 two weeks ago to top-ranked Ohio State.
They still held out hope at the half in Madison after trailing just 14-0 playing before a raucous crowd.
Hawaii forced a punt on Wisconsin’s opening series of the second half. A trick play with receiver Makoa Camanse-Stevens throwing a 51-yard pass to wide-open running back Paul Harris got the Rainbow Warriors to the 13.
They drove to the 1, only to get pushed back by a sack, two penalties and two incompletions before Sanchez missed wide left.
“It’s the same place we were two weeks ago, 14-0. We have to put points on the board,” Wittek said.
Hawaii faced a more than 4,000-mile plane ride home.