MADISON - Sophomore safety Shelton Johnson was off to such a good start Saturday afternoon.
He jump started a Badger defense that had struggled to force many turnovers when he corralled the laziest of passes and he seemed to be playing with increasing confidence as the first quarter wore on.
That, however, was where his day would end.
"He either got his calf kneed or stepped on," Bielema said. "It was a severe bruise that they (doctors) were worried about becoming a situation where it was bleeding internally."
There's a chance Johnson will spend Saturday night at a local hospital for precautionary reasons, but according to Bielema the doctors realized the injury wasn't quite as significant as they originally thought.
"He has a chance to play this week," Bielema said. "We'll just kind of wait and see what happens."
Sophomore safety Dezmen Southward filled in for the injured Johnson at strong safety. He recorded three tackles in UW's 59-10 rout of South Dakota.
More injury notes:
Reserve defensive tackle Kyle Costigan was not dressed during Saturday's win. According to Bielema, the freshman will be sidelined for a 'significant amount of time.'
"He had a stress fracture," Bielema said. "We found it on Wednesday. He may be out from anywhere between 6-to-10 weeks. It just depends on the way his body heals."
Fellow defensive tackle Eriks Briedis was also sidelined Saturday afternoon with some sort of issue with his midsection. Bielema alluded to a cracked rib but quickly recanted that terminology.
Senior right tackle Josh Oglesby was fully dressed for South Dakota but did not play. Freshman Rob Havenstein made his first start.
"We'll see where Josh is at from a health standpoint," Bielema said. "I didn't want to put him in the game just because he hadn't practiced all week. The good thing is there is another good offensive lineman that is up and coming in our program."
Sophomore kicker Alec Lerner had a forgettable day against South Dakota. He didn't strike the ball well, didn't get much distance on his kickoffs and booted two balls out of bounds.
South Dakota started two drives at the 40 yard line following those miscues.
"He kind of got a little mental on himself," Bielema said. "The ball was pushing that way out of the end zone so we moved him over to the middle of the field, but he still pushed it right two times in a row."
Lerner, who has handled kickoffs each game this season, hinted that he might not have been fully focused or locked in while playing South Dakota when asked about UW's upcoming opponent, Nebraska.
"I'll certainly be amped up and focused," Lerner said. "As long as I hit the ball well in pre-game and stay focused on the easy fundamental things I always do I shouldn't have any problems.
"I'm looking forward to correcting it."
Though he had a rough outing, Lerner remains confident in his ability to maintain his job even though Kyle French kicked off twice against the Coyotes.
"I know how good I can be and I know how good I've done," he said. "I show spurts of great kicks. I think they put Kyle in there in case I have another head case moment he can step in."
Though he's only practiced a handful of times as a member of the Badgers, freshman Devin Gaulden saw playing time in the second half of UW's easy win over South Dakota.
He will not be eligible to redshirt this season.
"Getting some experience playing will definitely help me next year when my role does increase," Gaulden said. "It wasn't a very hard decision. I want to play football. That's why I came here.
"It wasn't a hard decision at all."
Gaulden did not record any tackles, but he did get flagged for pass interference during the fourth quarter.
"I thought I was looking back at the ball," Gaulden said. "But I put the ref in a position to make the call so I've got to learn from it."
As a senior Kevin Claxton knows he is in the midst of his final season. He knows that his final opportunity to make an impact on the Badger program is already a third of the way through.
He also knows there is a young player (Ethan Armstrong) playing at a level high enough that might make it difficult for him to regain his starting status. Unless he plays like he did Saturday afternoon.
Claxton, having missed time with a wrist injury, was all over the field Saturday afternoon. He finished with six tackles, but his impact (quarterback hurries, gap reads, etc) was felt much more than the stat sheet would indicate.
If for nothing else, Claxton will have a good amount of confidence entering conference play next week.
-With its 59-10 blasting of South Dakota, Wisconsin has now won its past seven regular-season home games by an average of 44.4 points.
-UW also improved it's record to 40-1 when scoring at least 30 points under Bret Bielema. UW is also 21-0 under Bielema when scoring at least 40 points.
-Wisconsin's defense has allowed just 17 points during its past three games, the best three-game stretch since allowing just 17 total points against Arizona, Penn State and Illinois in 2004. UW opened that season 9-0 before losing it's final three games.
-With 612 yards of total offense against South Dakota and 621 yards of offense against Northern Illinois, UW recorded back-to-back games with 600 yards of total offense for the first time in school history.
-Nick Toon tied a career best with seven receptions and set a new career best with 155 yard receiving. Saturday marked Toon's second career game with at least 100 receiving yards. He also because just the 14th Badger to have at least 150 yards receiving in a single game.
-Toon has also caught at least one touchdown pass in three straight games, the longest such streak of his career. He is now only 106 yards shy of surpassing his season receiving yardage from a year ago. UW is now 9-0 when Toon scores a touchdown.
-Jared Abbrederis also had a career day Saturday afternoon. He logged his first ever 100-yard receiving day.
-Russell Wilson became the fourth UW quarterback to throw for at least 300 yards in consecutive games, joining Randy Wright, Darrell Bevell and Jim Sorgi. He is the first-ever Badger to throw for at least 325 yards twice in the same season.
-Wilson already has 11 passing touchdowns. The UW record for passing touchdowns in a single season is 21.
-Montee Ball has scored 25 touchdowns over UW's past 10 games.
-Jeffrey Lewis and Melvin Gordon each scored their first career touchdowns Saturday afternoon. Lewis scored from 41 yards out and Gordon scored from four yards out.
-A couple UW players had career firsts Saturday afternoon. Johnson recorded his first career interception and Manasseh Garner made his first career reception, a 27-yard catch in the third quarter.
(Correction: It was originally reported that sophomore Beau Allen recorded his first sack against South Dakota. He actually logged his first sack in UW's week two win over Oregon State.)
South Dakota head coach Ed Meierkort on whether his team can bond from this loss:
"When you take a whipping there's a lot of bonding that goes on in the locker room. You're going to find out who your friends are in a hurry. So hopefully we've developed a five-star mentality and take us on the road. We will not be in another venue like this again, maybe for the rest of our lives."
Bielema on where he places his team at this juncture of the season:
"I know we have four wins and I think they are wins we earned. No one gave us anything. I really thought last week was the perfect opportunity to gauge the mentality of our team. They really prepared and I didn't hear one guy talk about Nebraska as much as it was brought up by outside sources. I think they respect the preparation and I know it's an excited locker room now to go out and have another work week and see what we can do."
Wilson on UW's ability to put teams away:
"It's kind of the attitude of never settling, never being satisfied. I think that when you go against a great defense every day in practice, in terms of offense, you get better every single day. We have to keep working and keep getting better."
Ball on UW's offensive momentum entering the Nebraska game:
"It's perfect right now, coming off of these non-conference games and putting up stats like that and going into the Big Ten now with a chip on our shoulder against a great team like Nebraska."
"We're tough. I think it's just a good group of guys who like playing together. When everyone can have fun and be responsible - - you can trust everyone - - you can play fast or you can play smarter. You are just relaxed out there."
"I think if we stay consistent like we have it'll be hard for defenses figuring out who to focus on. Obviously, you have to keep making plays, but if they focus on Toon or Jacob Pedersen, I should be open or the other way around. I think it will keep defenses on their toes."