PISCATAWAY, N.J. >> The question in Piscataway all week was whether quarterback Gary Nova would be healthy enough to start for Rutgers.
Nova got the start over redshirt freshman Chris Laviano and it really didn’t make a difference in a 37-0 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday.
Rutgers (5-4, 1-4) got blown out again.
“It’s been the same repeating thing the past three weeks,” said Nova, who completed 5 of 15 for 46 yards and an interception. “The error is so small with teams like this, when you make mistakes they tend to hop on those mistakes and makes plays.”
The Badgers (6-2, 3-1) dominated the Scarlet Knights, limiting them to 139 yards in total offense in sending them to their third straight loss.
Nova was limited in practice this week and was not medically cleared until late in the week. Coach Kyle Flood told him on Friday night he would be the starter.
Facing the No. 7 scoring defense, No. 4 total defense and No. 5 passing defense in the nation, Nova and Rutgers’ offense ran one play in the Wisconsin end of the end in the first half. He was pulled in favor of Laviano with 6:21 left in the third quarter with Rutgers trailing 30-0. The backup didn’t provide a spark for the offense, going 2-of-12 for 17 yards.
“You try not to think too much about that (the score),” Laviano said. “Obviously the second half, coach said go in the game like it’s 0-0 and play every drive like it’s an even score, so unfortunately I didn’t make enough plays to do that.”
The ground game didn’t provide much help as Rutgers ran for 76 yards and converted 3 of 15 third-down chances.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns and Corey Clement scampered for 131 and two more scores as Wisconsin won its third straight game.
Gordon scored on runs of 15 and 51 yards in posting his sixth consecutive 100-yard game rushing. Clement, who ran for 131 yards, added touchdown runs of 43 and 36 yards, and Rafael Gaglianone kicked three field goals.
The shutout loss was the first for Rutgers since 2002 and it stretched its losing streak to three games. It’s been a tough stretch that included blowout losses at No. 13 Ohio State and No. 17 Nebraska.
The Badgers held the Scarlet Knights to eight first downs and didn’t allow them to get inside its 26-yard line, with that coming on the final play of the game.
On a rainy, dreary day, Wisconsin took the lead for good with the help of a special teams play. A.J. Jordan blocked a punt by Tim Gleeson late in the first half and the ball rolled out of bounds at the Rutgers 20.
Three plays later, Gordon, who came into the game as the nation’s No. 2 rusher with a 166.9 yard average, broke a tackle and danced into the end zone from 15 yards out.
Wisconsin didn’t make another play on offense until Clement blew through a hole in the middle of the Scarlet Knights’ line to score almost untouched on his 43-yard run for a 14-0 lead with 9:36 left in the half.
Gaglianone added field goals of 32 and 27 yards before the half — one set up by an interception by linebacker Marcus Trotter — and the Badgers built a 20-0 halftime lead.
The game was all but ended on the Badgers’ first play in the second half, when Gordon cut back right after a sweep left was stuffed and outran the Rutgers defense to the end zone for a 27-0 lead. The junior has 17 touchdowns rushing in his last six games. He left the game after seemingly tweaking a knee trying to catch a pass in the fourth quarter.
Rutgers had 81 yards in the first half and ran only six plays in Wisconsin’s end of the field in the game.
Wisconsin finished with 385 yards in total offense, including 298 rushing.
“We’re still fighting,” linebacker Kevin Snyder said. “You learn a lot about a team and the character of our football team. We’re not particularly playing well right now but we’re still fighting. We’re still sticking together and that’s going to be huge coming into these last three games. Stick together and try and grind a couple of these out. “