After being locked in a defensive battle at home, No. 10 Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) established control of the game and sent Northwestern (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) home with a 33-24 defeat in Madison.
Northwestern was down two scores when Clayton Thorson was picked off over the middle by Natrell Jamerson, who then returned the interception for the knockout blow early in the fourth quarter.
It was Jamerson’s second interception of the day for the Badgers on a day that saw the Wisconsin defense really set the tone. Although Northwestern held a narrow lead at halftime, Wisconsin managed to key the victory by holding Justin Jackson to just 25 rushing yards on nine attempts. Northwestern also converted just two of 13 third downs and accumulated 147 yards of total offense before putting together a drive later in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats did trim the lead down to 31-24 with a chance to work the field for a possible game-tying score, but then Thorson took an awful safety that never should have been taken.
The Badgers were able to overcome three turnovers in the first half by allowing just three points off turnovers. That came at the beginning of the game when Wisconsin lost a fumble on the first play of the game, but the Wildcats could not gain much yardage and had to settle for the field goal. Not being able to capitalize on mistakes haunted Northwestern as the game went on.
Wisconsin’s defense continues to shine this season, and with a favorable schedule ahead of them, the Badgers look ready to make a return to the Big Ten championship game the way things are lining up right now around the division.
Wisconsin will be on the road next week to take on Nebraska in Lincoln. The Badgers have dominated Nebraska since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten. Wisconsin is 5-1 against Nebraska since 2011, including a 70-31 victory in the 2012 Big Ten championship game.
Northwestern will return home to Evanston next week for a showdown against Penn State. Northwestern has won the last two meetings between the two schools, with wins in 2014 and 2015.