Alec Ingold

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Northwestern enters November in first place in Big Ten West after win over Wisconsin

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Following a 31-17 victory at home over Wisconsin (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten), Northwestern (5-3, 5-1 Big Ten) will turn the calendars to the final month of the regular season with a chance to win the Big Ten West Division for the first time. The division is now officially in their control with just three Big Ten games remaining on the schedule.

Clayton Thorson struggled in the passing game at times but managed to do enough damage on the ground with two rushing touchdowns and a 27-yard run to help set up a score in the third quarter as he escaped from under pressure closing in on him to take advantage of a wide open right side of the field. It was the kind of gritty performance that bodes well for Northwestern, especially against a Wisconsin team playing without starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook and on a day where the fumble issues of Jonathan Taylor led to some self-inflicted wounds for the Badgers.

With Hornibrook out of the game due to not being medically cleared out of concussion protocol, Jack Coan made his first career start for the Badgers and was rarely asked to make too much happen through the air. Wisconsin relied on their running game with Taylor, Garrett Groshek and Alec Ingold leading the attack. But northwestern’s defense was ready for the challenge and played well at home to preventing Wisconsin from gaining an edge. If anything, Northwestern’s own running game leveled the playing field with  Isaiah Bowser continuing to fuel the Wildcat’ running game, with Thorson complimenting the effort.

Northwestern took a 24-10 lead into the fourth quarter and essentially put the finishing touch on the win shortly after Coan fumbled the football deep in the Wisconsin end early in the fourth quarter. The fumble recovery by Northwestern, the third of the day, was followed by a touchdown run by Bowser to build a 21-point lead.

The win moves Northwestern to 5-1 in the Big Ten West, which now includes head-to-head wins against Purdue and Wisconsin. Having played one more conference game than the rest of the division, the Wildcats will own no less than a half-game lead in the division after all games have been played on Saturday (Purdue was playing at Michigan State at the same time and Iowa was kicking off against Penn State later in the afternoon). Northwestern will host Notre Dame next week (looking to play spoiler against the Irish?) but the next Big Ten test for the Wildcats will come in two weeks on the road at Iowa. That game should be of much significance, as a win could potentially put Northwestern one giant step closer to playing in the Big Ten championship game at the end of the season. Northwestern has the road game at Iowa and then a road trip to Minnesota and a home game against Illinois to wrap up the regular season and the Big Ten schedule. It may all come down to what happens in that Iowa game for Northwestern.

Wisconsin, the runaway favorite in the Big Ten West and picked to win the Big Ten and play in the playoff by some in the preseason, now needs a good amount of help if the Badgers are going to make a third straight trip to the Big Ten championship game. At 3-2 in the Big Ten, Wisconsin will look for a rebound win next week at home against Rutgers before two straight road games at Penn State and Purdue. But Wisconsin now needs to finish ahead of Northwestern in the standings to avoid losing out on a head-to-head tiebreaker. That may be wishful thinking at this point.

Northwestern leading Wisconsin in battle for first place in Big Ten West

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With first place in the Big Ten West Division on the line, Northwestern holds the upper hand at halftime in Evanston with a 14-10 lead on Wisconsin. Clayton Thorson has run for a pair of touchdowns as the Wildcats look to pick up a big win in division play this afternoon.

Wisconsin started Jack Coan at quarterback with Alex Hornibrook not medically cleared from concussion protocol. With a backup making his first career start, it was no surprise Wisconsin would look to rely on the running game in the first half. Coan attempted just three passes, but he did complete all three of them for 13 yards. On the ground, Jonathan Taylor led the running game and fullback Alec Ingold scored Wisconsin’s touchdown shortly after an interception by the Badgers defense gave the offense a short field.

After the Badgers capitalized on an interception thrown by Thorson, Thorson and the Wildcats responded on the ensuing possession with a 15-play drive covering 75 yards for a game-tying touchdown. Thorson pushed the ball just across the goal line to cap the drive. Northwestern made another trip down to the goal line in the second quarter, but this time Wisconsin came up with a goal-line stand on fourth down to keep Thorson out of the end zone.

Taylor fumbled the football at the Wisconsin 15-yard line just moments later, which gave the Wildcats a short field and allowed the home team to take the lead for the first time. Neither team should be expected to open things up offensively so there will be a ton of grinding in the second half to come as this game comes to a close.

Minnesota catching Wisconsin sleeping? Gophers lead 17-7 in Madison

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Already having the Big Ten West Division clinched by virtue of Nebraska’s loss on Friday, the Wisconsin Badgers are struggling a little bit at home this afternoon against rival Minnesota in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Ax. The Golden Gophers hold a 17-7 lead at halftime in Madison.

Minnesota opened the game with a short field goal by Emmit Carpenter. After the teams exchanged punts on the next four possessions, Wisconsin put a dent on the scoreboard with a 10-play drive spanning 80 yards and culminating with a short run by Alec Ingold to put the Badgers on top, briefly. Mitch Leidner completed a 13-yard pass to the end zone after KiAnte Hardin returned the kickoff following the Wisconsin touchdown 69 yards. Minnesota added to its lead late in the first half with a Leidner touchdown run at the end of a seven-play, 68-yard drive.

Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook was on the receiving end of a rough hit on the sideline in the first half that caused Wisconsin to not be very happy, although there may not have been anything dirty about the play.

Wisconsin is already heading to Indianapolis next week to face either Ohio State or Penn State in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Nebraska once again snakebitten as Wisconsin hits late game winning FG

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College football can so often write a redemption story like no other. Late in the game in Lincoln, with Wisconsin staring down a possible 0-2 start in Big Ten play, Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone saw a potential go-ahead field goal attempt bounce right off the right upright to keep the Badgers down by one. Just minutes later, Gaglianone got another chance, from a farther distance, and he cashed in. The game-winning field goal gave Wisconsin (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) a thrilling 23-20 victory while Nebraska (2-4, 0-2 Big Ten) slumped to another late game loss.

Nebraska held a halftime lead of 14-7 on Wisconsin, but the Badgers took control in the second quarter with three straight scores. Gaglianone hit a 45-yard field goal late in the third quarter and a 42-yard field goal in the fourth to give Wisconsin a six-point lead, 20-14. The Badgers touchdown was scored by Alec Ingold from one yard out to give Wisconsin its second lead of the game (Wisconsin led 7-0 in the first quarter).

Down by one score with just under half the fourth quarter to play, Nebraska got to work with Tommy Armstrong leading the way. After two incomplete passes from Armstrong and a holding penalty to put Nebraska in a 3rd and 15, Armstrong created his own running room and just reached the first down marker before running out of play for a 16-yard gain.Two plays later saw Nebraska once again in a critical third down situation, this one much shorter with just one yard to go. The call was to keep the ball in the hands of sturdy fullback Andy Janovich. He picked up the first down but broke the tackle to keep running for what was nearly the game-winning score.

Wisconsin did get a chance to retake the lead, but a 39-yard field goal bounced off the right upright to preserve Nebraska’s lead. The Badgers also came up with a defensive stop on Nebraska’s ensuing possession to force Nebraska to punt back to the Wisconsin offense. This time Wisconsin would cash in. Gaglianone was given a chance to kick a 46-yard field goal for the win, and he nailed it.

Wisconsin 23, Nebraska 21.

With the win, Wisconsin remains in the Big Ten West race early on in the Big Ten schedule, but they continue to chase Iowa. The Hawkeyes defeated Wisconsin last week to take a head-to-head tiebreaker. Northwestern also went down in flames today, which was good news for Wisconsin. The Badgers should have a good chance to pick up another win next week at home against Purdue, and games against Illinois, Rutgers and Maryland will follow before hosting Northwestern in November.

Nebraska has now lost three games in dramatic fashion. First there was BYU’s Hail Mary. Then there was the comeback that fell flat in overtime at Miami. That was followed up by a clock management loss at Illinois. Now Nebraska has gone down to a late field goal. How will Nebraska lose next week (at Minnesota)? We’ll just have to tune in and find out.