It was to be expected that Northwestern (1-3, 0-2) would have a difficult time scoring on No. 8 Wisconsin (4-0, 2-0 Big Ten) on Saturday afternoon. What may not have been accounted for was just how difficult it would be for the Northwestern offense to prevent the Badgers defense from scoring. Wisconsin scored two defensive touchdowns on the Wildcats in a 24-15 game in Big Ten play.
After leading Northwestern just 7-3 at halftime, courtesy of Jonathan Taylor’s touchdown run on the game’s opening possession, Wisconsin’s defense gave some breathing room with a fumble recovery in the end zone. Late in the third quarter, Northwestern quarterback Hunter Johnson was sacked by Eric Burrell and the ball went flying backward into the end zone. Matt Henningsen fell on the loose ball for an easy touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
The Badgers added a field goal early in the fourth quarter and the defense made another big play moments later to put the game well out of reach for a struggling and beat-up Northwestern offense. Aidan Smith entered the game in place of an injured Johnson. After two incompletions, Smith then tossed up a pass under pressure that was easily picked off by Noah Burks, who returned the ball 68 yards for a touchdown.
Johnson did not return to the game for the Wildcats. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald also made questionable decisions to attempt two-point conversions in the fourth quarter, keeping the game just out of reach despite a couple of fourth-quarter scores. There was no report of any injury to Northwestern’s kicker, so this seemed like a case of Fitzgerald simply over thinking the situation.
Wisconsin’s Taylor finished the game with 119 rushing yards on 26 carries and the one touchdown score don the opening drive. Northwestern fared well in keeping him from making too many highlights against them. But sometimes, Wisconsin can by on their defense even though the Wildcats clawed together a bit of a late rally to cut into the lead. In the end, Wisconsin was fortunate the defense scored twice.
With the win, Wisconsin jumps out to a 2-0 start in Big Ten play with home wins against Michigan and the Wildcats. Wisconsin will jump out of conference play next week for a home game against Kent State. After that will be a home game against Michigan State as the Badgers face another opponent from the Big Ten East. Northwestern will be on the road again next week for another division game, this time against Nebraska.
Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald has just landed his biggest recruit as head coach of the Wildcats. Hunter Johnson, a former five-star quarterback, has officially been added to the Northwestern football family after a transfer from Clemson.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of the Wildcat family,” Johnson said in a released statement. “The program that Coach Fitzgerald and his staff have built at Northwestern is phenomenal, and one my family has had the opportunity to get to know and trust. I am thankful to Coach Swinney and the Clemson family for all their support over the past year-and-a-half.”
“We are ecstatic to add a player of Hunter’s caliber and character to our program,” said Fitzgerald in a released statement. “He comes from an outstanding family, one we’ve had the opportunity to know for many years, and he will fit right in to the culture we continue to build here in Evanston. I’m excited for the opportunity to be his coach and look forward to him joining our football family on campus this month.”
Johnson will have to sit out the 2018 season due to standard NCAA transfer rules, which actually works out well for Northwestern anyway. The Wildcats will get one more year out of starter Clayton Thorson at quarterback before he moves on. That allows Johnson to spend a year getting adjusted to Northwestern and prepare for the starting job in 2019. Johnson will have three years of eligibility to use and can burn his redshirt season this year.
Clemson quarterback Hunter Johnson is reportedly seeking to transfer to a new program, according to multiple reports Monday morning. The sophomore, a former five-star recruit in Clemson’s Class of 2017, is believed to have a desire to play for a couple of Big Ten schools.
Purdue and Northwestern have emerged as the top two potential destinations within the Big Ten, according to various reports. Johnson is an Indiana native and would figure to step right into a possible starting job with either the Boilermakers or Wildcats if he were to transfer to either Big Ten school. Of course, Johnson would have to wait until 2019 to begin playing for Purdue or Northwestern or any other FBS school due to NCAA transfer rules.
Despite Johnson’s talent and potential, it appears he got stuck in a tough spot on a Clemson roster that is overflowing with top-tier talent. With Kelly Bryant essentially cemented as Clemson’s starting quarterback, Johnson would have been waiting for his time to shine at the position, assuming he beat out the competition for the job. Clemson just added a five-star quarterback in the most recent recruiting class with Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence has already enrolled and played well in the Clemson spring game, offering a glimpse to the future of Clemson’s offense once Bryant moves on.
Johnson appeared in seven games as a freshman for the ACC champion Clemson Tigers last season, in which he completed 21 of 27 pass attempts for 234 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Zerrick Cooper, also a freshman last fall, appeared in three more games than Johnson as both backing up Bryant.
Purdue and Northwestern would both figure to be good landing spots for Johnson. Northwestern is preparing for one final year with Clayton Thorson at the helm, and Johnson could potentially slide right in once the 2019 season comes around after sitting out the year as a transfer. Purdue would also give Johnson a chance to shine in an offense coached by Jeff Brohm, which could rack up all kinds of attractive passing stats.
Johnson will have three years of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2018 season. He also has a redshirt option to spare.