Defense has been the story of the game so far as Northwestern is putting Wisconsin on upset alert at halftime. Cameron Green caught a short touchdown pass from Clayton Thorson to cap a 12-play scoring drive to take a 10-7 lead on the Badgers in Madison.
Wisconsin avoided a disaster right out of the gates thanks to the defense. After Alex Hornibrook completed a pass to Jazz Peavy for a loss of a yard, Peavy fumbled the football away to Northwestern to set the Wildcats right at the Wisconsin 24-yard line just seconds into the game. The Badgers stuffed a 3rd and 1 run by Justin Jackson for a loss of a yard to force Northwestern to settle for a field goal by Charlie Kuhbander.
The Badgers took a 7-3 lead later in the first quarter on a seven-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Taylor. It was the third-straight run by Taylor to finish the drive from the 15-yard line after starting the possession from the Northwestern 47-yard line.
The two teams traded interceptions on the next two offensive series and followed that up with back-to-back three-and-outs by the offenses. Northwestern’s late second-quarter touchdown drive of 12 plays was the first drive by either team to go more than seven plays in the first half.
On the road against Northwestern, Wisconsin nearly held the Wildcats scoreless in the first half while the Badgers’ running game has effectively controlled the clock. At the half, Wisconsin leads Northwestern 10-7.
A solid defensive battle saw Wisconsin find a crack in the Wildcats defense in the second quarter when Jazz Peavy took off for a 46-yard touchdown run to put Wisconsin up 10-0. Peavy also was on the receiving end of a big play earlier in the game with a 32-yard reception from Bart Houston. That drive led to a field goal. Wisconsin also missed a field goal in the first quarter.
After a real struggle of a first half, Northwestern appeared to find some momentum on their final offensive possession of the half. Clayton Thorson completed a 13-yard pass to Austin Carr for a much-needed touchdown in the final minute of the half.
This is a pretty pivotal game in the Big Ten West. A win keeps a shot at playing for the Big Ten championship within sight. Wisconsin already owns a head-to-head tiebreaker with Nebraska following last week’s win, so a win could give the Badgers the edge in the division depending on what happens to Nebraska later tonight at Ohio State. A Wisconsin win and a Nebraska loss gives Wisconsin the inside track to Indianapolis. The same cannot be said for Northwestern, as the Wildcats lost a head-to-head tiebreaker with Nebraska earlier this season. But a win for the Wildcats keeps them in the mix, while a loss probably knocks them out of the running in the division.