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.
A week after smashing Michigan in a statement game, the Badgers looked like they were about to pick up where they left off this week against Northwestern. But after a touchdown on the opening drive, Northwestern has stayed in the game with their defense and trails Wisconsin 7-3 at halftime in Madison.
Jonathan Taylor capped the game’s opening drive with a 13-yard touchdown run, but the Badgers went three-straight possessions with a three-and-out. The Wildcats have only been able to pick up a field goal by Charlie Kuhbander (29 yards after a 10-play drive covered 83 yards).
A low-scoring game may be the kind of game Northwestern was hoping for, because they certainly feel like they can hang with the Badgers right now. But how long they can tie down Taylor and the Badgers will be the big question in the second half. Wisconsin has been strong in the second half of games this season.
In a Big Ten opener between two top 15 teams, there was no doubt which program is in a better position to compete for a Big Ten title this season. No. 13 Wisconsin (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) continued their dominant ways against No. 11 Michigan (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten) with a 35-14 victory in Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon. The shutout streak to start the season by Wisconsin’s defense came to an end late in the third quarter, but the damage had already been done by star running back Jonathan Taylor, who rushed for 203 yards and two touchdowns despite missing the entire second quarter.
Taylor rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter before leaving for the remainder of the half with members of the team’s medical staff. Fortunately, by the time Taylor returned at the start of the second half, Wisconsin had a 28-0 lead and merely had to salt away the final 30 minutes of the game. Having Taylor returned helped that cause. As good of a game he had, there was much more to Wisconsin’s dominating performance. Jack Coan added a pair of rushing touchdowns and was efficient with his passing. The Badgers defense prevented the Wolverines from converting a third-down play (0-for-10). To add to that, Wisconsin’s offense was 3-for-3 on fourth down, including a big one to keep the game’s opening possession alive despite being in their side of the 50-yard line to start the game.
In need of an offensive spark, Michigan changed quarterbacks to begin the second half. After Shea Patterson went 5-of-14 for 87 yards in the first half (68 of which came on the first offensive play of the game for the Wolverines), Dylan McCaffrey took the reigns of the offense to start the second half. That spark never came. McCaffrey would not make it to the end of the third quarter after being removed from the game after taking a blow to the head at the end of a play. Patterson returned to the game to finish Michigan’s best drive of the day with a touchdown pass in the third quarter and he added another one later in the fourth quarter with the game all but officially decided.
For all the talk about Michigan’s offense being different this season, the first three games of the year show the Wolverines simply are nowhere close to being ready to live up to any of the hype.
Perhaps the only negative thing to come out of the game for Wisconsin was a pair of players being ejected form the defense. Safety Eric Burrell was ejected from the game in the second half for a targeting call. Just a few plays later in the third quarter, Reggie Pearson was ejected for an even nastier hit on McCaffrey. Both players will be required to miss the first half of the Northwestern game next week.
Michigan will lick their wounds and try to regroup next week at home against Rutgers.
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor had a big first quarter to give Wisconsin an early jump on Michigan, but his status is unknown after a trip to the injury tent and an early exit to the locker room. The Badgers lead the Wolverines 28-0 at halftime in Madison in a Big Ten opener between two unbeaten teams.
Taylor was the star of the first quarter with 143 rushing yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown run was a 72-yard sprint up the middle of the Michigan defense, and it came just moments after a controversial replay review wiped out a big pass play by Michigan.
During the second quarter, Taylor was seen heading into the sideline medical tent after walking gingerly on the sideline. His return was reported to be questionable, according to the sideline report during the broadcast. Taylor left the medical tent on the sideline for the locker room later in the second quartrer. That led Wisconsin’s running game to be led by another Taylor, A.J. Taylor. Taylor picked up an 11-yard run during a 15-play touchdown drive by the Badgers to put the home team up 21-0. At this rate, will Wisconsin even need to see the star Heisman hopeful back today?
Michigan’s best chance to score came on their first offensive series of the game. After going down 7-0, Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson connected on a 68-yard pass to Ronnie Bell to put the Wolverines in scoring position right off the bat, but a return to the power running game Michigan has used as its identity in those types of situations ended in failure when Ben Mason carried the football for the first time this season and fumbled at the four-yard line. Michigan appeared to be in position to move the ball on their next possession but a video replay overturned a call on the field for another deep pass to Bell. The official ruling stated the ball had come loose as Bell was diving to the ground to make the catch, although video replay never quite showed what would be considered indisputable evidence strong enough to overturn the original call on the field.
Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan ended the first half by putting his team up 28-0 with a run right up the middle of the Michigan defense.
Being down 28-0 at Wisconsin is quite a mountain for this Michigan offense right now. Even without Taylor available, potentially, Wisconsin has the defense to protect a 28-point lead in the final 30 minutes of the game, especially if the Michigan offense continues to be a massive work in progress.
We’ll see if anything changes after halftime, but Wisconsin is in a great spot at the break.
Another week, another lopsided result in favor of the No. 17 Wisconsin Badgers (2-0). Wisconsin notched a second straight win to open the 2019 season with a blowout victory in their home opener with a 61-0 victory over Central Michigan. Jonathan Taylor scored four total touchdowns and quarterback Jack Coan passed for 363 yards and three touchdowns in the win. The defense also recorded a second consecutive shutout.
Taylor continues to march toward the 5,000-yard career mark. With 4,306 career rushing yards to his name entering Week 2, Taylor added 102 more yards (and three rushing touchdowns with a touchdown reception for good measure) to move closer to becoming the fourth player to record 5,000 career rushing yards through their junior season. He would join Georgia’s Herschel Walker, Oregon’s LaMichael James and, naturally, Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne. He now needs 592 more yards.
But Wisconsin is always going to be solid running the football. The more pleasant development early on may be the play of Coan. A week after a solid outing against USF, Coan was incredibly efficient and reliable throwing the football against the Chippewas. The only question is just how much as Coan been challenged by opposing pass defenses? USF was an above average pass defensive team in 2018 with 11 interceptions, and Central Michigan allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards per game last season. The flip side of that argument, however, is the Chippewas had the seventh fewest opposing pass attempts thrown against them last season. The season is still young, and the level of defensive stature is going to increase for Wisconsin. This has been an incredibly encouraging start for the Badgers, but we are still dealing with a small sample size.
Although Wisconsin has not been presented with a stiff challenge to start the season, they now prepare for one of the more challenging obstacles they will face this season. After getting a bye week next week, Wisconsin will host No. 7 Michigan, who handed Wisconsin a loss last season in Ann Arbor. Michigan will also have a bye week to prepare for their first road trip of the season, and they may need the bye week more than the Badgers. Michigan struggled at home but celebrated a double overtime victory against Army earlier on Saturday. The new-look offense is still a work in progress for the Wolverines, and it seems the Wisconsin defense could be in for a good matchup at home.
This is the second time since 2013 Wisconsin has opened the year with back-to-back shutouts. The Badgers blanked UMass and Tennessee Tech in the first two games of the 2015 season with 45-0 and 48-0 victories, respectively. The last time Wisconsin recorded two shutouts in the same season was 2015 with wins against Hawaii and Miami Ohio.
Central Michigan will hope to bounce back next week when they host Akron in MAC play.