Wisconsin’s defense came up big yet again
What a performance by defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox’s squad. Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson came into the game third in the Big Ten in passing yards per game and touchdown passes. Justin Jackson gashed Wisconsin the past two seasons, and former walk-on receiver Austin Carr is the conference leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
The Wildcats ran for only 39 yards as a team inside Ryan Field with Jackson, only 132 yards away from 1,000, being held to 42 on 13 carries. That allowed the Badgers to key in on the passing game. Carr got his receptions (12 for 132 yards and one touchdown) and there were some missed tackles that led to big plays, but Wisconsin only allowed 316 total yards and 5-of-18 third-down conversions in a 21-7 win.
As seen in critical points of the season, they made big plays. After placekicker Andrew Endicott missed a 51-yard field goal wide right in the third quarter, Northwestern went to work on an eight-play, 34-yard drive to the UW 19-yard line. A holding call and some stout defense forced a third-and-21. Conor Sheehy sacked Thorson, who fumbled the ball that was recovered by safety D’Cota Dixon, who would then return it 22 yards.
That play changed the course of the game, taking it from what felt like a possible 14-13 Northwestern lead to a 21-7 Wisconsin advantage after running back Corey Clement scored from two yards out (plus Alec Ingold’s two-point conversion).
Safety Leo Musso continued his solid 2016 campaign, leading the team in tackles with nine. Former walk-on Ryan Connelly, in yet another great game replacing the injured Jack Cichy, tallied eight stops (one for loss) in the win.
This defense is something special. Remember this.
It’s the Jazz Peavy Show, and we’re just living in it
The redshirt junior tallied 119 yards on offense and 144 all-purpose yards on the day. Peavy caught four passes for 73 yards, but his big play came in the running game when he took an end-around 46 yards for a touchdown.
The Kenosha, Wis., native went from the left side of the field behind a block of left tackle Ryan Ramczyk, then went across it to out run-defenders and give the Badgers a 10-0 lead in the second quarter.
On special teams, Peavy returned a punt 24 yards in the third quarter. That drive led to an Andrew Endicott 28-yard field goal to make it a 13-7 game.
Peavy came into the game second on the team in receptions (27) and leading it in receiving yards (408). He’ll be tied for the team lead in catches after Saturday’s game, and has shown he is a reliable target on the field and a threat in multiple phases of the game.
The Badgers are still in contention for the Big Ten West title
This may become a mainstay in the column until they lose, but Wisconsin still has that chance to get to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game.
To do so this week, they had to hear about the past 17 years of futility in Evanston. They also faced a potent Northwestern team having won three of its last four with the right players at key skill positions, and having given No. 6 Ohio State fits last week in a 24-20 loss.
History was on Northwestern’s side, but Wisconsin again displayed that #grit and toughness that’s been a cornerstone of its success.
Now, if Ohio State defeats No. 10 Nebraska Saturday night, Wisconsin owns the tiebreaker over the Huskers. Win out, and a shot at a rematch with either (in all likelihood) Michigan or Ohio State is likely, and the outside chance of a College Football Playoff berth remains possible.