MADISON — It took only seven games for true freshman Jonathan Taylor to etch his name into the record books among college football’s best.
On his third carry in the first quarter of the Wisconsin Badgers’ 38-13 win over the Maryland Terrapins, Taylor went over the 1,000-rushing yard mark on the season, matching the FBS freshman record for the fewest games to reach that milestone.
“At the moment in the game, I probably didn’t know when I got it,” Taylor said. “I mean I’m pretty sure I got it and then thought about it later, but I was just focused on the game and now probably think about it afterwards.”
During his 22-carry, 126-yard performance on Saturday, Taylor joined the likes Emmitt Smith (Florida, 1987), Marshall Faulk (San Diego State, 1991), Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma, 2004), Jamario Thomas (North Texas, 2004), and Wisconsin’s P.J. Hill (2006) in achieving the accolade.
“It’s definitely humbling to be mentioned with those guys,” Taylor said. “There will never be any tailbacks like those guys, they’re phenomenal. I just love it when things like that happen because then I can go and chop it up with my guys up front that do a lot of the heavy lifting, so that’s just a testimony to show how hard they’re working.”
Additionally, only five rushers—Smith, Faulk, Peterson, Thomas, and now Taylor— reached the mark as first-year players.
“Well, you’re proud of all that goes into it,” head coach Paul Chryst said. “We’ve got a lot more football to be played, and we’ve got to continue to get better. I think he’s a really good back. I think that’s part of the reason why ‘J.T.’ came here ... he wants to be a running back in the place where there’s been some good running backs, and we’ve got to help him continue to grow and become the best player he can be, and it takes everyone. It’s fun when you watch good running plays—every guy in it is part of it, and ‘J.T.’ knows it.”
Saturday’s game was the fifth in Wisconsin’s 7–0 start to the season that Taylor has gone over 100 yards, but it did not come without a blemish.
For the second consecutive game and third time this season, Taylor fumbled the ball away to Wisconsin’s opponent. This time, it was on the Badgers’ own five-yard line near the end of the first quarter, situating Maryland to potentially tie the game at 7–7.
Fortunately for Wisconsin, its stout defense held the Terrapins to a 23-yard field goal off the foot of Henry Darmstadter.
“I just feel like I need to work on just covering the ball up, fighting for extra yards,” Taylor said. “That’s one thing that you got to work when you’re back there fighting for extra yards, is to make sure you got the ball covered up while you’re fighting.”
In the homecoming win, Taylor also secured his place in Wisconsin history as the fastest freshman to gain 1,000 rushing yards. His 130 carries broke current New England Patriots running back James White’s previous record of 138 in 2010.
Taylor now sits behind only Melvin Gordon as the fastest player to 1,000 rushing yards in a season carry-wise, as the current Los Angeles Chargers running back accomplished the feat in 105 and 120 carries in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Left tackle Michael Deiter noted how hard the 5’11, 214-pound Taylor plays, and could see bigger things on the horizon.
“He’s super-talented and all that, but the work he puts in is what makes him go,” Deiter said. “He breaks a lot of tackles, he’s just out-working guys. With his talent and his work ethic, he could be one of the best backs in the country. There’s nothing that really surprises me about him in what he’s doing. He’s just a hard worker.”