It’s the Sunday after homecoming weekend, and the No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers are still undefeated after their 38–13 win over the Maryland Terrapins.
Wisconsin (7–0, 4–0 Big Ten) will now head on the road for the next two conference games holding a two-game advantage in the loss column in the Big Ten West division. With wins against Nebraska and Northwestern (both are 2–2 in conference play), it really is a three-game lead due to tiebreaker rules. It’s the first time the Badgers have started the season 7-0 since 2004.
Consistency is absolutely needed from the offense, but despite a rough outing in the first quarter with two turnovers, it showed its potency the rest of the game. The unit turned out a balanced effort with 225 yards passing and 215 rushing, the first time since last year’s overtime loss to Ohio State that both areas of the offense went over 200 yards in Big Ten play.
Defensively, Jim Leonhard’s unit deserves all the praise it is getting. Faced with a key “sudden change” situation early in the game, Wisconsin kept Maryland to a field goal even with prime field position at UW’s five-yard line after Jonathan Taylor’s fumble. Through seven games, the Badgers rank fifth nationally in rushing defense (88 yards per game) and sixth in scoring and total defense (13.3 points and 265.4 yards allowed per game, respectively).
Now, they’ll face Illinois next Saturday and Indiana the week after, the latter appearing to be a tougher opponent than on paper.
Post-game Facebook Live
Recapping Wisconsin Football’s homecoming win!Posted by Bucky's 5th Quarter on Saturday, October 21, 2017
Troy Fumagalli: The tight end was healthy, and it showed on Saturday with his seven receptions for 83 yards. Three of his seven were on third downs to move the chains. A healthy Fumagalli is needed for the offense to stabilize and show more consistency.
Alec James: As noted in our Facebook Live video from after the game (watch it above), the redshirt senior defensive end has played extremely well this season. On Saturday, he recorded six tackles against the Terrapins. For the season, he’s fifth on the team in tackles (30), along with registering 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
The entire defense: Maryland only gained 268 yards and though Ty Johnson and his offense gained 143 yards on 35 carries, Wisconsin’s defense held Big Ten-leading receiver D.J. Moore to only three receptions for 44 yards. Senior cornerback Derrick Tindal said after the game that he felt the Terps’ receivers were the most talented the Badgers have faced yet. Credit to the secondary for containing the big play-making abilities.
Plus, there were contributions from everyone. Olive Sagapolu and Andrew Van Ginkel each had sacks. Ryan Connelly had nine tackles on the day. All-around great effort.
Alex Hornibrook: He had his “oopsy” play with the poor interception on Wisconsin’s first possession, but he ended the day 16-of-24 for 225 yards with two touchdown passes. On third downs, he was 5-of-8 for 64 yards and all five completions moved the chains. If opposing defenses are going to sell out against the run, Hornibrook will need to make the plays he made on Saturday.
In four games this season, Hornibrook has passed for more than 200 yards. In two of the three games he has not reached that mark, he reached 197 and 199 yards.
Plays of the game
T.J. Edwards’s pick-six: Maryland had piled on a couple of first downs on its first series before Wisconsin’s defense tightened up. The Badgers’ fourth pick-six of the year built a lead they would not relinquish.
The series after Taylor’s fumble: We’ve already spoken about it at length, but that effort kept Maryland out of the end zone until the second half.
The two third-down conversions on Wisconsin’s offensive drive after the fumble: The two completions from Hornibrook to Fumagalli and Quintez Cephus kept the series rolling and allowed the Badgers to establish a rhythm that remained for nearly the rest of the game.
- We noted this earlier on Sunday when talking about the defense, but Wisconsin has allowed only two field goals and three touchdowns in 13 “sudden change” situations through seven games.
- The defense also allowed just one Maryland touchdown in three red-zone trips on Saturday. For the season, Jim Leonhard’s unit has only allowed six touchdowns on its opponents’ 22 opportunities inside the 20-yard line.
- Wisconsin did not allow a sack this week, the second time that’s occurred during 2017 (FAU).
- Two of tight end Zander Neuville’s five receptions this year have gone for touchdowns.