MADISON — Where would the Wisconsin Badgers be without their defense?
Despite four turnovers by its offense, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns, No. 8 Wisconsin defeated Iowa 38–14 on the backs of a dominating defensive effort.
UW is 10–0 for the first time in school history and punched its ticket to the Big Ten Championship Game.
Wisconsin (10–0, 7–0 Big Ten) held Iowa (6–4, 3–4) to 66 total yards and yielded only five first downs. The Hawkeyes only averaged 1.3 yards per play, as the Badgers forced three turnovers and registered four sacks.
Iowa did not move the chains on third down in 13 attempts.
Head coach Paul Chryst’s offense could move the ball seemingly well against Kirk Ferentz’s defense, earning 382 yards—247 on the ground. However, four takeaways and some penalties halted momentum at times and kept the Hawkeyes in the game closer than they should have been.
True freshman running back Jonathan Taylor gained 157 yards on 29 carries but fumbled twice.
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook now has thrown interceptions in eight of Wisconsin’s 10 games, and in the first quarter, it was a big one. Cornerback Joshua Jackson picked off a pass and returned it 43 yards to put Iowa up 7–0 early.
Hornibrook and Wisconsin’s offense responded immediately thereafter, driving 14 plays and 75 yards, including a couple of catches by true freshman Danny Davis. UW got down to as close as the one-yard line, but couldn’t punch it in. Rafael Gaglianone connected on a 23-yard field goal to make it a 7–3 game.
In the second quarter, Wisconsin took the lead after taking over near midfield. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Kendric Pryor took a handoff, and with a pancake block from center Tyler Biadasz, ran 25 yards for the touchdown to give the Badgers a 10–7 advantage.
It was the first career touchdown for Pryor, who has emerged with injuries to the wide receiver position group.
Wisconsin took advantage of great field position at the end of the first half after Nick Nelson’s 20-yard return. Pryor again showed up, jumping and reeling in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Hornibrook to give the Badgers a 17–7 lead heading into halftime.
In the first half, Wisconsin outgained Iowa in yards 204–20. Iowa averaged 0.9 yards per play and only moved the chains once for a first down. Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard’s unit did not allow a third-down conversion on seven attempts in the first two quarters.
Despite only having 14 total yards of offense in the third quarter, Iowa pulled to within a field goal on another pick-six by Jackson. Left guard Jon Dietzen’s costly unsportsmanlike penalty forced a 3rd-and-18. Hornibrook tried to hit running back Rachid Ibrahim in the flat, but the pass was high and tipped in the air, and Jackson took advantage for a 52-yard return for a touchdown.
Pick, six, rinse, repeat.— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 11, 2017
Josh Jackson's last week has been pretty, pretty good. pic.twitter.com/9zvESKdrzU
With the offense stalling once again, Wisconsin’s defense decided to add more points to the scoreboard in this 15-minute frame. After a bad snap that Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley did not expect, the ball bounced around and under players until outside linebacker Leon Jacobs picked up the ball and ran 21 yards for a touchdown. With Gaglianone’s point after, the Badgers were back up 10 at 24–14.
In the fourth quarter with 11:05 left in the game, redshirt sophomore Bradrick Shaw capped off an eight-play, 59-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown run. Davis reeled in four receptions for 74 yards on the day, including a 28-yard catch near the sideline to continue this drive.
Iowa’s next drive ended with another turnover, as Stanley fumbled after a Ryan Connelly pressure. Jacobs, with four tackles and one sack on the day, recovered the ball.
Stanley, a Menomonie, Wis., native, went 8-of-24 for 41 yards with an interception.
Hornibrook, who finished the game 11-of-18 for 135 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions, found A.J. Taylor for a five-yard touchdown pass to cap the game’s scoring.