In a decisive third quarter, however, UW put together two key touchdown drives, and with a second-half defense stymieing Michigan’s offense, overcame a physical Wolverines squad for a 24–10 win at Camp Randall Stadium.
The victory over Jim Harbaugh’s squad keeps Wisconsin undefeated at 11–0 and in discussion for not just a perfect regular season, but more importantly the College Football Playoff.
True freshman running back Jonathan Taylor rushed for 132 yards on 19 carries, averaging nearly seven yards per carry. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook did not have the best completion percentage, completing only nine of 19 passes for 143 yards with a touchdown and interception each. He was clutch on third downs, however, completing five of seven passes for 118 yards and a score.
The defense, more impressively, shut down Michigan’s offense in the second half. The Wolverines only gained 65 yards in the second half, and 234 for the entire game.
Brandon Peters completed nine of 18 passes for 157 yards on the afternoon before exiting with an injury in the second half. The Wolverines only gained 58 yards on the ground.
Inside linebackers T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly combined for 21 tackles, four for loss. Altogether, the Badgers’ defense registered seven tackles for loss and seven pass break-ups.
After Wisconsin forced a three-and-out late in the first quarter, Nick Nelson let a Brad Robbins punt hit the ground, but he scooped it up and proceeded to take it to the house for a 50-yard touchdown. After Rafael Gaglianone’s extra point, UW led 7–0.
The last punt return for a touchdown by the Badgers before Nelson’s was back in 2012, when Kenzel Doe returned one 82 yards vs. Utah State.
It remained a defensive battle until Michigan hit on a 35-yard pass from Peters to tight end Zach Gentry. On 3rd-and-goal from the Wisconsin 5-yard line, however, Peters tried to do too much in a scramble to the left side. Outside linebacker Leon Jacobs forced a fumble and cornerback Derrick Tindal recovered the ball at the 1-yard line.
Welp... Things went from bad to worse pic.twitter.com/I0WZGdCIjD— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 18, 2017
After a third-down conversion to wide receiver Danny Davis was overturned, Michigan took over possession at its own 16-yard line and drove 84 yards to tie the game. Three big completions from Peters, including a 48-yard reception to Donovan Peoples-Jones, pushed the Wolverines out of their own territory. Fullback Ben Mason scored from one yard out to make it a 7–7 game.
Michigan's 1-yard TD with 2:24 to play in the 2nd quarter was the first score allowed by the #Badgers' defense in the last 106 minutes, 48 seconds of game time (dating back to 3rd quarter at Indiana)— Brian Mason (@Brian_Mason) November 18, 2017
The Wolverines out-gained the Badgers 169–99 and converted four of nine third-down opportunities in the first half, with Peters throwing for 133 yards and completing seven of 12 passes.
Wisconsin only mustered four first downs and converted one of six third downs against the nation’s best defense in that particular category. Taylor only gained 45 yards on nine carries in the first half.
Hornibrook has now thrown an interception in each of Wisconsin’s conference games, and today’s against Michigan in the third quarter was costly. Devin Bush’s pick set up the Wolverines’ offense in great position. The Badgers’ defense held, but a 39-yard Quinn Nordin field goal gave the Wolverines a 10–7 lead.
Devin Bush eyeing the ball for the INT pic.twitter.com/TR2YqarWEq— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 18, 2017
Just when you thought the offense would be grounded for the rest of the game, Hornibrook responded. After a pass interference by Michigan gave Wisconsin a fresh set of downs, the unit marched down the field.
On a 3rd-and-13 from Wisconsin’s 31-yard line, A.J. Taylor caught a 51-yard pass to get inside the Michigan 20-yard line. On yet another third down and with 16 yards needed to move the chains, Hornibrook threaded the needle on a 24-yard touchdown pass to Taylor to take the lead.
They were not finished in the third quarter. The Badgers’ defense held its offensive adversaries to a three-and-out, with Peters leaving the game after a third-down hit by outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel.
Wisconsin took over and drove 61 yards in five plays. Wide receiver Kendric Pryor scored his second rushing touchdown of the year on a 32-yard run to extend the lead to 21–10. Hornibrook again had a key third-down completion, finding Davis for a a 27-yard gain.
Michigan’s longest drive in the second half was 26 yards, with Wisconsin forcing five punts during that time. The Badgers gained 226 yards of offense in the final two quarters.
Gaglianone’s 30-yard field goal capped the scoring with 2:25 left in the game.
Wisconsin now faces Minnesota in the regular-season finale, with a perfect record and Paul Bunyan’s Axe on the line in the Twin Cities.