Some thought heading to Bloomington, Ind., could be a trap game for the Wisconsin Badgers.
On Saturday, Wisconsin proved that would not be the case, fighting off the Indiana Hoosiers and ultimately pulling away for a 45–17 win on the road.
The Badgers’ defense held the Hoosiers offense to 266 total yards on 55 plays while registering three turnovers and four sacks. Indiana came into the game averaging nearly 80 plays per game.
Safety Joe Ferguson intercepted two passes while outside linebacker Leon Jacobs and defensive end Alec James recorded 1.5 sacks each.
UW gained 407 yards on the afternoon, with true freshman Jonathan Taylor returning to form by gaining 183 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown.
Fullback Alec Ingold scored three touchdowns on the day (two rushing, one receiving), in place of the injured Austin Ramesh, while quarterback Alex Hornibrook completed 13 of 20 passes for 158 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
However, Wisconsin lost two key contributors in the game with injuries to inside linebacker Chris Orr and wide receiver Quintez Cephus. Safety D’Cota Dixon also started the game after missing last week’s game at Illinois but exited with a right leg injury.
On Wisconsin’s first drive, Hornibrook threw an interception in the red zone. Indiana then drove 80 yards in 11 plays, finishing with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Devonte Williams to take an early 7–0 lead.
On that drive, Orr sustained the left leg injury and did not return.
After a three-and-out by the Wisconsin offense, Indiana pushed down the field 55 yards, some thanks to two pass-interference penalties on cornerback Nick Nelson. Griffin Oakes connected on a 26-yard field goal to extend the Hoosier lead to 10 points.
The Badgers’ offense responded with two big third-down conversions via the passing game. Hornibrook went 4-for-4 for 67 yards on that series, with third-down throws to sophomore wide receivers A.J. Taylor and Cephus for 32 and 16 yards.
Hornibrook then found Ingold for an 18-yard touchdown pass off a beautiful play-action fake. Seven plays and 73 yards later, the Badgers pushed themselves to within a field goal.
The Wisconsin defense again stepped up after a shaky start, and again, another walk-on stepped up. Outside linebacker Tyler Johnson, who registered a strip-sack at Illinois last week, forced a fumble on running back Morgan Ellison that UW recovered. The officials overturned the initial call of Ellison being down by contact, and the Badgers took over on IU’s 21-yard line.
Two plays later, Cephus reeled in a contested catch for an eight-yard touchdown to give Wisconsin a 14–10 lead. Hornibrook released the ball right before being hit by an Indiana defender.
Wisconsin took its first drive of the second half and ate nearly six minutes of the clock on the way to a 21-yard field goal by Rafael Gaglianone. Unfortunately on that drive, the Badgers lost Cephus to a nasty-looking right leg injury after he was rolled up on.
After another three-and-out from Indiana’s offense, UW found the end zone for the third time. Taylor followed his blockers and turned on the speed for a 32-yard touchdown to put the Badgers up 24–10.
Indiana did not crumble, however. Richard Lagow drove the Hoosiers down the field, connecting with Simmie Cobbs for a 17-yard touchdown reception against cornerback Nick Nelson. That cut the lead to 24–17.
In the fourth quarter, however, Johnson stepped up with big pressure again—forcing yet another turnover that led to Wisconsin points. Twisting inside on a pass rush, the walk-on from Menasha forced Lagow to throw over the middle.
Ferguson, in for Dixon, came up with a huge interception.
Wisconsin then physically imposed its will over Indiana, driving 27 yards in seven plays. After Ingold moved the chains on fourth down, the junior fullback came through again on the very next snap by scoring from a yard out to make it 31–17 Badgers.
Ferguson found his second interception of the afternoon, which gave Wisconsin a short field to work with at the IU 33-yard line. Ingold hit the hat trick for touchdowns, scoring from a yard out to give UW a 21-point advantage.
The Badgers added a final touchdown as the icing on the cake of a tough road win. With true freshman quarterback Jack Coan in with the game in hand, Bradrick Shaw’s one-yard touchdown run capped the scoring at 45–17.
Wisconsin came into the game No. 4 in both the AP Top 25 and Amway Coaches Poll, but No. 9 in the initial release of the College Football Playoff rankings. We’ll see where Paul Chryst’s team lands after this week’s action.