The return of Jonathan Taylor (183 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown) after missing most of the Illinois game helped the offense run over an Indiana defense that had some momentum after an early turnover.
The Wisconsin defense rose up after Indiana’s second and third offensive series, shutting down the Hoosiers and recording three turnovers and four sacks on the afternoon.
To help us break down the Wisconsin win, our writers reconvened for our weekly roundtable.
The Good: What went well for Wisconsin on Saturday?
Owen Riese: I think pretty resoundingly, the biggest positive of this game was seeing Jonathan Taylor wasn’t really hampered by the ankle injury from last weekend. He’s the catalyst to any potential playoff run Wisconsin may or may not have.
Ryan Mellenthin: Taylor’s ability to bounce back from an injury that sidelined him for the second half of the Illinois game was huge for Wisconsin, as keeping him healthy is going to be important for the Badgers and their hopes of getting into the playoff.
Neal Olson: The Badgers continue to show the ability to rally against lesser competition. Certainly, spotting Indiana 10 points is less than ideal. But as other teams around the conference showed Saturday, going on the road against a lesser team and heading home with a win is not guaranteed. Wisconsin overcame the early deficit and what appears to be serious injuries to Chris Orr and Quintez Cephus, and still managed to win easy.
The Bad: What needs to be cleaned up heading into next week’s rivalry game against Iowa?
Owen: Holding penalties, man. Although a couple of them I didn’t agree with, gaining yards is hard. You can’t make it harder on yourself by negating your big plays.
Ryan: I have to agree with Owen. The Badgers were penalized for holding three times on a single drive at the end of the second quarter. A drive that could have led to another score, but instead Wisconsin was forced to punt it away.
Neal: The overall sloppy play has to end. Owen and Ryan mention the penalties on offense. There were a ton of missed tackles defensively early on as well. Wisconsin has been fortunate enough not to pay for their mistakes thus far, but how much longer can they get away with it?
Game balls: Who earned ‘em vs. IU?
Owen: Taylor, Alec Ingold, Alec James, and Joe Ferguson. All made huge plays in a sloppy game on the road in the Big Ten.
Ryan: Ingold touched the ball five times against Indiana and scored three times. His ability to pound the ball in from the goal line is imperative to Wisconsin’s success moving forward. I also have to give one to Joe Ferguson, who picked off two passes and recovered a fumble. Ferguson has now accounted for six of Wisconsin’s 19 takeaways this season.
Neal: I initially considered getting cute and going with Alex Hornibrook, but really I have to go with the continued efforts of Cephus. His second-quarter touchdown to put the Badgers ahead was eerily reminiscent of catches Penn State receivers made over Badger corners in the Big Ten championship last year. The Indiana defender was in good position, ball was underthrown, but Cephus was just a superior athlete and football player.
If that play goes incomplete, the Badgers are staring down the barrel of 3rd-and-long from the red zone and a likely field goal attempt. Instead, Cephus makes the play, and Wisconsin never lost control. Perhaps this game ball is a de facto (and unfortunate) season achievement award. The Jazz Peavy Mystery could have really derailed the team, but Cephus stepped up and never missed a beat, and even excelled. The status of his injury is still unknown, but the Badgers will be pressed to replace his big-play pass catching.
Up Next: Iowa. What are the early keys to the game against Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes?
Owen: The Badgers can’t keep settling for field goals in the red zone. Also, Akrum Wadley will be the best back the Badgers have seen this year. If they can bottle him up, the Hawkeyes will struggle offensively.
Ryan: Iowa’s lopsided defeat of Ohio State was largely due to the four interceptions J.T. Barrett threw. With Hornibrook’s intercepted pass on Saturday, he has now thrown nine on the year and one in seven of nine games. While his interception yesterday was mainly due to him being hit as he threw the ball, Hornibrook will need to elevate his play to help keep Wisconsin undefeated.
Neal: The biggest key is out of Wisconsin’s control, but still thankfully in its favor. Having the game at Camp Randall and not Kinnick is a huge advantage. Iowa is just a different team at home. The Badgers will still need to stop turning the ball over. Hornibrook and Taylor both have been careless protecting it, and as Ryan noted, Iowa feasted on Buckeye turnovers last week. The Hawkeyes will be rolling into town with a ton of confidence, and coughing the ball up will be a surefire way for the Badgers to find themselves on upset alert.