The Wisconsin Badgers seemed determined to lose this football game before it really got started.
Following the late news that All-American tight end Troy Fumagalli would be missing the game with a hamstring injury, the Badgers fumbled the ball on their first play of the game. After three first-half turnovers, Wisconsin’s defense was able to keep them in the game, heading into halftime down 10–7.
After the offense got the ball back, Alex Hornibrook hit Quintez Cephus on a 61-yard catch-and-run. With an 11-yard touchdown run by freshman Jonathan Taylor (his second of the day), the Badgers took the lead and didn't look back in a 33–24 win.
Here’s what we learned:
1. Wisconsin’s defense is as good as advertised
That’s said nearly every week, but Wisconsin’s defense only surrendered 10 first-half points while Northwestern was seemingly living in the Badgers’ territory because of UW’s three first-half turnovers. Jim Leonhard’s unit has continuously stymied opponents later on in games, as the Badgers just allowed their first second-half points this season. Natrell Jamerson put the final nail in the coffin, picking off Clayton Thorson for the second time in the game and returning it for his second career touchdown.
2. The future is now in Madison
The first three touchdowns of the day for Wisconsin were scored by true freshmen. Jonathan Taylor ran in the first two, and Danny Davis caught the third. This is huge production from players who weren’t necessarily expected to contribute this season. It puts Wisconsin ahead of schedule development-wise, and gives opponents more contributors to prepare for each week.
3. Alex Hornibrook is still maturing as a passer
Hornibrook will likely be the first to admit that both of his first-half interceptions were pretty bad. His tendency to loft passes rather than drive them down the field got him in trouble, but he was much sharper in the second half with a touchdown pass to Davis and long completions to Quintez Cephus to set up the first A.J. Taylor touchdown. A long pass to Taylor also set up a Rafael Gaglianone field goal. Hornibrook still has room to grow in his development, but his upside is encouraging when it’s displayed.