MADISON — It did not take the No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers long to gain a lead they would not relinquish on Saturday.
Behind 223 rushing yards and three touchdowns from freshman tailback Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin (2–0) wore down and outlasted the Florida Atlantic Owls (0–2) in a 31-14 win in front of 77,542 fans at Camp Randall Stadium.
As a whole, the Badgers gained 564 yards on the day. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook went 16-of-28 for 201 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
After a first half that allowed Lane Kiffin’s offense to score two touchdowns—including one on a long touchdown pass—the Wisconsin defense held its ground, allowing only 50 yards and forcing four three-and-outs in six drives during the final 30 minutes of play. Five sacks and 10 tackles for loss helped stymie the Owls’ pace and offensive attack.
It only took the Badgers five minutes to get on the board this week. Taylor took a handoff and after breaking a couple of tackles, turned on the jets for a 64-yard touchdown.
The true freshman from Salem, N.J., and the Wisconsin offense struck again their next offensive possession. Danny Davis’s first career reception of 35 yards set up Taylor’s second touchdown three plays later. Again eluding tacklers and breaking their attempts to bring him down, Taylor caught the edge and went 29 yards for his second score in the contest.
In the first quarter alone, Taylor gained 135 yards on 11 carries.
Florida Atlantic would answer late in the first quarter, however. Broken coverage allowed quarterback Daniel Parr to find wide receiver DeAndre McNeal behind cornerback Nick Nelson and away from safety Natrell Jamerson to haul in a 63-yard touchdown pass.
Parr finished the game 9-of-19 for 142 yards and the touchdown.
Despite a first quarter where Wisconsin dominated in total yards (232 to FAU’s 80), rushing yards (164 to 19), and time of possession (10:28 to 4:32), it also left some opportunities on the board to start the second quarter. After getting it to the Owls’ one-yard line, the Badgers could not punch it in to initially answer.
UW did extend its lead to 21-7 as Hornibrook found tight end Troy Fumagalli for a 12-yard touchdown pass. Fumagalli ended the day with eight receptions for 92 yards and the score, leading the team in those categories.
But like last week, a costly Wisconsin turnover led to points for its opponent. After a bad snap on an FAU field goal attempt, Hornibrook did not see defensive end Leighton McCarthy, who intercepted the pass. Five plays and 27 yards later, Devin Singletary drove it in from one yard out to make it 21–14.
Wisconsin then drove 75 yards in 13 plays, though it was only able to muster a 20-yard field goal by Rafael Gaglianone to make it a 10-point lead going into halftime.
Each team’s defense held its ground for the most of the third quarter, though a 35-yard completion to McNeal to UW’s 18 was wiped out by a holding penalty.
Wisconsin, however, found the end zone once again before the end of the quarter, and again it was Taylor adding six points on the scoreboard. Despite a fumble on the prior series, the tailback rushed for 49 yards on six carries that next drive—ending with a four-yard score to put UW up 31-14.
Redshirt sophomore inside linebacker Chris Orr led Wisconsin in tackles with eight and added one sack. Fellow inside linebacker T.J. Edwards and outside linebacker Leon Jacobs each recorded six tackles, two for loss, along with a sack. Outside linebacker Garret Dooley also registered four tackles, two for loss, for Jim Leonhard’s defense.
The Badgers out-gained the Owls 206–50 in the second half, when the defense did not allow a third-down conversion.