Due to some mistakes by the Badgers—turnovers and a busted coverage—the Owls were able to keep it close in the first half, with UW only up by 10 points heading into halftime. Eventually the Badgers’ talent and depth took over, and they were able to put the pesky Conference USA opponent away.
Here are three things we learned from Week 2:
1. Wisconsin is far from a finished product
The Badgers started slow in the opener vs Utah State, but eventually cruised past the Aggies. In Week 2, they started like gangbusters, but eventually went stagnant on offense, with only occasional drives resulting in significant progress.
The Badgers’ offense has some elements of explosion with freshman Jonathan Taylor, but the rest of the offense resembles the classic “death by 1,000 papercuts” Wisconsin offensive philosophy. That makes the margin for error that much smaller. The Badgers have to be more efficient as they move forward.
2. Jonathan Taylor is the real deal
The true freshman tailback got his first career start today, as Bradrick Shaw missed the game with a leg injury. Taylor responded by rushing for 135 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone. The freshman has breakaway speed, and if the defense misses a tackle on the second level, it’s a touchdown. Taylor’s ability to make the defense pay for making mistakes makes it tough to keep him out of the game, as he’s the Badgers’ best big-play threat.
Moving forward, I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor is the starter, with Shaw and Chris James continuing to get reps, especially James on third downs. The best ability is availability, and as of right now, Taylor has that edge over Shaw if all other things are equal between the two young Badger backs.
3. The Badgers’ defense has the ability to carry this team
The Badgers’ offense was far from smooth for large portions of the win on Saturday, and the defense was there to pick them up. Aside from a touchdown surrendered on a short field following an Alex Hornibrook interception (the first INT thrown by a Badger QB since the Nebraska game a year ago), the defense allowed less than 250 yards of total offense, and the other touchdown was on a busted coverage, something I’m sure Jim Leonhard will address in the defensive back meetings this week.
Despite losing some of the bigger names from a year ago, this defense continues to roll along as usual. Leon Jacobs, D’Cota Dixon, and T.J. Edwards have all stood out this season and continue to be rock-solid for Wisconsin.
The Badgers will head to Provo, Utah, next weekend to face BYU in what is sure to be a tough road test.