MADISON — On a chilly, early November day, the Wisconsin Badgers earned a tough, unspectacular 31–17 victory over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
The Badgers started slow and eventually went into halftime with a 10–0 lead. The big story again this weekend is that starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook left the game with a head injury after missing Wisconsin’s loss to Northwestern with a concussion. He never came back out of the tunnel, and it was Jack Coan the rest of the way for UW.
The Badgers scored on their first two drives of the second half and Coan wasn’t forced to throw a pass before Wisconsin improved its lead to 24–3.
Jonathan Taylor, originally a Rutgers commit, ran for 207 yards and three touchdowns on the day.
The Badgers leaned on a stout defense for most of the first half, as Rutgers true freshman quarterback Artur Sitkowski was pummeled by the Badger pass rush, with T.J. Edwards, Ryan Connelly, and Zack Baun all getting big shots in on the Scarlet Knights’ signal caller. The Badgers went on to win, improving 6–3 on the season.
Here’s what we learned:
Jack Coan may not redshirt this season after all
While we certainly don’t know for sure, Coan played significant minutes for the second straight game. Hornibrook took a pretty good whack near the end of the first half and didn’t come back out for the second.
Admittedly, Coan threw one pass in his first three drives, a 30-yard completion to Taylor. This is certainly a situation to monitor moving forward. Hornibrook threw two first-half interceptions and struggled to get in a rhythm after the Badgers’ first possession.
While it’s not as simple as it may seem, there is absolutely some instability at the quarterback position.
Wisconsin’s youth movement continues
Wisconsin started three freshmen on the defensive line and two freshmen cornerbacks. The Badgers have 79 players on the roster listed as either sophomores or freshmen, and while fans have been frustrated with some growing pains this season, the future grows increasingly brighter for Wisconsin week after week.
Nose tackle Bryson Williams made his first career start, the 23rd Badger to do so this season. That’s a lot!
Wisconsin’s defense continues to impress despite adversity
For all of the credit and accolades defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard earned last season for the performance of his defense, he deserves every bit of that and possibly more this season.
He’s coordinating a defense with a walk-on redshirt freshman and a player who was an offensive lineman three months ago starting along the defensive line. He’s played three different true freshmen in the secondary, and has kept Wisconsin in every ballgame this season but one.
As mentioned above, Wisconsin’s defense has had its share of growing pains due to the youth forced onto the field, but moving forward, this unit has a ton of potential in the secondary.
In what was an extremely ordinary game on Saturday, the Badgers won.
That’s a good thing.