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Roundtable: Closing the book on Wisconsin’s win vs. New Mexico

Final thoughts on Wisconsin’s Week 2 win

Matt Fleming

The No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers moved to 2–0 on their 2018 campaign with a 45–14 win over New Mexico on Saturday.

Jonathan Taylor ran for 253 yards on 33 carries with three touchdowns, earning Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors. A.J. Taylor caught five passes for 134 yards with a touchdown reception of his own, while the Wisconsin defense clamped down on the spread/triple-option attack of New Mexico. After giving up 87 yards on the Lobos’ first drive, the Badgers only allowed 124 the rest of the game.

Our band of writers came together to discuss the win and what’s to come against BYU.

The Good: What went well for Wisconsin against New Mexico?

Bob Wiedenhoeft: I sat down 24 hours ago to start writing my answers to the roundtable, but I couldn’t get myself into the mindset to have a legitimate discussions about this game. I walked away from the game numb, and if I felt anything, it was mild confusion. Perhaps that’s the good news; New Mexico did its best Ohio State impression for a hot minute, and Wisconsin adjusted and put the Lobos away. The Taylors did their job after everyone remembered that they were indeed playing a real football game with consequences.

A more serious answer would include it’s nice to see the defense get some of that “we will neutralize Alex Hornibrook interceptions” swagger they had last year. That Scott Nelson interception was huge. I expect him to get several more this season now that his first pick is under his belt.

Drew Hamm: Danny Vanden Boom’s perfect QBR is pretty impressive. Also, the offensive line was pretty dominant for the entire game. They only allowed one sack and led the way for Jonathan Taylor’s career day. Taiwan Deal, Alec Ingold and Chris James all found ample running room as well, while Hornibrook was provided enough time to find A.J. Taylor on a couple of deep balls. I think we all knew the offensive line was going to be fine, but were just looking for nits to pick last week.

Tyler Hunt: I thought the offensive line looked much more like itself on Saturday afternoon. Obviously, JT is extremely talented but it helps that the offensive line was opening some some big gaps for him to get through. The offensive line didn’t play its best game in Week 1, but seemed to live up to the hype they’ve gotten all preseason. Taylor has had some pretty big days in his career, so anytime you can get him to his career high for yards you know something is clicking. They also kept Hornibrook pretty clean in the pocket all game.

Kevin O’Connell: I agree with Tyler, the offensive line controlled this game from start to finish. As a team, the Badgers rushed for 7.1 yards a carry and Jonathan Taylor finished with a career high 253 yards on the ground. It was a truly dominating performance by Wisconsin’s offensive line and even Ingold got in the mix with 47 rushing yards and 11.8 yards a carry at fullback. This was a much-needed performance by the most talented position group on the team, and they’ll look to continue their dominance this weekend against a significantly more talented BYU squad.

The Bad: What needs to be improved upon heading into the BYU game?

Bob: I don’t know how you teach someone to stop fumbling, but what they’ve done hasn’t worked. Hire a consultant for crying out loud. Get a motivational speaker. Try hypnosis.

I’m not excited about Danny Davis returning; I’m still uneasy about his alleged involvement (albeit not criminally-charged involvement) in the Quintez Cephus felony case. Nevertheless, he is a huge addition to their offense. Wisconsin will need to integrate Davis well next week to help loosen up BYU’s defense.

Drew: Something, anything, needs to be done about Jonathan Taylor’s ball security issues. Has anyone suggested Gorilla Glue on his gloves?

Bob: *hushed* He’s got to fix that.

Tyler: I don’t like to be a broken record, but the Taylor fumbles are starting to be much more than a problem. I believe he’s fumbled in the last four games dating back to the Big Ten Championship Game. It’s gotta get corrected, as its the clear issue for the offense right now. They need to pull the old “duct tape the ball to his arms” like they did in Friday Night Lights (the movie, which was way better than the show *ducks*)

Kevin: It’s hard not to sound like I’m nitpicking in a game that was so clearly dominated by the Badgers. But that opening drive gave me flashbacks to the Big Ten Championship Game a year ago, as New Mexico’s tempo and sideline-to-sideline speed seemed to give Wisconsin some trouble. The defense tightened up and exerted their dominance after that (in part due to an injury to New Mexico’s starting quarterback), but to see the secondary on their heels a bit was slightly concerning. At the very least, that drive will serve as a teaching moment in the film room for defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard as they look towards BYU this week.

Game Balls: Who deserves them?

Bob: I’ll take Nelson. He’s feeling like the next Jimmy Leonhard.

Drew: Taylor and Taylor, which is also my pitch idea for a new buddy cop show on NBC this fall.

Tyler: I’d say the entire offensive line deserves some love. As I said earlier, Jonathan Taylor has had some dominating performances. The fact that he recorded his career high in rushing yards and it seemed like just another day at the office bodes well for the offensive line. They were constantly wearing down the New Mexico front and allowing JT to go to work.

Kevin: It’s A.J. Taylor for me. The junior wide receiver finished with a career-high 134 yards on five catches and a touchdown. More importantly, though, Taylor made some impressive catches including a one handed 28-yard snag down the sideline and a 10-yard touchdown grab with a defensive back draped on him. With deep threat Davis expected to return this week, Taylor should see even more single coverage and continue to be a key weapon for Hornibrook, especially in the middle of the field.

Up Next: BYU. Name one thing you want to see out of the Badgers against the Cougars.

Bob: I’d like to see them win the turnover battle … +2 ... why not?

Drew: BYU’s offense hasn’t looked super impressive on the ground, ranking 99th in the nation in rushing yards per game, and I’m looking forward to the defensive line controlling things and holding the Cougars to under 75 rushing yards.

Tyler: I’m with Bob, I’d like to see the Badgers win the turnover battle on Saturday. Not only do I want a clean sheet from both Taylor AND Hornibrook, but I’d like to snag a few picks or fumbles. BYU should be much improved from last year despite their struggle this past weekend. A few turnovers should help the Badgers put them away.

Kevin: I’m interested to see how the offense performs against a legitimate Power Five-level defense. No one will mistake BYU for Bama, but the Cougars have played two Pac-12 opponents, including dynamic Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate in Week 1, and have held their own. This will be a good early-season test for the offensive line and I’ll be looking forward to seeing how Hornibrook performs in a game where he’ll surely have to throw more than 11 times.