There is a lot to unpack from the big win for Wisconsin (3–1, 1–0 Big Ten), who struggled at times in the road contest against one of its conference rivals, but also shined when the time and situations warranted.
Here are three things I learned about Wisconsin on Saturday night:
Wisconsin can capitalize on turnovers
Iowa coughed up the football three times on Saturday night, with Wisconsin converting those into 14 points.
The errant move by the Iowa special teamer in the third quarter led to UW having the ball on the Hawkeye 10-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Alex Hornibrook found wide receiver Danny Davis for a 12-yard touchdown reception off a back-shoulder throw to take a 14–10 lead.
After T.J. Edwards’s interception late in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin utilized a fullback reverse to senior Alec Ingold that fooled Iowa’s defense on his 33-yard touchdown to ice the game with 22 seconds left.
Against New Mexico, three takeaways led to 21 points for the Badgers. They will need to make more of those opportunities as they arise during conference play.
The defense, and its secondary, are still young
Despite all the buzz about the offense responding late on Saturday, the defense gave up its fair share of big plays—mostly through the air. Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard’s unit gave up a season-high 404 yards, 256 through the air.
Redshirt freshmen cornerbacks Deron Harrell and Faion Hicks each were flagged for pass interference, and Hicks was seemingly picked on more throughout the game (though to be fair, we do not know the coverage calls through the game). Tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant feasted pretty well against the Badgers’ defense. Hockenson tallied 125 yards on three receptions, including two 40-yard-plus catches, while the preseason All-American Fant reeled in two touchdown receptions.
This team has some fight
Unlike last week, where the performance in a 24–21 loss felt flat, Wisconsin matched the physical intensity of Iowa—especially utilizing that jumbo package to gain some decent yardage early on.
Down with six minutes in the fourth quarter, the Badgers responded with confidence and quite possibly a season-defining drive spanning 88 yards in 10 plays that was capped with the 17-yard touchdown pass from Hornibrook to A.J. Taylor with 57 seconds left.
Even on defense, despite giving up some big plays through the air (five chunk plays of 20-plus yards in the passing game), a key fourth-down stop in the first quarter and the late interception by Edwards showed some resolve.
How this team will look and respond against Nebraska two weeks from now, or Michigan the week after, is TBD. For now, Wisconsin responded to adversity positively and that can be another building block for this squad.
Bonus learning No. 1: Alec Ingold is the next great Wisconsin fullback
A 33-yard reception in the first half, followed by the game-clinching 33-yard touchdown run with 22 seconds left.
Not sure what else you can really say about the senior fullback. He can block, he can run, he can catch.
As UW notes, Ingold has 98 career touches—17 have led to touchdowns. That’s a score on every 5.8 touches.
Preaching to the choir, former Green Bay Packers fullback John Kuhn:
Name me another school that keeps the FB position flourishing like Wisconsin!— John Kuhn (@kuhnj30) September 23, 2018
Bonus learning No. 2: The “Jumbo” package used ... was just known as “Jumbo”
Seriously. That’s what Ingold and Jason Erdmann told reporters after the game when Wisconsin utilized Logan Bruss and Erdmann as extra linemen/pseudo-tight ends on Saturday night.
The special package, which gained some significant yardage with seven offensive linemen on the field at once, did not have a special code name like “Big Badger,” “Barge V2.0,” or “Red Robin.” We need to figure one out, Badgers fans. Give me your best nicknames below.