Wisconsin’s offense has seen its share of success during its first four games of the 2018 season, including its last two series against Iowa last week that cultivated 14 points and putting up five consecutive touchdown drives to end the game against New Mexico.
And yet, the offense has sputtered at times, though it has put up over 32 points and nearly 470 yards per contest. Against BYU, the unit generated only three touchdowns in the 24–21 upset loss, thanks in part to a costly third-quarter interception by quarterback Alex Hornibrook and only converting four of 13 third-down opportunities.
Up until the final six minutes of the road contest in Iowa City, Wisconsin scored on only two of nine previous drives, though it did score 21 points in the second half.
There are still eight more games to see how the offense evolves, but there have been significant contributors to this unit.
- Scoring offense: 32 points per game (fifth in Big Ten, T-61st in nation)
- Total offense: 467 yards per game (fourth in Big Ten, 38th in the nation)
- Rushing offense: 266.3 yards per game (second in Big Ten, 13th in nation)
- Passing offense: 200.8 yards per game (ninth in Big Ten, T-92nd in nation)
- Third-down conversions: 24-of-49 (49 percent; second in Big Ten, T-17th in nation)
The redshirt freshman and former offensive scout team player of the team in 2017 has emerged to become a reliable target for Hornibrook in the passing game. He currently is second on the team in receptions (12) and receiving yards (166) while nearly averaging 14 yards per catch.
More impressively, when he is targeted, he moves the chains. Ten of his 12 receptions have gone for first downs, with six coming on third downs.
On Saturday in Iowa City, Ferguson led the team in receptions with four, with three of them gaining first downs. His second reception of the evening netted his first career touchdown catch to put Wisconsin up 7–0 in the first half.
Jake Ferguson making his granddaddy Barry Alvarez proud. pic.twitter.com/fuI2lBxg97— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 23, 2018
Jonathan Taylor will be mentioned later, because he only is the second-best rusher in the nation statistically heading into the bye week, but Deal has emerged as a key complement to the Heisman-caliber back.
Though Deal has gained only 167 yards through four games, he is averaging nearly six yards per rush with two rushing touchdowns. During key drives, he has been out on the field. It has been a solid campaign so far for the redshirt senior.
The junior wide receiver leads the team in receptions (15) for a whopping 294 yards and a 19.6 yards-per-catch average. He is sixth in the conference in receiving yards per game.
Taylor has made some amazing catches, including the one-handed 28-yard grab against New Mexico and a contested reception against Western Kentucky where he was sandwiched by a couple of defenders. He also fought through some drops the first couple of games and showed a mental toughness in bouncing back as well.
Of course, he and Hornibrook connected once again on Saturday night with the 17-yard strike for the go-ahead/game-winning touchdown in the 28–17 win over Iowa.
He may not have had explosive runs since his career-high 253-yard performance against New Mexico, but the sophomore back is currently averaging 157 yards per game—second in the nation—and averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He has gone over the 100-yard mark in all four of Wisconsin’s games so far this season.
Outside of the two lost fumbles in the first two games, Taylor has been solid. We’ll see if those large chunk plays return coming up after the bye, as he only had a long run of 15 against BYU and 17 against Iowa.
The senior fullback gained 39 yards off of a fullback dive against New Mexico. On Saturday, his 33-yard reception set up Wisconsin’s first touchdown and he then sprinted 33 yards for UW’s final score on the road against Iowa.
Like those at the position before him in Paul Chryst’s offense, he is a versatile weapon that can sting opposing defenses.
Let’s talk about: Alex Hornibrook
Yes, he did throw what appeared to be a bad pick in the third quarter of the loss to BYU, and there was the pass into coverage against Western Kentucky that was not intercepted, but he also has shown the ability to drive the team down the field when it counts. This year, he displayed that ability on the second-to-last drive against the Hawkeyes, leading the offense in going 88 yards for a decisive touchdown.
The redshirt junior quarterback has completed two-thirds of his passes for 800 yards with six touchdown and two interceptions through four games. If he keeps the takeaways low, the offense will have that opportunity to create greater efficiency.