MADISON — The No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers did not start off well on Saturday, but they picked up steam in the second half to ultimately pull away against New Mexico inside Camp Randall Stadium with a 45–14 win.
Despite a first-half fumble, sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor rushed for 253 yards on 33 carries with three touchdowns. Wide receiver A.J. Taylor reeled in five receptions for 134 yards and a score, while a defense that gave up nearly 90 yards on the first drive contained New Mexico’s offense to just 124 yards for the rest of the game.
Wisconsin gained 568 yards on the afternoon, with quarterback Alex Hornibrook completing eight of 11 passes for 148 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
On the other side of the ball and against an offense that saw Tevaka Tuioti exit in the first half, Jim Leonhard’s defense forced three turnovers that led to 21 points, along with tallying six tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries. Redshirt senior safety D’Cota Dixon recorded nine tackles, one for loss, while Andrew Van Ginkel registered his first sack on the way to three tackles (1.5 for loss).
New Mexico started the game off on the right foot, however, driving 87 yards on 17 plays, converting all four third-down attempts. Tuioti found wide receiver Delane Hart-Johnson for an 11-yard touchdown to put the Lobos up 7–0.
Wisconsin would put together a 12-play, 76-yard series of its own the next drive with help from a one-handed grab by wide receiver A.J. Taylor to move the chains. UW drove the ball down to the New Mexico eight-yard line before Taylor couldn’t come up with a reception on third down. Rafael Gaglianone’s 26-yard field goal brought the Badgers back within four points at 7–3.
After two straight three-and-outs forced by its defense, Wisconsin drove down the field with the help of a 39-yard Alec Ingold fullback dive. However, Jonathan Taylor lost a fumble for the second consecutive game, allowing the Lobos to take the ball and neutralize any scoring opportunity.
Wisconsin’s defense, after that first drive surrendered 87 yards, held New Mexico to 13 yards over the next three series. After another forced punt, the Badgers drove down the field in seven plays, with Taylor temporarily atoning for his turnover with a 16-yard touchdown to make it 10–7 Wisconsin.
During that first half, Wisconsin ran for 204 total yards, with Taylor gaining 99 yards on 17 carries and the score. Hornibrook only completed two of four passes for 35 yards, and UW only put a touchdown and field goal on the scoreboard.
Wisconsin’s offense looked promising to start the second half, driving 41 yards in six plays to the New Mexico 43 before Hornibrook was pressured and threw a pass that wound up in the hands of Evahelotu Tohi. The Lobos defender ran it back to the Wisconsin 26 to give Bob Davie’s squad an opportunity to tie or take the lead.
Once again in a “sudden change” situation, Wisconsin’s defense held its ground. On third down, safety Scott Nelson picked off a pass from quarterback Sheriron Jones, who was in for Tuioti. Pressure came from Ginkel, and Nelson returned the ball 22 yards. It was the first career interception for the redshirt freshman from Detroit.
From there, UW capitalized and would go on to score on its next three series.
The Badgers drove 76 yards in six plays immediately after Nelson’s interception to go ahead by 10. Jonathan Taylor scampered 43 yards, with Hornibrook then finding A.J. Taylor for a 10-yard touchdown in the north end zone. Gaglianone’s extra point put Wisconsin up 17–7.
Another New Mexico turnover, recovered by defensive end Kayden Lyles, gave Wisconsin great field position at the Lobos 34-yard line. After taking nearly four minutes off the clock, Jonathan Taylor pushed it through the goal line from five yards out. Another Gaglianone extra point made it 24–7 with 2:52 left in the third quarter.
Ingold had himself a day on Saturday, carrying the ball four times for 47 yards with a touchdown run. That one-yard score came to start the fourth quarter, as he took the rock on a fullback sweep/end-around to the south end zone for his first touchdown of the 2018 season.
After Wisconsin put in a good number of reserves on defense, New Mexico drove down the field for its second touchdown of the game. Jones found Elijah Lilly for a five-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 31–14.
Another Hornibrook-to-A.J. Taylor connection, this time for 31 yards, helped put UW in position for more points on the board midway through the fourth quarter. Jonathan Taylor’s four-yard run—his third and final score of the game—put the lead back at 24 at 38–14.
Later in the fourth quarter, Madison Cone’s first career interception led to a number of firsts for some of his teammates. Wide receiver Taj Mustapha caught a three-yard touchdown pass—his first career reception—from redshirt freshman quarterback Danny Vanden Boom—which was also his first touchdown pass on his first career passing attempt (and subsequent completion). That capped Wisconsin’s scoring for the afternoon.