Neither the University of South Florida (0-1), nor the weather could stop the No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers (1-0) in the 2019 season opener.
Following a 55-minute weather delay due to lightning, Wisconsin scored on their opening drive, and never relinquished the lead, en route to a 49-0 victory.
Wisconsin’s opening drive went 77 yards, on eight plays and was capped off by a Jonathan Taylor, 36-yard touchdown run.
It took less than 5 minutes for Jonathan Taylor to find the end zone ⏱ pic.twitter.com/f9Nr51sAGb— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) August 31, 2019
Taylor’s touchdown scamper was setup by Quintez Cephus, who caught his first pass in 664 days since he last played a game on Nov. 4, 2017, when he was knocked out with a leg injury.
Cephus who was just declared eligible about a week ago after missing the 2018 season due to sexual assault allegations (a charge he was later cleared of), finished the night with three receptions for 39 yards. Badgers quarterback Jack Coan, who opened the season as the starting quarterback for the first time, attempted to connect with Cephus on a couple of long passes, but overthrew him on both plays.
Coan fished the game 19-26 for 199 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Defensive lineman Matt Henningsen provided Wisconsin’s second score on a 16-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. The fumble was forced by Zack Baun, who finished the night with three solo tackles, one of which was for a loss.
(...but actually, fumble return)— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) August 31, 2019
Official ruling is Zack Baun sack and Matt Henningsen fumble recovery
Either way, it translates to...
WIS 14, USF 0 | 12:58 2Qpic.twitter.com/wTd3XeRg0H
Henningsen also later added a sack.
Wisconsin later racked up two interceptions; one by Eric Burrell and another by Collin Wilder, for a grand total of three turnovers.
Apart from forcing turnovers, Wisconsin’s defense showed signs of a return to being a top-tier collegiate defense, limiting USF to 157 total yards, while forcing eight punts and two turnovers on downs.
Taylor scored Wisconsin’s next three touchdowns, including two receiving touchdowns. A skill set he was working to master all offseason. One of which was for 36 yards and the second was for 12, which closed out the first half and gave Wisconsin a 28-0 lead going into the break.
Taylor’s final score of the night was a 38-yard rushing touchdown, his third score which went for 30-plus yards.
Following his fourth touchdown, Taylor rested for the remainder of the game after picking up 183 total yards. Taylor rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns and scored on both of his receptions, totaling 48 yards.
Taylor who is normally not known for his receiving prowess, had 16 career receptions, totally 155 yards and no touchdowns entering tonight’s game.
With Taylor out of the game, Wisconsin turned to freshman Nakia Watson, who scored his first career touchdown on a 27-yard run with 3:06 remaining in the third quarter. Watson finished with 80 yards on 14 carries.
Like Cephus, Badgers running back Bradrick Shaw, who last played in 2017 when he tore his ACL in the final game of the season, made his return to the field against USF. Shaw’s first carry of the night went for no gain, but he later scored on 15-yard rush in which he bounced off lineman Jason Erdmann, reversed direction and was then sprung by a block from quarterback Chase Wolf, who replaced Coan in the fourth quarter, with Wisconsin up 42-0.
godspeed to Wisconsin backup QB Chase Wolf, who gave his life so Bradrick Shaw could find the end zone pic.twitter.com/ZrTb7ZsfEI— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) August 31, 2019
Shaw’s score was the final one of the night for Wisconsin.
USF head coach Charlie Strong removed his starting quarterback Blake Barnett for the Bulls final drive of the game. Barnett finished the game 13-for-30 for 109 yards and two interceptions.
The move seemed to give the Bulls offense a bit of life, as USF gained 49 of their 157 total yards on the drive that ensued with their backup quarterback.
Redshirt freshman Jordan McCloud entered the game and led the Bulls across midfield into Wisconsin territory for the first time all game and marched the Bulls down the field into the red zone. McCloud went 3-3 for 22 yards and tallied 17 rushing yards on his only drive.
The Bulls were helped out on the drive when freshman linebacker Jaylan Franklin sacked McCloud, but in the process, his helmet came off and Franklin was penalized, moving the Bulls 15 yards closer to pay dirt.
McCloud was later sacked again, this time by Izayah Green-May, causing McCloud’s helmet to fall off once more, but Green-May was not penalized.
The sack by Green-May led to a 43-yard field goal attempt, which was missed wide-left by Coby Weiss, thus preserving Wisconsin’s shutout.
This was Wisconsin’s first shutout since the 2015 season, when the Badgers shutout both Miami (OH) and Hawai’i.
Wisconsin will host the Central Michigan Chippewas next Saturday, Sept. 7 in their home opener.