PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jonathan Taylor ran with a purpose Saturday, finishing with 221 yards rushing and three touchdowns, including a back-breaking 88-yard run that represented a career long and the fifth-longest run in Badgers history. He was the centerpiece of the Badgers’ 533 yards of total offense.
“Those guys are a talented team,” Taylor said afterward. “You’ve seen the plays that they made today; it’s just the matter of fact of putting it together. We knew we had to capitalize on any mistake that they made.”
It was the fifth time in his career that he’s cleared 200 yards rushing in a game and the second time in 2018. He’s cleared 100 yards in 15 of 19 games and all five of his contests this season. He’s already past Rufus Ferguson for 14th on UW’s all-time rushing chart (now at 2,826 career yards)
OFFENSIVE PLAY OF THE GAME
The 88-yard run in the fourth quarter featured a number of strong blocking performances, including key blocks by the Brothers Benzschawel to open up a gap straight up the middle.
Luke Benzschawel was making his first appearance since leaving the Badgers opener against Western Kentucky with a leg injury. That’s particularly important given that tight end Zander Neuville was lost for the season after sustaining an injury in practice. Luke’s older brother Beau Benzschawel, a fellow graduate of Grafton High School, has been a staple on Wisconsin’s offensive line.
“It’s definitely a happy feeling, I’d say, knowing all the hard work you put up during the week showed up in the game,” Beau said after the game.
David Edwards also locked up his man on the play to help Taylor slide through, and freshman running back Aron Cruikshank – who served as a rare decoy when it appeared the Badgers were running the jet sweep – threw one last block downfield to seal the deal.
“I kind of saw a flash to the right of me – Cruikshank with a great block,” Taylor said. “And once I saw that, I knew no one was catching me from behind. It was just a matter of beating that guy that was in front of me.”
The score gave the Badgers a 41-17 lead with 12:50 to go.
“He was a monster in the blocking game and really could do everything,” tight end Jake Ferguson said of Neuville. “Coach (Mickey) Turner’s message is we need to step up, take those roles. Luke really stepped up too in the blocking game. It was nice to see him back.”
DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE GAME
Olive Sagapolu pounced on a fumble with 9:46 left in the third quarter and the Badgers lead at 27-10.
After Jonathan Taylor’s 21-yard touchdown, Nebraska gouged Wisconsin for two plays worth 35 yards to reach the UW 40 in a rapid response over the next minute of clock. But on the next play, Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez was hurried by Sagapolu, who then pounced on a fumble forced by linebacker Tyler Johnson. Wisconsin quickly turned it around into a Taiwan Deal touchdown 3 minutes later, giving the Badgers a healthy 34-10 advantage.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY OF THE GAME
Penalties just crushed Nebraska, including on special teams.
Officially, the Cornhuskers were guilty of 10 penalties for 100 yards, consistent with their undisciplined showings in their first two Big Ten games (11 for 136 yards against Purdue, 10 for 79 yards against Michigan).
A block in the back by Caleb Tannor at the 10-yard line negated a kickoff return by Maurice Washington all the way down to the Badgers’ 27-yard line right after Jonathan Taylor’s 88-yard touchdown run. The game was probably in hand by that point, but it was a glaring example of Nebraska’s inability to fully stay in the fight because of penalties.
Inside the huddle
» In addition to its numerous injuries in the defensive backfield, defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk left the game with what appeared to be a knee injury and left the field on crutches. Loudermilk missed the first game of the year after sustaining a knee injury leading up to the opener.
» Offensive lineman Logan Bruss wore No. 89 in the game, and Jason Erdmann wore No. 96, an indication that the Badgers expected to use their Jumbo package during the game with both players as tight ends. The unit was on the field when Jonathan Taylor ran for a 3-yard touchdown – first ruled short and then reviewed as a touchdown.
» Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel appeared to remain on a pitch count as he works his way back from an injury he sustained against BYU, but the pass rush showed evident improvement with him on the field.
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost: “I don’t know how big their line on the offense is going across, but they’re 6-3 across the line and veterans. We have two sophomore tackles and guys that I love. They’re fighting their butts off in the middle. We just don’t look like them right now.”
By the numbers
65Career field goals by Rafael Gaglianone, tying Todd Gregoire (1984-87) for most in Badgers history.
17Consecutive Big Ten victories for Wisconsin, the nation’s longest active conference winning streak and the longest league win streak in UW history.
533 Yards of total offense for the Badgers Saturday, including 371 on the ground. Both are the program’s highest marks since the team gained 627 and 581 vs. Nebraska in November of 2014.
90Return yards for freshman Aron Cruikshank, his best showing thus far. That included a 34-yard return.
10 Consecutive victories for the Badgers with a trophy on the line. Since the Freedom Trophy was introduced in the Nebraska-Wisconsin rivalry in 2014, the Badgers have won all five.
No. 10 UW (4-1) vs. No. 13 Michigan (5-1), 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Handling Adrian Martinez proved to be a challenge for Wisconsin, and Michigan dual-threat quarterback Shea Patterson will be another emerging talent to deal with. Patterson passed for 282 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-21 win over Maryland. Michigan’s 15.8 points per game allowed is fewest in the Big Ten.