MADISON – Jonathan Taylor remains Wisconsin’s No. 1 option when the play call is:
Run. The. Ball.
Through four games, the sophomore has been given 60% of the carries by the running backs (102 of 170).
Yet the manner in which the coaches used reserve tailbacks Taiwan Deal and Garrett Groshek in the victory over Iowa, particularly in the pivotal fourth quarter, showed that Taylor should have plenty of help this season.
The final numbers from UW’s 28-17 victory:
Taylor carried 25 times for 113 yards and had two catches for 6 yards.
Groshek carried eight times for 33 yards and had three catches for 19 yards.
Deal carried six times for 42 yards.
“You guys have been around it,” UW coach Paul Chryst said when asked about the overall numbers. “It takes more than one back.
“Love J.T. and really glad he is on our side. And yet for us to be the best team, our seniors have to be playing their best football. I think Taiwan is doing that.
“And Grosh brings a ton of value to this team in a number of different ways. We’re going to need all three of them going forward.”
And don’t forget about fullback Alec Ingold.
The senior carried twice for 37 yards and a touchdown and had one catch for 33 yards against the Hawkeyes.
That quartet combined for 225 rushing yards and 55 receiving yards as UW improved to 1-0 in the Big Ten and 3-1 overall.
Through four games:
Taylor leads the way with 157.0 yards per game and five touchdowns. His per-carry average of 6.2 yards is down slightly from his mark of 6.6 yards last season.
Deal, who missed last season after suffering an ankle injury in camp, is averaging a college-high 5.8 yards and has two touchdowns. He has 167 yards and hasn’t lost yardage on any of his 29 carries.
Groshek is averaging 5.7 yards and is third on the team in catches with nine for 98 yards, an average of 10.9. He has 18 carries, most on third-down plays.
Ingold has 11 carries for 102 yards, an average of 9.3, and three touchdowns.
The UW staff relied on all four players in the fourth quarter against Iowa, when the Badgers outscored the Hawkeyes, 14-0.
Groshek was on the field for 10 plays, including seven on the 10-play, 88-yard touchdown drive.
Taylor got seven plays, Ingold got five and Deal got four, though one was wiped out by an offensive holding call.
Deal ran through or over would-be tacklers for much of the game. His 8-yard run to the UW 20 to open the 88-yard touchdown drive was huge because it put the offense in a second-and-short situation.
Groshek picked up the first down on the next play and later had a huge 5-yard reception to the Iowa 32, on third and 5.
Ingold set up UW’s first touchdown with his 33-yard catch and scored the last touchdown on a 33-yard run.
“They’re all competitors,” quarterback Alex Hornibrook said. “Deal did a great job fighting for extra yards. He is a big, strong guy.
“Garrett is always in there making big plays when it matters.
“And Ingold, whenever we need something, he is always that guy as well.”
Taylor, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in 15 of his 18 games at UW, has never complained that he gets too many or too few carries. He explained after the Iowa game why Groshek, Deal and Ingold are used in certain situations.
“We run these plays all the time in practice,” he said. “Those guys make the reads. They make the plays in practice.
“So we go into the game and we know who runs what play. This is his play. He runs it really well and he has a knack for running it.”