No. 9 Wisconsin routs Utah State
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin fans will want to keep an eye on freshman running back Jonathan Taylor this season because he’ll be making an impact.
Taylor had an impressive effort in his first career game, finishing with nine carries for 87 yards and a touchdown in Wisconsin’s 59-10 rout of Utah State on Friday night in the season opener for both teams at Camp Randall Stadium.
“There wasn’t anything that he did tonight that surprised anyone on our sidelines,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said of Taylor. “I think it would be unfair to say we expected him to do that. It was good having him out there.”
Alex Hornibrook threw three touchdown passes to lead the Badgers.
Bradrick Shaw had 18 carries for 84 yards for Wisconsin and senior tight end Troy Fumagalli led receivers with five catches for 105 yards and a score.
Pushing aside a woeful first quarter, Wisconsin found its footing in the third quarter with a 28-point scoring barrage that put the game out of reach.
The Badgers’ offense was up and running in the third as Taylor rushed 41 yards on the first play of the second half. Taylor had a couple short runs before Hornibrook connected with Fumagalli on a 23-yard touchdown pass that gave Wisconsin its first lead, at 17-10, with 13:00 left in the third quarter.
Hornibrook said Chryst relayed a stern halftime message that got the Badgers back on track.
“We had some stupid mistakes in the first quarter, second quarter — too many penalties,” Hornibrook said. That’s not the type of team we want to be. Coach Chryst (was) getting us focused and ready to go out there in the second half.”
The Badgers padded their lead on the heels of Kent Myers’ second interception, which was gathered in by Wisconsin senior safety D’Cota Dixon at the Badgers’ 48-yard line. Three plays later, Zander Neuville caught a 28-yard TD pass for Wisconsin with 11:20 left in the third.
Taylor’s touchdown, a 13-yard rush, put Wisconsin ahead 31-10 with 7:50 remaining.
Wisconsin stretched its lead to 38-10 as Hornibrook capped the third-quarter scoring with a 21-yard TD pass on a back-shoulder throw to Quintez Cephus with 51 seconds to go.
Hornibrook completed 15 of 23 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns.
One of the most spectacular plays of the game was a 99-yard interception return for a TD in the fourth quarter by Joe Ferguson, a Madison native and the son of Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez, to make it 52-10.
Wisconsin’s defense held the Aggies to 304 total yards of offense, and only 85 rushing yards. The Badgers collected 24 points off four Utah State turnovers. The Aggies racked up eight penalties for 83 yards.
Myers completed 25 of 41 passes for 219 yards and three interceptions for Utah State.
Utah State coach Matt Wells said he was proud of the way Aggies players played toe to toe with Wisconsin in the first quarter, but the third quarter was a dismal one.
“That was a bad third quarter where you can’t stop a down,” Wells said. “They were basically running downhill with a short field every time and no response by the offense. You’ve got to stop the run. That’s the bottom line.”
The Aggies got on the board first with a 25-yard field goal by Dominik Eberle with 4:56 left in the first quarter.
Utah State didn’t waste time in getting its first touchdown less than one minute later, when Suli Tamaivena recovered a fumble and ran 13 yards to the Wisconsin 16-yard line.
Two plays later, LaJuan Hunt had a 12-yard touchdown run to extend Utah State’s lead to 10-0.
Myers completed 9 of 11 passes for 43 yards and one interception in the first half.
In the second quarter, Jalen Davis, who was ejected for targeting. It appeared that Davis, who had 37 starts in 37 games entering Friday’s game, led with his head in hitting Cephus in the face mask.
Utah State senior RB LaJuan Hunt said the Aggies are capable of playing well on defense but need to be tenacious for an entire game.
“We need to learn to keep the intensity up when the going gets tough,” said Hunt, who had five carries for 23 yards in the game. “We’re going to face adversity throughout the whole season. Against Wisconsin, we didn’t handle it so well. We left a lot on the field.”
Wisconsin finally strung together a strong series for a score and impactful plays late in the second quarter to even the score.
The critical play during the Badgers’ 15-play, 79-yard touchdown drive was a 15-yard bullet pass by Hornibrook to Fumagalli to Utah State’s 34-yard line. Six plays later, Shaw rushed 3 yards for the score to trim Utah State’s lead to 10-7 with 1:12 to go in the first half.
On the first play of the Aggies’ final series of the half, T.J. Edwards intercepted a Myers pass intended for Carson Terrell and ran 7 yards to the Utah State 18-yard line.
Hornibrook threw three incomplete passes to start the Badgers’ drive, but Rafael Gaglianone drilled a 29-yard field goal to tie the score at 10 as time expired in the half.
NOTES: Wisconsin opened the preseason with a No. 9 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, giving the Badgers their first top-10 preseason ranking since 2007. ... Wisconsin is celebrating the centennial of Camp Randall Stadium, which has been the home venue for Badgers football for 100 years, opened on a Civil War training site in 1917. ... Aggies senior QB Kent Myers made his 27th career start Friday against Wisconsin, which ranks sixth all-time in starts in Utah State program history. ... Wisconsin senior TE Troy Fumagalli changed his jersey number to 48 for one game to honor senior LB Jack Cichy, who normally wears the number. Cichy suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in practice last month.