Northwestern had a decided advantage over No. 20 Wisconsin in Saturday’s game — at quarterback.
Although four-year senior starter Clayton Thorson threw three interceptions, the Wildcats took advantage of three fumbles by the visiting Badgers and scored 10 points in the third quarter to pull out a 31-17 upset in Evanston, Ill.
The Wildcats (5-3, 5-1 Big Ten) moved one win closer to becoming bowl eligible and, more importantly, gained a big advantage in the race to win the conference’s West Division.
Thorson completed 17 of 30 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. Northwestern running back Isaiah Bowser had a breakout game, carrying the ball 34 times for 117 yards and a touchdown.
Before the game, Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst announced junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook was out for the game. Hornibrook, who has a 25-5 record as Wisconsin’s starter, reported symptoms Monday and has been in concussion protocol all week.
The Badgers (5-3, 3-2) clearly missed Hornibrook’s veteran leadership and poise in a hostile environment. Hornibrook, who has passed for 1,251 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions this season, had not missed a game since the Big Ten Championship game in 2016.
Wisconsin sophomore Jack Coan had the typical ups and downs expected from being named a last-minute starter. The Wildcats bottled up Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, holding him to a season-low 11 carries for 46 yards. Taylor’s penchant for fumbling popped up again when he lost two fumbles.
Before Saturday, Coan had not taken a snap this season, but with Wisconsin utilizing the new redshirt rule, he won’t jeopardize his eligibility this season. Players retain their redshirt if they play in four games or fewer.
Coan’s first career start showed some early promise when Alec Ingold scored on a 4-yard touchdown run on Wisconsin’s second drive for an early 7-0 lead. But with Taylor finding it hard to hold on to the ball, the Badgers struggled for the final three-plus quarters. Coan was 20-of-31 for 158 yards with a touchdown.
—Field Level Media