MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin defeated Iowa 38-14 on Saturday afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium to remain unbeaten and in the College Football Playoff hunt.
The Badgers are 10-0 for the first time in program history, thanks in no small part to a defense that has been remarkable this season. Iowa managed only 20 yards of total offense in the first half.
What it means
Another victory has inched Wisconsin closer to achieving a perfect regular season. It hasn’t always been pretty during the Badgers’ first 10 games this season. But as long as Wisconsin continues to win, the Badgers will give themselves a chance to be in the playoff discussion. Ultimately, Wisconsin will have to win the Big Ten championship game, which likely will represent the first ranked team on the Badgers’ schedule.
3 things we learned
1. Wisconsin’s turnover issues aren’t going away: Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook has thrown at least one interception in every Big Ten game this season. On Saturday, it took only 90 seconds for his first mistake to surface. On third-and-13 from the Wisconsin 36-yard line, Hornibrook threw a pass that Iowa defensive Jack Jackson intercepted and returned for a 43-yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, Iowa’s Jake Gervase intercepted Hornibrook on a deep pass intended for receiver Danny Davis. Hornibrook was intercepted for a third time in the third quarter, when tailback Rachid Ibrahim couldn’t corral a short pass. Jackson returned it 52 yards for his second touchdown of the game.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor lost a fumble near midfield when he didn’t secure the ball while fighting for extra yards. Taylor has dealt with his own struggles with ball security and has lost four fumbles this season. Wisconsin’s defense has routinely saved the offense, which continued on Saturday.
2. Depth of talent at wide receiver has been remarkable: Wisconsin lost top wide receiver Quintez Cephus for the season after he sustained a right leg injury last week against Indiana. For many teams, losing a player of his caliber would cripple the offense. Cephus caught 30 passes for 501 yards with 6 touchdowns. With Jazz Peavy and George Rushing also out, that left the Badgers with three healthy scholarship receivers for the game against Iowa. Kendric Pryor demonstrated that would be more than enough for Wisconsin’s offense to thrive.
Pryor was tremendous in the first half to help turn around the game. He scored on a 25-yard touchdown run off a reverse around the left side to give Wisconsin a 10-7 lead. Later in the second quarter, Pryor caught a 12-yard touchdown pass with a perfectly timed leap against Iowa cornerback Manny Rugamba to put the Badgers in front 17-7. Pryor missed the first two games of the season while recovering from a moped accident sustained during fall camp, but he has shown he can be a difference maker. Davis also caught a huge pass for a 28-yard gain in the fourth quarter, when he managed to avoid the sideline. The play helped lead to a Bradrick Shaw rushing touchdown and a 31-14 Wisconsin lead.
3. The defense is one of the best in the country: Wisconsin’s defense has repeatedly bailed out the offense for its mistakes this season. But for the Badgers to do it against an Iowa team that scored 55 points against Ohio State last week says something about just how good the unit is playing right now. Iowa finished the first half with 20 yards of total offense. Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley completed 3 of 10 passes for 5 yards during the first half.
At some point, people will have to stop saying Wisconsin’s success isn’t impressive because of its lack of schedule strength. Wisconsin defeated a good Iowa team and did it with a dominant defense in spite of the Badgers’ offensive miscues.
Player of the game
Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor earns this honor for his ability to consistently move the chains. He eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark for the seventh time this season and continues to demonstrate why he is one of the best running backs in the country. Taylor did lose a fumble in the second quarter, and that’s an area he needs to shore up this season. But he also is taking the bulk of the carries for the Badgers, which is a lot to ask out of anybody, let alone a freshman.
Plays of the game
Wisconsin dialed up some trickery in the second quarter on a reverse to wide receiver Kendric Pryor, who ran around the left side for a 25-yard touchdown run. Pryor was the beneficiary of excellent blocking in front of him, which cleared the way for the score. The touchdown gave Wisconsin its first lead of the game, 10-7, and helped build positive momentum for the Badgers after a tough first quarter that featured two turnovers.
In the third quarter, Badgers outside linebacker Leon Jacobs returned a fumble 21 yards for a touchdown to give Wisconsin a 24-14 lead. Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley wasn’t ready for the snap, and the ball sat on the turf amid a huge scrum. Jacobs’ touchdown was a huge momentum booster after Iowa’s Josh Jackson returned his second interception for a touchdown.
Wisconsin plays host to Michigan next Saturday in yet another important Big Ten game with playoff implications. The game also will enhance the Badgers’ strength of schedule. Wisconsin then closes the regular season against border rival Minnesota on the road.
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