It was apparent Wisconsin knew its formula for beating New Mexico -- it just took some time to get it going.
The Badgers came out running -- and ran some more and more and more -- in beating the Lobos 45-14. But things were tight for a while.
It was another slow start for Wisconsin, which trailed 7-3 after one quarter which, combined with a second-quarter Jonathan Taylor fumble in the red zone, might have had some squirming in their seats. However, Wisconsin didn't give up on its plan -- the Badgers had 26 run plays and six pass plays at the half -- and Taylor rebounded from his miscue (and then some), rushing for 253 yards and three touchdowns.
As Taylor picked up, so did Wisconsin's defense (it also probably didn't help New Mexico's cause that its starting quarterback was knocked out of the game in the first half). Other than a late touchdown with many Badgers reserves in the game, UW shut down New Mexico's offense helping turn this game into a laugher by mid-third quarter.
The Badgers outgained the Lobos 568-211, a far cry from early in the game, but that's why they play four quarters.
We're not sure if we've ever listed co-players of the game, but, we're doing it in this instance, and why not since both last names are Taylor. Running back Jonathan Taylor overcame his early fumble to rush for a career-high 253 yards -- just the 15th time a Wisconsin running back has eclipsed 250 yards and the eighth player overall -- on a career-high 33 carries while tying his career best with three rushing touchdowns. Even with the fumble it's hard to ignore those numbers. Meanwhile, his namesake, wide receiver A.J. Taylor caught five passes (no one else on Wisconsin had more than one) for a career-high 134 yards -- the most for a Badgers receiver since Alex Erickson had 160 in 2014 -- and a touchdown. Three of A.J. Taylor's receptions came on third downs (and resulted in a first down or touchdown) and another was for 44 yards on a surprising first-down pass. How do you separate one of these guys as the POG? Well, we don't. Not this week.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME
Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel only had three tackles, but he had many impact plays. In the first quarter, his quarterback pressure forced an incomplete pass and a much-needed three-and-out on New Mexico's second drive. His next QB pressure -- detailed below -- was a game-changer. He also had 1.5 tackles for loss, including Wisconsin's only sack of the game, and broke up a pass on the sideline on another third-down play. Van Ginkel also leveled Lobos QB Tevaka Tuioti after he pitched the ball on an option. Tuioti stayed in the game, but was removed shortly thereafter and didn't return.
Losing Tuioti certainly could qualify here, but the game seemed to really turn early in the third quarter. Wisconsin held a 10-7 lead but on the Badgers' first drive, Alex Hornibrook was intercepted -- really, it was like a fumble, the ball squirting out of his hands as he was about to throw it and landing in the arms of a waiting Lobos defender -- and New Mexico retuned it to the UW 26-yard line. On third-and-8, Wisconsin put a ton of pressure on quarterback Sheriron Jones -- Ryan Connelly, T.J. Edwards and Van Ginkel all were closing in on the QB -- who then threw a pass which was high and off-target and picked off by redshirt freshman safety Scott Nelson. Wisconsin then scored a touchdown on a 76-yard drive. Instead of tying the game or perhaps taking the lead, New Mexico found itself down 10 and the lead felt even bigger than that. "I think the big swing came on Scott's pick," said Badgers head coach Paul Chryst.
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124 -- Total yards for New Mexico after its first drive. The Lobos put together an impressive 87-yard scoring drive on its opening possession then on its next seven drives had four three-and-outs, two three-play drives end in turnovers (interception, fumble) with a long drive of 20 yards, which lasted all of five plays.
Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved.AP
THEY SAID IT
"He'll continue to work on, and he brings a ton to us. And the best part about J.T. is he'll work at it." -- head coach Paul Chryst on Jonathan Taylor's fumble, his second in two games
"You feel it over the course of the game on offense. You keep chugging away at runs, chugging away at runs. Defenses just don't want to do that for four quarters and you really actually feel it. They don't hit as hard as they used to, they don't seem as bought in the more you keep hitting them with runs and hitting them with runs. It opens up big play-action plays. I think it's just a slow, methodical flip. Obviously you want to do that from the start but if you have to do it over four quarters, so be it." -- guard Michael Deiter
"Coach always talks about how it is a matter of inches. Six inches can matter from a 5-yard play to a 60-yard play. John finds those tight holes and we obviously try to make them a lot bigger. He can make a lot more plays with that. He had a hell of a game." -- center Tyler Biadasz on Jonathan Taylor
"The whole getting in the flow of games is new to me this year. Drive in and drive out being with the guys, it's the first time I've done it in my career. The more I grow from that the better." -- fullback Alec Ingold
Wisconsin ends the non-conference portion of its schedule by hosting BYU at 2:30 p.m. The Cougars began their season with a 28-23 win at Arizona but lost their home opener Saturday night to California, 21-18. BYU quarterback Tanner Magnum, who missed last year's game against the Badgers, is completing 58 percent of his passes while running back Squally Canada is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry.