It looked like it might be an "uh-oh" game for the Wisconsin Badgers, but instead it turned into "ho-hum."
After taking a 7-0 lead on T.J. Edwards' touchdown off an interception, the Badgers had turnovers on back-to-back series -- an Alex Hornibrook interception and Jonathan Taylor fumble at Wisconsin's 5-yard line -- and ran just seven plays in the first quarter.
But, as usual, Wisconsin's defense held tough while Hornibrook got back in the groove and Taylor rushed for over 100 yards for the fifth time in seven games and reached 1,000 yards on the season, tying an NCAA record for quickest to that amount (seven games) and becoming the 19th Badger to run for 1,000 yards and 31st overall.
After trailing 28-3, Maryland got back to within two scores at 28-13, but the Badgers finished off the Terrapins like they do most overmatched opponents -- they ran the ball down Maryland's throat, keeping this one a rout.
We loathe to make this players of the game, but it was a group effort that limited Maryland's D.J. Moore, who entered the game with 44 catches while leading the Big Ten in receiving yards and touchdowns. Including penalties (one defensive pass interference one offensive PI), Moore was targeted 12 times and had just three catches for 44 yards. Moore got 38 yard on one reception as he got past Nick Nelson, but his other two catches came on a middle screen for 1 yard and a pass in the backfield in which he got 5. Otherwise, the Badgers DBs held Moore at bay. Nelson was there for four of the incompletions, including a pass broken up downfield. Dontye Carriere-Williams defended twice, including one in the end zone. Natrell Jamerson, part of a double team, had Moore blanketed on a throw high and out of the end zone. When a defense can neutralize an opponent's most explosive offensive player, well, things like Saturday happen.
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DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME
Yes, you can, and should, criticize Alex Hornibrook for his first-quarter interception. It was a bad pass in what seems to be a pattern for the quarterback, one really bad throw per game (he's had an interception in four straight games and five of seven). However, you have to praise him as well for how he rebounded after that errant toss. The sophomore quarterback finished 16-of-24 passing for 225 yards and two touchdowns (the TD to A.J. Taylor was a beauty). He was 5-of-8 on third-down throws, with each completion resulting in a first down (more on that in a bit). Hornibrook was 10 of 15 at the half for 132 yards as Wisconsin rebounded from its early pitfalls to take a 21-3 lead and pretty much have the game in hand.
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Early in the second quarter, Maryland had made it a 7-3 game and had Wisconsin with a third-and-12. But Alex Hornibrook connected with Quintez Cephus on a slant route, with the receiver making it a 15-yard gain for the first down and in Terrapins territory. Hornibrook, who earlier in the drive completed a 7-yard pass to Troy Fumagalli on third-and-3, would then connect with Fumagalli for 13 and Cephus for 30, leading to a Jonathan Taylor touchdown to make it 14-3. Maryland would never get closer. Hornibrook had been 5 of 10 on third-and-10+ plays coming into the game. This was a big one.
4 -- Number of interception returns for touchdowns this season by Wisconsin. T.J. Edwards "pick six" tied Duke with the most in FBS and are the most for the Badgers since at least 1950. Wisconsin had two interception return for touchdowns combined from 2011-16.
THEY SAID IT
"We put D.T. (Derrick Tindal) and Nick (Nelson) and Dontye (Carriere-Williams), you know, there's times when they've got the one-on-one, and they've got to compete. I think Jimmy's doing a heck of a job coaching them. We've just got to continue to grow. Everyone is a part of it, right?" -- head coach Paul Chryst on Wisconsin limiting Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore.
"It's very humbling to be mentioned with those guys. Phenomenal tailbacks and there will never be any like them. It's a great feeling but it's also a testimony to how hard the guys up front and the receivers work for me. It's a testimony to how hard we work." -- running back Jonathan Taylor on eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing in seven games.
"That stretch, with three touchdowns in four drives, that's what we expect. That should be the status quo. We've been shooting ourselves in the foot the past couple of weeks, but we'll clean it up. It's nothing to panic about. That's part of football. But those three, four series we had, that's what I expect out of this offense." -- left tackle Michael Deiter.
"We took it as a challenge. They had five yards to go, we did not let them in the end zone and they ended up with three points. I think that was a huge momentum swing. Even if the offense does have a turnover like that, they have the confidence in us that we will get a stop and the ball back to them." -- linebacker Garret Dooley on holding Maryland to a field goal after Taylor fumbled the ball at the UW 5-yard line.
Wisconsin heads on the road to Illinois to face the struggling Illini. Illinois is 2-5 (0-4 Big Ten) and has lost five straight, including Saturday at Minnesota. The Illini have lost eight straight conference games, which includes a 48-3 whipping by the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium last year.