Upon Further Review: Badgers come up big when it matters most in beating Iowa
A return home gave Wisconsin just what it needed – a win.
And when it mattered most, the Badgers relied on what helped it earn six victories to start the season – a big play from their defense and the running of Jonathan Taylor.
Coming off back-to-back losses – and a week off to mull over those defeats – Wisconsin held off Iowa at Camp Randall Stadium, edging the Hawkeyes 24-22 in what was essentially a Big Ten West elimination game.
In a matchup between two highly rated defenses, the game was expected to be a slog, and it parts, it was. But Taylor penetrated Iowa for 250 yards and quarterback Jack Coan completed (gasp) a couple of long passes as Wisconsin rolled up 473 yards. Meanwhile, Iowa discovered the forward pass late in the game and finished with 208 passing yards, only the second time all season the Badgers allowed 200+ yards through the air.
Wisconsin held a 21-6 lead after three quarters but reminiscent of the loss at Illinois, the Badgers nearly blew the lead, in part once again due to a Coan interception.
But the Badgers stuffed Iowa QB Nate Stanley on a two-point conversion and rode Taylor in the final quarter — Coan passed just twice in the fourth; the interception and an incompletion – to finish off Iowa.
It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but after losses at Illinois and Ohio State, it was needed.
Here’s a recap of Saturday’s game:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
It’s not often an offensive player can go without a touchdown and be named here, but it’s the case this week with Taylor (he’s just the fifth player with 250+ rushing yards and no TDs since 2000). He might not have reached the end zone, but he moved the chains all day for Wisconsin and in the end, when the Badgers needed to run out the clock, Taylor churned out big runs to help put the game away. Iowa had allowed over 100 yards rushing just twice all year – 120 and 177. Taylor had 130 yards in the fourth quarter alone. When the Badgers took over with 3:12 left and a two-point lead, they relied on Taylor. Even though Iowa knew it, the Hawkeyes couldn’t stop him and they never got the ball back. It was a masterful performance against a team which hadn’t been gashed like this since, well, the last two times Wisconsin played Iowa (the only other occasions in the past three years in which the Hawkeyes allowed 200+ yards).
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME
While Danny Davis accounted for two touchdowns, we’re reserving this space for another wide receiver. Quintez Cephus tallied five receptions for 94 yards – both team highs; no one else had more than 19 yards – and showed off his ability for the big play. Wisconsin has been hesitant to throw deep much of the year, but broke out a few downfield shots in this one – all to Cephus. He drew pass interference on a deep pass in the second quarter; Wisconsin would eventually score on a Davis 17-yard run. In the third quarter, Cephus hauled in a 52-yard catch – the Badgers’ longest pass of the season – and then caught a 27-yarder from Coan, making a nice reception then moving past a defender for a TD. It’s taken a while for Wisconsin to try and move the ball downfield all season. As Cephus showed, maybe the Badgers should try it more often.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) November 9, 2019
It was a case of “oh-oh, not again” when Iowa used a 75-yard touchdown to get within a two-point conversion of tying the game. But first the Hawkeyes actually had to convert that two-pointer. Iowa tried a quarterback run up the middle, but Nate Stanley was met by Chris Orr and then Eric Burrell, the double team stacking up Stanley and stopping him short. It didn’t seem like this game would come down to a play like this, but it was needed – and the Badgers defense came up big, as it often has this year.
Iowa entered having allowed the fewest rushes of 10+ yards – 17; an average of slightly over two per game – and was the only team in the nation to not have given up a run of 20+ yards. The Badgers had eight runs of 10+ yards, six by Taylor, who also broke off runs of 36 and 42 yards. Sorry, Hawkeyes.
THEY SAID IT
“I think it says a lot when at the end of the game you get the ball back and you can finish it keeping the ball in your own hands. There’s a lot of work that went into that. It was big.” — head coach Paul Chryst
“Football, you know, it’s a game of emotions, right? You talk about a huge momentum swing. To be able to bow up on that, I think it speaks volumes. When you look at who makes that, Chris (Orr) is the first one in, legit. It’s a big quarterback. I think it says a ton. That’s a quick swing, right? It goes from hitting a big play, touchdown, now you got to get back at it. I think that’s the game in a nutshell, the game of football. You got to play the next play. You get to play the next play. That was huge.” — Chryst on the stopped two-point conversion
“Saturday night under the lights, it’s coming down to the final drives, (the team) needs you to get first downs, they need the offense to move the chains. There’s no better feeling.” — running back Jonathan Taylor
“I was like, he’s going to have to run me over. And I was confident he was not going to run me over. So, it felt good.” — Chris Orr on QB Nate Stanley’s attempted two-point conversion
“You do whatever you can do to get him down. He’s a big dude, I’m not going to lie.” — safety Eric Burrell on Stanley’s two-point run
Wisconsin looks for its first road win since the first game of the season when the Badgers travel to Nebraska. The Cornhuskers started the year 3-1 but has lost four of their last five games, including three In a row. Quarterback Adrian Martinez has struggled through injuries and inconsistency, completing 59.5% of his passes with seven touchdowns and six interceptions. Besides being at home, Nebraska will have another advantage – the Cornhuskers will be rested, not having played Saturday.