Taylor, Badgers sprint past South Florida 49-0
TAMPA, Fla. — Jonathan Taylor rushed for 135 yards and scored a career-best four touchdowns, helping No. 19 Wisconsin open the season with a 49-0 rout of South Florida on Friday night.
Taking up where he left off a year ago, when he lead the nation with 2,194 yards and 16 touchdowns, Taylor scored on runs of 37 and 38 yards.
The junior running back also had the first two receiving TDs of his career, scooting 36 yards up the left sideline after taking a quick flip from Jack Coan and later extending the ball over the goal line on a 12-yard reception that gave the Badgers a 28-0 halftime lead.
“You work all offseason like I did, and to have that receiving touchdown come to life, I’m really excited about that,” Taylor said. “It motivates you to see that hard work pay off.”
Wisconsin’s defense delivered a dominating performance, too, limiting South Florida to 157 yards total offense and forcing three turnovers, including a fumble that Matt Henningsen returned 16 yards for a second quarter touchdown.
“We’re certainly proud of the way the guys played and handled the uniqueness of the night,” Badgers coach Paul Chryst said. “It was good to get a lot of guys contributing. It’s a good start.”
The loss was the seventh straight for USF, which dropped the final six games of 2018 after starting 7-0 and climbing into the Top 25.
“A very disappointing, very embarrassing loss,” USF coach Charlie Strong said. “As a head coach, I thought I had them ready to play and I guess I didn’t. And we showed it.”
Blake Barnett completed 13 of 30 passes for 109 yards for the Bulls. He was intercepted twice.
“The team that played out there tonight is not the team that we are,” the quarterback said. “A lot of mental errors, lack of execution, lack of effort. It stems from everyone, that’s myself included.”
Taylor joined Melvin Gordon (2014) and Ron Dayne (1996, 1999) as the only Badgers to top 2,000 yards rushing in a season in 2018, and he looks like he’s primed for another big year after gaining 100-plus for the 23rd time in 28 career games. Coan carried his share of the load, too, rebounding from overthrowing a couple of open receivers deep in the first half to finish 19 of 26 for 199 yards without an interception.
Last season’s collapse prompted Strong to make several changes, including hiring NCAA Division II national championship-winning coach Kerwin Bell as offensive coordinator. The Bulls were held to 26 yards rushing and outgained 433 to 157 overall.
Taylor rushed for 4,171 yards as a freshman and sophomore, most ever by a Football Bowl Subdivision player in the first two years of a career. With 135 Friday night, he moved within 694 of joining Dayne, Georgia’s Herschel Walker and Oregon’s LaMichael James as the only players to rush for over 5,000 through their junior season.
Realistically, minimal. The Badgers opened with a true road game for the first time since beating UNLV 41-21 in Las Vegas in 2010. And while Chryst welcomed what he anticipated would be a good test from USF, the Bulls were overmatched from the start.
The 49-point setback was the worst in the 23-year history of USF’s program, surpassing a 42-3 loss to Arkansas in 2002. The Bulls were shut out for the first time since falling 16-0 at home to UCF in 2014.
Wisconsin: Home opener vs. Central Michigan on Sept. 7.
South Florida: Travel to Georgia Tech next Saturday for rematch of game Bulls won 49-38 in Tampa last year.
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