MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin used an early second half burst to take a lead and then held on for a 33-24 victory over Northwestern on Saturday in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
Play of the Game
Wisconsin’s offense was struggling to get anything going when it faced a third-and-3 early in the third quarter and trailing 10-7. Instead of trying to pick it up running, the Badgers went play-action and hit it big. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook found Quintez Cephus wide open down the field for a 61-yard gain. Wisconsin would score on the next play to take the lead and wouldn’t trail again.
Asked whether it was a call he made based on his gut or something he saw in the Northwestern defense, coach Paul Chryst said it was a little bit of both before jokingly adding, “It’s the one that’s second-guessed if it doesn’t work.”
Offense: WR Quintez Cephus
Without tight end Troy Fumagalli, the sophomore wide receiver became the No. 1 weapon in the passing game for Wisconsin, seeing the ball come his way seven times on Saturday. And he was more than ready, finishing with four catches for 99 yards, and it was his 61-yard catch and run that set the Badgers up to take the lead.
Defense: Natrell Jamerson
Wisconsin had a big hole to fill at safety after 2016 Team MVP Leo Musso moved on and they looked to Jamerson to fill it. On Saturday, we saw why they felt so confident he’d be able to fill that role despite having never played the position before.
The versatile senior was everywhere against Northwestern, racking up four tackles, 1/2 a sack, two interceptions and one touchdown. If that wasn’t enough, he also continues to be a stalwart on special teams, including downing a punt at the 2-yard line that ended up leading to the game-clinching safety by D’Cota Dixon.
Special Teams: Anthony Lotti
The sophomore had another nice game, dropping three punts inside the 20-yard line, while also booming a 52-yard kick when Wisconsin was backed up in its own end zone late in the game.
Video of the game
In their own words
What did Jamerson see on his interception return for a touchdown?
In Case You Missed It
— Wisconsin’s captains Natrell Jamerson, Jazz Peay and Alex James, with former quarterback Brooks Bollinger serving as the honorary captain.
— Tight end Troy Fumagalli missed the game with what the Badgers called a minor leg injury. Chryst said they didn’t know until Friday night if he would play or not. They don’t expect it to be a long term issue.
— Wisconsin became the last team to allow a point in the second half of a game this year.
— Left tackle Michael Deiter was replaced on two of the final three series of the game by redshirt freshman Cole Van Lanen. Deiter told reporters afterwards that the ankle injury he suffered against BYU was still bothering him.
Inside the Numbers
8 — That’s how many sacks the Badgers had on Saturday — the most they’ve had in a single game since 2001.
84 — That’s how many points Wisconsin has outscored its opponents by in the second half of games this year.
11 — That’s how many different players have scored a touchdown for Wisconsin this year, the same number as all of last year.
Wisconsin (4-0) heads to Nebraska (3-1) to take on the Cornhuskers in a night game at Memorial Stadium next Saturday.