MADISON – There’s no secret what Wisconsin’s offensive plan of attack is on a weekly basis. The Badgers want to establish the running game at all costs. Wisconsin wants to punish its opponents and make them wish the game was over before it actually is.
“On offense you feel it over the course of the game, you keep chunking away, keep chunking away runs,” offensive lineman Michael Deiter said after Wisconsin’s 45-14 win over New Mexico on Saturday afternoon. “You hope defenses don’t want to do that for four quarters and you feel it. They just don’t hit as hard as they used to, they don’t seem as bought it the more you keep hitting them with runs.”
The Badgers followed that philosophy on Saturday. There’s no hiding the fact that they weren’t great in the first half. Offensively, Wisconsin got off to a slow start, having to settle for a field goal, punt, and lost fumble – we’ll get to that – on the first three drives of the game.
“I think it’s kind of a slow, methodical flip,” Deiter said. “Obviously you want to do that from the start, but if you have to do it over four quarters there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Once the second half rolled around, the Badgers became more and more difficult to stop on the ground as time went on.
On the first drive of the half quarterback Alex Hornibrook was intercepted on a ball that seemed to slip out of his hand. After that, the remaining five drives of the game ended in touchdowns for Wisconsin.
The Badgers ran for a total of 417 yards on the day, the most since Paul Chryst took over the program. Of those 417 yards, 253 of them belonged to Heisman Trophy candidate Jonathan Taylor. That mark set a new career-high for the sophomore, but his day wasn’t without a blemish.
Taylor fumbled for the 10th time in his career in just 16 games. Just like last week, he lost it. The biggest hole in his game is the fact that he’s been prone to losing the ball. He’s lost eight of the 10 fumbles that he’s had in his career.
To this point, the Badgers haven’t been harmed too badly by this problem. On Saturday, New Mexico took over deep inside Wisconsin territory, but safety Scott Nelson had his first career interception just three plays later. Once again, the Badgers came away unscathed from one of Taylor’s miscues.
At some point, this is a problem that could come back to bite Wisconsin. There’s no telling when – unlikely it does against an inferior opponent like New Mexico — but it will cost the Badgers. If there were to happen against Iowa, Michigan, or Penn State it very well could cost Wisconsin a victory, and even a spot in the college football playoffs.
“Our whole offensive room, our whole running back room, we’re all tied into each other, trusting each other,” fullback Alec Ingold said. I really don’t have any worries about JT fixing anything. He’s going to get us done for us and we trust him back there. We don’t have any second thoughts handing him the rock.”
Fumbles are going to happen, but Taylor needs to do his best to be able to limit them more than he has.
Outside of the fumble, though, he was fantastic. There was no stopping Taylor by the Lobos defense. He finished the day with three touchdown runs, a pair of them coming in the second half. That’s a sure sign of the defense being worn down.
“It’s super satisfying,” Deiter said of wearing down New Mexico. “It’s fun. When you feel them not giving the same effort that you were getting the first quarter, second quarter, it’s what you take pride in. You feel yourself almost playing harder than you were.”
“How do you respond?” Taylor said of what the coaching staff asks of him after a fumble. “The game won’t go your way the entire game. You’re going to face adversity, but the No. 1 thing is how you respond. Your teammates are going to need you. Everyone leans on one another so we all have to respond back from adversity.”
Taylor responded well after the adversity, there’s no doubting. The Badgers just need to hope there is more of their will imposed, and less adversity faced.