IOWA CITY, Iowa – Twenty-five last hits for running back Jonathan Taylor’s 25 carries in Wisconsin’s 28-17 win over Iowa on Saturday night.
1. Three yards and a cloud of… rubber pellets.
2. That’s not exactly the way the saying used to describe old-school, Big Ten football goes, but that’s what it was on Saturday night in Wisconsin’s 28-17 win over Iowa. The game was decided by offensive lineman – and plenty of them – fullbacks, punting, and of course timely quarterback play.
3. Those things all went in Wisconsin’s favor on Saturday night, and that’s exactly why the Badgers were able to come away with the victory.
4. The Badgers installed a new jumbo package this week – actually called “jumbo” according to fullback Alec Ingold – and used it plenty against Iowa. That package featured both offensive linemen Logan Bruss and Jason Erdmann wearing eligible numbers, 89 and 96, respectively, and lining up as tight ends.
5. The numbers haven’t been looked up specifically, but it would be rather difficult to find a pair of tight ends larder than the 6-foot-5, 303-pound Bruss and 6-foot-6, 325-pound Erdmann.
6. “It was fun when they put it in because we speak it into existence,” Ingold said after the win. “Big guys just love to get on the field because they put in all this work and do their reps. You have the All-Americans up front and they have a chance that they can really prove that they can do their thing too.”
7. They did their thing early on. Wisconsin opened up the game with a clear plan in mind. The Badgers wanted to establish the run. They didn’t care who knew that the ground attack was coming, and it didn’t seem to matter. Ten of the first 13 plays of the game for the Badgers were rushing attempts, and in total the Badgers ran the ball 44 times for 210 yards with Jonathan Taylor, Alec Ingold, Taiwan Deal, and Garrett Groshek.
8. “It’s definitely really fun,” Taylor said of the jumbo package. “The best thing about it is executing. Once you see it work and then you run it again, and then you run it again, and it’s like we’re trying to take control of these guys. Kind of wearing the opponent down and it’s fun doing that.”
9. Wisconsin has had better days on the ground no doubt, but facing off against this physical Iowa defense was a different story than anything faced in the first three weeks of the season.
10. All of this, of course, was overshadowed by the exciting finish as quarterback Alex Hornibrook led the Badgers on a 10-play, 88-yard drive to re-take the lead from Iowa with just 57 seconds remaining.
11. Hornibrook was calm, cool, and collected as he did what the Badgers were unable to do the week prior, win the game.
12. “I’m not even sure what I said, it probably wasn’t too complicated,” said the signal caller of his message to the offense prior to that 88-yard trek. “Everybody knew what we had to do, and we just locked it in and got the drive going.”
13. That drive culminated on a 17-yard touchdown catch by A.J. Taylor, Hornibrook’s third touchdown of the day. The throw was on time, where only Taylor could catch it, and capped off a solid day for the quarterback.
14. His two other scores were both from within the red zone as well. One of them was set up with the jumbo package in as tight end Jake Ferguson snuck out on a play action pass for the 6-yard touchdown. The other one may have been Hornibrook’s best throw of the night, a back-shoulder toss to Danny Davis on third and goal from the 12.
15. Hornibrook isn’t the perfect quarterback. He has his flaws, as most quarterbacks do. But with that being said, he was exactly what the Badgers needed on Saturday night. He stepped up when his team needed him most down the stretch and delivered in a possible season-defining moment.
16. Last week’s loss to BYU was the most disappointing loss in the Paul Chryst era. In fact, it’s fair to label the first three games as a whole a disappointment. The Badgers were an underwhelming bunch that didn’t pass the eye test or have the same feel as the 2017 group last year did.
17 Things seemed to change on Saturday night at Kinnick Stadium.
18. “It was a combination of everybody,” A.J. Taylor said of the mindset heading into the last drive. “It was Alex, it was the defense, it was us the receivers, the running backs, I think we all decided that we need to do this. That was a big coming together moment, experience, or whatever you want to call it in this game. We all decided to make that decision to make something happen.
19. “For me, I don’t believe we had come together like we did tonight. The way we rallied tonight, that was special. You could feel it, just within us. I did not think we were going to lose that game at all. It’s hard to explain. It’s a feeling, it’s an electricity or something that just – we clicked.”
20. Taylor wasn’t the only one that felt that way. Several other players agreed with his thoughts on the team coming together at the right time. There had been something missing during the first few weeks of the season for the Badgers, and that very well may have been it.
21. “I think [last week’s loss] really opened some eyes. It let guys know that we can’t just walk on the field and beat somebody,” linebacker T.J. Edwards said. “I think tonight we really came together, and every single unit was present at this game and making a huge impact on it.”
22. Edwards was right. Obviously, the offense had a big part with the game-winning drive in the final minutes, but the punt unit created two turnovers and Edwards had the game-sealing interception after the go-ahead score, too.
23. “I definitely felt that ‘come together’ moment,” Jonathan Taylor said. “When you’re on the road you only have so many guys and it’s just you. It’s just you guys together on the field. Just having that guy, the man next to you, just having his back, that’s the biggest thing. That’s when you come together as a team.”
24. Make no mistake about it, the loss to BYU still stings this program, but it doesn’t destroy the season. The Badgers’ hopes of winning the 2019 College Football Playoff are still alive, even if by the slimmest of margins.
25. There will be plenty of tough tests ahead for Wisconsin, but the Badgers came together, aced their first road test of the season, and kept the dream alive in a place where so many before have seen theirs crushed.