Northwestern 31, Wisconsin 17
What Happened: Clayton Thorson overcame three interceptions with a touchdown pass and two touchdown runs as Northwestern beat a sloppy and ineffective Badger team for a surprisingly easy win.
The Badgers took an early load on a four-yard Alec Ingold touchdown run after a pick of Thorson, but bad field position and turnovers turned into a killer. Up 14-10, the Wildcats pulled away with 17 straight points in the second half to put it away. The Badgers finally got back on the board on a Jack Coan touchdown pass to Kendrick Pryor after another pick of Thorson.
What Mattered: In place of the injured Alex Hornibrook, Coan struggled early, lost a game-sealing fumble inside his own 15, and Jonathan Taylor had fumbling problems. The three Badger turnovers were all killers, and while there were only five penalties, a few big ones kept drives alive for the Wildcats.
– It wasn’t pretty for Northwestern, but it dominated the game, holding the ball for close to 34 minutes, swallowing up Taylor – he ran for just 46 yards – and keeping the Badger running game to just 165 yards and a score.
– Rushing yards: Northwestern 182 and three scores on 49 carries. Wisconsin 32 carries for 165 yards and a score. The Cats loaded up on the ground game, and Jack Coan couldn’t deliver.
Thoughts: With a new quarterback stepping in for Alex Hornibrook, this was when the Badger offensive line was supposed to make over, and it was when Jonathan Taylor was supposed to be the Heisman-caliber back. Instead, he couldn’t hang on to the ball, the coaching staff couldn’t trust him, so Garrett Groshek turned into the team’s most-effective rusher.
– And now Northwestern has everything there to take the West. The date at Iowa will likely be for the West title, but the team can’t take Minnesota or Illinois for granted. It’s all right there – the Cats got the job done against the big boy.
– This was a miserable performance by a Badger team that should be much, much better than this. Now, that’s two horrible losses in the last three games – getting destroyed by Michigan – but now Wisconsin has to win out, hope for Northwestern to lose twice, Iowa to lose once more, and … forget it. Wisconsin isn’t winning both at Penn State and at Purdue.