After spending the last 4,700-plus days in the comfy confides of Camp Randall, Paul Bunyan’s Axe will be spending at least another 365 days getting cozy with the Wisconsin Badgers football team.
Dominating Minnesota 31-0, quarterback Alex Hornibrook and Wisconsin’s offense got off to their best start of the season and ended up with one of their most balanced performances in some time.
After Wisconsin stalled out on their first two drives, the Badgers scored on their next three possessions, sparked by Hornibrook as he completed seven passes on the third drive.
Spreading the love around, he completed passes to Kendric Pryor, A.J. Taylor and Danny Davis as Wisconsin marched down the field. The last play of the drive was a one yard touchdown pass to Troy Fumagalli, who has been quiet throughout much of the season as Wisconsin’s offense has looked very lethargic.
Davis lead the receivers with five catches and Pryor lead the team in yards with 51.
On the last offensive drive of the half for Wisconsin, Hornibrook again threw darts all over the field highlighted by a five yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Penniston.
Hornibrook would finish the day going 15 for 19 on his way to 151 yards and three touchdowns. It was by far his most impressive start since the BYU game and came at exactly the right time as Wisconsin will now prepare for Ohio State in next week’s Big Ten Championship game.
Running back Jonathan Taylor continued his Heisman campaign with a dominant 149 yard day as he averaged 7.4 per carry. His day was highlighted by a 53 yard touchdown run to start off the fourth quarter.
His issues in securing the ball, however, persisted as he did lose a fumble early in the game.
Not to be outshined, the ever consistent and dominant Wisconsin defense continued to roll.
Minnesota’s offense managed just 46 total yards on the first half that saw the Gophers start the game with five straight three-and-outs. Minnesota didn’t gain a single first down until there were under 50 seconds left in the first half.
Inside linebacker Ryan Connelly continued to lead the defense as he managed to be involved in almost every play with multiple solo tackles, a tackle for loss and two sacks. The defensive backfield also continued to dominate.
On the day, Minnesota managed a minuscule 40 yards. With cornerback Nick Nelson in the top two in the country for passes defended and number one in pass breakups, the Gophers avoided throwing his way. Derrick Tindal, who starts at cornerback opposite of Nelson, stepped up with two pass breakups.
With how well Wisconsin’s defense has performed all season, people are struggling to find the words to describe just how incredible they have been.
The second half of the game saw the highlight of the day for Wisconsin.
On the first offensive drive of the half for Wisconsin, Hornibrook rolled out on a play action and got absolutely destroyed by a Minnesota defender. Somehow, Hornibrook got the pass off and Pryor made an incredible adjustment to complete the 31 yard pass.
A couple plays later, Hornibrook would find Davis in the endzone for his third passing touchdown of the day.
Wisconsin finished the day gaining 158 yards in the air and well over 250 on the ground in their most balance offensive attack all season. The defense held Minnesota to just 40 yards through the air and 93 on the ground.
Paul Chryst and the Badgers are 12-0 for the first time in program history and are now just a single game away from making the program’s first playoff appearance.
Ohio State will prove to be stiff competition next week in the Big Ten Championship game.