MADISON- On the Friday night opener of one of Wisconsin football’s most highly anticipated seasons ever, Wisconsin took care of business at the famed Camp Randall stadium.
Wisconsin came in with 10 starters returning on offense and three senior leaders back on defense. With All-Americans all across the board and a number four ranking in the AP poll, the Badgers came into the season with incredibly high expectations, including star running back Jonathan Taylor as a likely Heisman finalist.
To begin UW’s second series, Taylor took a handoff left, broke three tackles and scored on a beautiful 47-yard rushing touchdown. Unfortunately, that was about the only offense the Badgers created in the early going, as Wisconsin led Western Kentucky by just seven, 7-0 after the first quarter.
After a couple more punts early on in the second quarter, Wisconsin played like they are capable of doing, scoring on three consecutive possessions.
The Badgers started with the ball on Western Kentucky’s 35, and converted that possession to a field goal by Rafael Gaglianone. After forcing another three-and-out, the Badgers rode their workhorse Jonathan Taylor to a 30 yard touchdown to put the home team up 17-0. Then, after getting the ball with under two minutes left in the first half, Alex Hornibrook led the Badgers down the field, culminating the drive with a two-yard touchdown to Kendric Pryor to lead 24-0 at the half.
Taylor led all players with 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns at the break, while Pryor and Aj Taylor each had over 50 receiving yards in the first half. A couple unexpected standouts for the Badgers were freshman tight end Jake Ferguson and freshman safety Scott Nelson. Ferguson caught three passes for 32 yards, while Nelson led Wisconsin with four tackles, including one tackle for loss, and two pass breakups. Even with inexperience on defense, the Badgers held WKU to just 79 total yards and zero points in the first two quarters.
Very early in the second half, the Badgers had their first real miscue on the defensive side, as Scott Nelson got caught looking in the backfield, and Drew Eckels had a 48-yard completion to get Western Kentucky into the redzone. Wisconsin held strong from then on, forcing the Hilltoppers to just a field goal.
Western Kentucky later looked like they were finally going to get in the end zone, but on a ridiculous reverse pass play, Wisconsin corner Faion Hicks came up with an interception, holding the Hilltoppers scoreless on the possession, and continuing with the defensive dominance.
Wisconsin led 27-3 heading into the final quarter, but that score didn’t last long, as Hornibrook connected with Garrett Groshek on a 43 yard touchdown early in the fourth to extend the lead to 34-3, Badgers.
AJ Taylor led the Badgers with 85 receiving yards, Jonathan Taylor ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns, and Alex Hornibrook threw for over 250 yards and two touchdowns in a dominant performance. There were a few mistakes, but Wisconsin played well enough to control the game throughout, and start the season with a victory at the Camp.