What a difference one week can make.
Just a week after the University of Wisconsin football team (4-0, 2-0 Big Ten) dismantled the Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin came against the Northwestern Wildcats (1-3, 0-2) and looked like a different team.
A great kick return by Aron Cruickshank gave the Badgers field position near midfield to open the game, allowing Wisconsin to get in the end zone quickly. Wisconsin’s touchdown seemed to continue their impressive play from early in the season, but that was not the case.
Head Coach Paul Chryst made some decisions that seemed to revert back to his old playing style, as he coached conservative football after being aggressive in the team’s first few games of 2019.
Despite starting with the ball near midfield on just about every drive, Wisconsin struggled to get anything going. Taylor did manage to put up another 100 yard performance, finishing with 119 rush yards to go along with a touchdown and 15 yards receiving.
Meanwhile, junior quarterback Jack Coan had his worst game in a Wisconsin uniform, finishing with just 113 yards and his first interception of the season. Overall, the offense scuffled and took few risks, including just one attempt on fourth down after going 3-for-3 a week ago.
The defense ultimately saved Wisconsin, holding Northwestern to their half of the field for most of the game and preventing them from getting anything going with dual-threat sophomore quarterback Hunter Johnson under center.
A game-changing play came from junior safety Eric Burrell in the third quarter, potentially changing the outcome of the game.
Burrell — who missed the first half of the game after being ejected in the second half of the Michigan game — came out in the third quarter and forced a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown, giving Wisconsin a 14–3 lead.
Burrell finished the game with four tackles, a sack and a forced fumble — an impressive stat line considering he only played one half.
Wisconsin tacked on another defensive touchdown when junior linebacker Noah Burks returned an interception 68 yards for the touchdown in the final quarter of play, extending Wisconsin’s lead to 24–3. Chryst was among those who felt the defense played a major role in the win.
“Proud of the way the guys battled against a really good football team,” Chryst said. “Our defense was big today, in so many different ways.”
Wisconsin won the game by a final score of 24–15 as the defense continued their early season domination, finishing with three turnovers and two defensive touchdowns.
Wisconsin’s next game is against Kent State Oct. 5 at Camp Randall Stadium. The game will have an 11 a.m. start time as Wisconsin looks to win their fifth straight game to start the season.