Badgers defense leads charge against Maryland
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MADISON--Wisconsin’s defense, save for a fourth-quarter lapse in the Big Ten opener against Northwestern, had been indefatigable in UW's first six games and was again Saturday against Maryland.
The offense, meanwhile, had short-circuited on too many drives because of penalties and turnovers.
UW’s offense flashed its potential with three impressive touchdown drives in a span of four possessions Saturday.
Coupled with the typical outstanding defensive effort, which included another interception return for a touchdown, that was enough for fifth-ranked UW to remain unbeaten with a 38-13 victory Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in front of a crowd of 78,058.
“That should be the status quo," left tackle Michael Deiter said of the three touchdown drives that allowed UW to turn a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter into a 28-3 lead with 11 minutes 15 seconds left in the third quarter. "Obviously, we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot the last couple of weeks. We’ll clean it up. Nothing to worry about. Nothing to panic about. That’s part of football.
"But those three, four series we had, that’s what I expect."
UW (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) improved to 7-0 for the first time since the 2004 season under Barry Alvarez. That team reached 9-0 and No. 4 in the polls before suffering a 49-14 loss at Michigan State. UW finished 9-3 that season.
With road games against Illinois (2-5, 0-4) on Saturday and against Indiana (3-4, 0-4) on Nov. 4, UW could be 6-0 in the conference and 9-0 overall entering its final three regular-season games.
Freshman tailback Jonathan Taylor became just the sixth FBS freshman to reach the 1,000-yard mark in his first seven games.
Taylor joined Florida’s Emmitt Smith (1987), San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk (1991), Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson (2004), North Texas’ Jamario Thomas (2004) and UW’s P.J. Hill (2006).
Taylor lost a fumble that led to a Maryland field goal in the second quarter, but he rushed 22 times for 126 yards and a touchdown to push his season total to 1,112 yards. Taylor has rushed for at least 100 yards in five of seven games.
"You're proud of all that goes into it," UW coach Paul Chryst said. "I think he's a really good back. I think that's part of the reason why J.T. came here is he wanted to be a running back in the place where there's been some good running backs."
Maryland (3-4, 1-3) got a handful of productive plays from quarterback Max Bortenschlager (13 of 30 for 125 yards and a touchdown ) and tailback Ty Johnson (16 carries, 83 yards), but it doesn’t have enough firepower and depth yet in Year 2 under DJ Durkin.
"Obviously that's a really good football team we played," Durkin said. "Give them credit. They made the plays when they had to."
Wide receiver DJ Moore, who came in leading the Big Ten in receptions (44), touchdown receptions (seven), receiving yards (624), receiving yards per game (104.0) and receptions per game (7.3) was a non-factor with three catches for 44 yards.
Linebacker T.J. Edwards returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown just 2:42 into the game to give UW the lead for good and Alex Hornibrook overcame an early interception to complete 16 of 24 passes (66.7%) for 225 yards and two touchdowns.
Hornibrook completed 13 of 16 passes for 182 yards on the aforementioned touchdown drives, which covered 70, 85 and 71 yards.
Tight end Troy Fumagalli, who had been battling a leg injury and didn’t have a catch in the victory over Purdue, had seven catches for 83 yards against Maryland.
Maryland, which entered the day fourth in the Big Ten in scoring at 31.7 points per game, ran 65 plays for 268 yards against UW.
Three plays that came after Taylor's fumble, which gave the Terrapins the ball at the UW 5 with 19 seconds left in the first quarter, illustrated how well Jim Leonhard's defense performed under pressure.
With his team trailing, 7-0, Bortenschlager attempted three passes from the 5. All three were incomplete. The Terrapins settled for a 23-yard field goal by Henry Darmstadter to pull within 7-3 with 14:52 left in the half.
The fumble marked the 13th time this season UW’s defense had taken the field after a turnover (six interceptions, six fumbles and one blocked punt).
Including Maryland’s field goal, opponents have scored just five times (three field goals, two touchdowns) off those miscues.
"I thought it was a huge response by our defense," Chryst said.
Huge? Deiter had stronger words.
"What they do," he said of the defense, "it's kind of insane. I mean, we gave them the ball at the 5 and they held them to a field goal."
"That's crucial. To have a defense go out and make plays like that is huge. It just helps us forget what they just did. Because if they put us seven, you're sitting there going: 'That's our fault.'
"The defense, they give us life. We play off that and.have a good drive after that."
Not coincidentally, UW drove 70 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown, a 3-yard run by Taylor on his first carry after the fumble, to take a 14-3 lead.
That started the run of three touchdown drives in four possessions.
"We just had to step up and make a play," cornerback Derrick Tindal said when asked about holding the Terrapins to a field goal after Taylor's fumble. "Like I said, the possession wasn't over just because they started on the 5. It doesn't mean they have to get six. We just stuck in there, made a couple of plays, and finished them off in the red zone."
And the offense took the baton and finally showed what it can achieve when it eliminates turnovers and penalties.
"We feed off each other," Tindal said. "Once we stopped them in the red zone and showed our offense that we've got their back, and they stepped up and scored. They got rolling."