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Northwestern-Wisconsin Final Score: Badgers dominate in running game, cruise to 21-7 victory

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Wisconsin’s physicality was too much for the Wildcats, who suffered from a crucial fourth-quarter turnover.

NCAA Football: Wisconsin at Northwestern Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

The streak is dead and so is Northwestern’s shot at a Big Ten West title.

Wisconsin ran for 190 yards and forced a late Clayton Thorson fumble to pick up its first win at Ryan Field this millennium, pounding the Wildcats 21-7.

Corey Clement ran for 112 yards and Jazz Peavy racked up 119 scrimmage yards, including a 46-yard touchdown run, to lead the No. 8 Badgers (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten). Austin Carr put up another monster game for Northwestern (4-5, 3-3), catching 12 balls for 132 yards and his 10th touchdown of the season, but Justin Jackson was held under 50 yards on the game and Thorson completed just 54 percent of his 52 passing attempts.

Wisconsin’s defense forced the Wildcats to punt eight times and sacked Thorson twice, one of which forced a huge, momentum-shifting fumble early in fourth quarter. The Badgers dominated in time of possession; they had the ball for over 40 minutes of game time.

Wisconsin’s offense got things going on its second drive of the game. With his line dominating up front, Clement’s powerful running ripped off chunks of yards and Hornibrook made enough plays to extend drives. The Badgers methodically moved the ball down to Northwestern’s 17 yard-line on 13 plays, but Hornibrook missed Peavy in the end zone on third down and kicker Andrew Endicott shanked a 35-yard attempt to keep things scoreless.

Northwestern put together its best drive of the quarter on the ensuing possession, with Thorson finding Flynn Nagel for 17 yards and Scanlan for 19 to move the chains. However, Wisconsin was able to stuff Jackson on 4th-and-inches from the Wisconsin 34 to get the ball back.

Jackson wasn’t able to get anything going in the opening quarter, running for just six yards on five carries against a strong, athletic front seven.

Wisconsin, benefiting from excellent field position and one big play, finally opened the scoring in the second quarter. Starting on their 44-yard line, the Badgers quickly found themselves facing a 3rd-and-11. Bart Houston entered the game for Hornibrook and fired a strike to Peavy, who made a nice leaping catch over Montre Hartage for a 32-yard pickup. Endicott bounced back from his previous miss and drilled a 40-yard field goal to put Wisconsin up 3-0.

After a Northwestern three-and-out, Peavy and the Badgers’ offense got back to work. Hornibrook found Peavy for an 11-yard gain, his third catch of the ballgame, and three plays later, Wisconsin got tricky. Hornibrook faked a handoff to Clement to the right, then pitched to Peavy on a reverse going back to the left. The Wildcats’ defense was completely out of position and Peavy easily weaved his way to the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown run to make the score 10-0.

Two possessions later, Northwestern’s offense woke up.

Starting on their own 13, with 1:41 left in the half, the Wildcats ran the 2-minute drill to perfection. Jackson broke free for his first big run of the afternoon, a 28-yarder on 3rd-and-1 that moved the ball to midfield. Then, on 4th-and-1, Thorson found Garrett Dickerson for a short completion and Dickerson tiptoed his way down the sideline for another 28-yard gain. On the ensuing play, Thorson did what he does best: find Carr in the end zone. The 13-yard TD reception was the Carr’s 10th of the season, putting him alone in 3rd place in NU single-season history with at least three games left.

Somehow, Northwestern went 87 yards on eight plays in just 1:02 of game time, nearly doubling its total yardage for the game. It was an absolutely huge drive considering Wisconsin had dominated the second quarter up to that point. What looked like a game that might get ugly just minutes earlier turned into a 10-7 game at halftime with the Wildcats receiving the ball to start the third quarter.

The second half started with three punts in four minutes, with Wisconsin once again dominating the field position battle. A 30-yard punt by Hunter Niswander gave the Badgers good field position, which they used to pin the Wildcats inside their own 5-yard line. Niswander’s punt from his own end zone was returned 24 yards by Peavy to the NU 32 and Wisconsin stretched its lead to 13-7 on a short field goal seven plays later.

Hornibrook and Co. went 50 yards on 11 plays on Wisconsin’s next drive, getting down to Northwestern’s 33-yard line. As it did all game, Northwestern’s defense bent but didn’t break, and Paul Chryst elected to try a 51-yard field goal to make it a two-possession game again. Endicott missed wide right for the second time in four attempts and the Wildcats got the ball back with solid field position.

A big 32-yard Thorson-to-Carr connection on third down got Northwestern deep into Badger territory, but a crucial holding call on Eric Olson forced the Wildcats back 10 yards. On 3rd-and-21 early in the fourth quarter, the game finally got its first turnover and it was a massive one. Thorson was hit as he attempted to throw, resulting in a fumble that D’Cota Dixon returned 22 yards to the Wildcats’ 45.

Wisconsin promptly drove down the short field and a two-yard Corey Clement rushing touchdown and two-point conversion made it a 21-7 lead that would be too big for Northwestern to overcome.

The Wildcats couldn’t get anything going on offense for the remainder of the quarter and Wisconsin ran out the clock to seal the victory.

Takeaways

  • With the loss, Northwestern is virtually eliminated from Big Ten West contention. The Badgers now have the tiebreaker and would need to lose twice against Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota.
  • Northwestern was held to 39 rushing yards on the game. Wisconsin came into Saturday as the best rushing defense in the conference and one of the best in the country, and lived up to that billing all game long. If not for Jackson’s 28-yard run, that number could’ve been even uglier.
  • Wisconsin stopped Northwestern thirteen times on third down and three times on fourth down. The Wildcats simply couldn’t make enough plays to keep drives alive against a truly elite defense.
  • Austin Carr continues to do work every week, regardless of the defense he’s facing. Carr is now over 1,000 yards on the season with 10 touchdowns, and is on pace to break a lot of NU single-season records.
  • Northwestern’s offensive line was good in pass protection in the first half but sprung some leaks in the second half, allowing two sacks and generally giving Thorson less time to throw. They were pretty hopeless in run blocking all game long, which caused Mick McCall to go one-dimensional and have Thorson throw 50 times.