Wisconsin unable to overcome sub-par game from Taylor, rushing attack

Jonathan Taylor ran for only 42 yards in Wisconsin's 27-21 loss to Ohio State.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehigner

Indianapolis — Wisconsin freshman running back Jonathan Taylor’s longest run in the Big Ten Championship was a measly seven yards. It occurred on UW’s (9-1 Big Ten, 12-1 overall) first offensive play of the second half and the Badgers’ freshman phenom would pick up only 10 more yards for the entirety of the game.

Stopping Taylor, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, was Ohio State’s (9-1, 11-2) defensive priority in its 27-21 win over Wisconsin. Taylor ran for only 42 yards on 15 carries and the Badgers’ offense was unable to make up for the lost production.

Taylor first jumped onto the scene in Wisconsin’s home opener in early September against Utah State. He ran nine times that night for 87 yards, including a 41-yard burst and his first career touchdown.

Time and time again throughout the Badgers’ undefeated regular season, Taylor exploded through Wisconsin’s offense line and dashed to the endzone. Against Florida Atlantic, he had a 64-yard touchdown run. At Nebraska, he had a 75-yard scamper. The very next week at home versus Purdue, Taylor had a 67-yard touchdown run. Against both Michigan and Minnesota, he broke off 50-plus yard runs as well.

Saturday night, Taylor never broke free.

“You talk about being patient and waiting for those things to come,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t come.”

Taylor added after the game that Ohio State was definitely a “step up” in competition from Wisconsin’s previous opponents. He acknowledged their speed and physicality and just how athletic a group the Buckeyes were.

“They got a special defense out there,” he said.

Ohio State’s ability to stop the run had a trickle-down effect on UW’s entire offense. A Wisconsin offense that is usually run-heavy was forced into playing a different style of football.

“What it really does is it let’s the defense pin their ears back and rush you, cause they know you gotta throw it,” junior left tackle Michael Deiter said.

Saturday night, Hornibrook threw it a career-high 40 times, 12 more attempts then in any game this season.

He completed 19 of his attempts and finished with 229 passing yards and two interceptions. One pick occurred in the redzone. The other came on Wisconsin’s final offensive play from scrimmage.

“We knew their running game was the main part of their offense,” Jerome Baker, Ohio State’s leading tackler, said. “That was the main focus point…The rest just handled itself.”

The Buckeyes sacked Hornibrook three times in their six-point victory. The Badger quarterback was officially hurried on four other occasions, but he was flushed out of the pocket far more than that.

Wisconsin tried to offset some of OSU’s pressure by rolling Hornibrook out on play-action passes, but UW’s passing game, much like its running game, failed to fully click.

“As receivers that’s when we need to come up big,” freshman receiver Danny Davis said when referring to Wisconsin’s struggling rushing attack. “We made some plays, but we always feel like we can make some more plays.”

Taylor was not yet on campus when the Badgers fell to Penn State in last year’s Big Ten Championship.

Saturday night, with a spot in the College Football Playoff on the line, the freshman running back from Salem, N.J. experienced his first collegiate loss.

“Definitely a lot of hurt,” Taylor said. “But that’s something the team’s going to use next season and going forward.”

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