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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Kendric Pryor had his second rushing touchdown in as many weeks as he, along with other young Wisconsin receivers, played a critical role in UW's victory. 

Kendric Pryor had his second rushing touchdown in as many weeks as he, along with other young Wisconsin receivers, played a critical role in UW's victory. 

Wisconsin's young wideouts play crucial role in 24-10 victory over Michigan

With 4:41 remaining in the third quarter, and the Badgers (8-0 Big Ten, 11-0 overall) staring at yet another three-and-out, sophomore wideout A.J. Taylor made perhaps the biggest play of his young Wisconsin career, wriggling loose of his man for a 51-yard catch.

It’s not just that Taylor’s catch awoke a previously dormant Wisconsin offense or set up a score just four plays later.

Taylor’s miraculous performance on that drive, where he caught two balls for 75 yards and a touchdown, assured fans that the Wisconsin receiving corps is far from dead after the season-ending injury to sophomore Quintez Cephus and the sudden absence of senior Jazz Peavy.

“We’ve got a receiver core developing,” Taylor said after Wisconsin’s 24-10 victory. “All of us, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but if we can keep doing this and keep showing that we are a dominant receiver core, then we can be successful.”

The Badgers’ receivers had an especially important role to play versus Michigan (5-3, 8-3) on Saturday, as the Wolverines stacked the box on defense and left their defensive backs one-on-one with receivers.

Outside of Taylor, Wisconsin’s wideouts were up to the task of winning their individual battles, as true freshman Danny Davis III made an important catch in the second half and redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor scored his second rushing touchdown in as many weeks.

Pryor did not have a catch in the game, but licked his lips during the week knowing he and his fellow receivers would receive opportunities to exploit the Wolverines.

“My high school coach always told me one-on-one is like one-on-none,” he said. “So that was just kinda my mindset going into this week, just going into this week, always winning our one-on-ones.”

The Wolverines’ choice to man-mark Wisconsin receivers was likely borne more out of a concern for true freshman running back sensation Jonathan Taylor than a real confidence in their defensive backs.

And A.J. Taylor showed the dangers of covering him with just one man on his explosive 51-yard grab.

“Whenever there’s a one-on-one, we gotta take advantage of the opportunity,” Taylor said. “It’s more of just like a — I just get happy when they wanna play us one-on-one, because if they don’t respect us then we just gotta earn it. And I love that challenge.”

Though Wisconsin’s current crop of young wideouts may be one of its most promising receiver groups in years, Cephus, Taylor, Davis III and Pryor are virtual unknowns to the college football fan who just recognizes Wisconsin for its running game and defense.

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Still, the Badgers have managed to seamlessly replace, and possibly surpass, the production of Robert Wheelwright and Peavy with the play of guys who are all freshmen or sophomores.

“It's fun seeing their growth and you know they can continue to get better,” head coach Paul Chryst said after the game. “I still feel like this whole team's that way.”

After his eighth game this season with over 100 rushing yards, Jonathan Taylor will likely draw the plaudits and praise once again.

Certainly, he’s a special player. But he’s not the only one helping the Badgers win games.

“We know we have a good running back in Jonathan (Taylor),” Pryor said. “But I guess, I wanna say it’s kinda time for people to start knowing about us receivers.”

With more one-on-one catches and highlight plays that will happen — eventually.

Wisconsin is a running school, after all.

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