“He’s got something special,” head coach Paul Chryst said of Jonathan Taylor.
After getting eliminated from Big Ten West contention following their 22-10 loss to Penn State a week ago, the Wisconsin Badgers (5-3 Big Ten, 7-4 overall) somehow clawed their way back from a late 14-point deficit to beat the Purdue Boilermakers (4-4, 5-6) 47-44 in triple overtime on the back of Jonathan Taylor’s 321 yards and three touchdowns.
Trailing by 14 points with under seven minutes to play, sophomore quarterback Jack Coan in his third career start led two touchdown drives to tie the game. Both drives ended with incredible touchdown catches by sophomore wide receiver Danny Davis, including a spectacular one-handed catch for his first score.
Coan’s two touchdown drives were set up by an outstanding stop midway through the fourth quarter. UW’s defense forced a punt; however, as the punt trickled into Wisconsin’s half, it brushed against sophomore cornerback Caesar Williams’ leg, allowing Purdue to pick it up and get a fresh set of downs. Three plays later, senior linebackers T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly combined to get another goal line stop, forcing Purdue to kick a field goal, keeping it to a two-score game.
In overtime, Taylor scored the first and third touchdown for the Badgers, with Garrett Groshek punching in the second. A crucial stop in the third overtime set up Taylor for his game-winning score.
UW’s young defense kept the Badgers in the game, as they once again saw their offensive counterparts lack any rhythm until the final seven minutes. In the first half, UW managed to score just three points and accumulated more penalty yards than passing yards. Wisconsin committed six penalties for 65 yards in the first half, while Coan racked up just 59 yards in seven-for-10 attempts.
UW appeared to be primed to jump out to an early lead on their opening drive, setting up kicker Rafael Gaglianone with a 30-yard field goal attempt. The Badgers’ all-time leader in field goals made missed this one badly, however, forcing Wisconsin to come up empty.
Both sides would fail to score on their next three drives. UW was forced to punt on three straight drives, slowed down by a false start on Beau Benzschawel on their second drive and a hold on Michael Dieter on their third drive. On Wisconsin’s fourth drive of the game, they elected to go to their bread and butter: a fullback dive with Alec Ingold on third-and-1. Ingold was stopped well short of the first down, forcing another punt. UW’s defense set the Badgers up with excellent field position, forcing two punts and a fumble punched out by Andrew Van Ginkel, but the Badgers’ offense came up empty each time.
Purdue finally broke the deadlock with a six-play, 55-yard scoring drive midway through the second quarter, capped off by an 18-yard screen pass to D.J. Knox he took to the end zone.
Wisconsin’s ground game quickly responded, with Jonathan Taylor, Kendric Pryor, Garrett Groshek and Chris James combining to rush for 63 yards to get UW to the 3-yard line. On third-and-7, the Badgers went to the wildcat, using a direct snap to Garrett Groshek to pick up 8 yards and a first down. However, Coan decided not to throw the ball away and took a sack when the Badgers reached the 3-yard line, pushing UW back to the 11-yard line. The Badgers were unable to find the end zone and were forced to settle for a 20-yard field goal from Gaglianone.
Purdue quickly marched down into Wisconsin territory, where a pass interference on Caesar Williams brought the Boilermakers to the 2-yard line. Three plays later, they were forced to kick a field goal as a tough goal-line stop highlighted by a T.J. Edwards tackle for loss on third down kept the score to just 10-7 at halftime.
Taylor quickly proved why he’s the best running back in the country, opening the second half with an 80-yard touchdown on UW’s first play from scrimmage, helped along the way from a great downfield block from wide receiver Kendric Pryor. The score tied the game up at 10 apiece and brought Taylor to 160 yards on 14 carries, good for an 11.4 average.
After a Van Ginkel sack forced a punt, UW’s ground game once again brought them into the red zone, but they were once again unable to find the end zone. After three opening runs from Chris James, Coan found junior wide receiver A.J. Taylor for 24 yards. Taylor finished with an impressive five receptions for 89 yards.
Six straight runs between Taylor and Groshek later, Coan found himself in a third-and-10, where he promptly checked down to Groshek for 7 yards, forcing the Badgers to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Gaglianone. The kick gave UW its first lead of the day of 13-10 midway through the third quarter.
Purdue quickly took the lead right back, driving 55 yards on six plays, capped off by a Markell Jones 12-yard touchdown run, breaking would-be tackles from Van Ginkel and D’Cota Dixon. The score gave Purdue a 17-13 lead with 4:08 left in the third quarter.
After a quick UW three-and-out, Purdue tacked onto their lead with David Blough finding freshman wide receiver Rondale Moore for a 46-yard touchdown. Moore beat Rachad Wildgoose off the line of scrimmage and used a crazy spin move to blow right past Eric Burrell on his way to the end zone. The score extended Purdue’s lead to 24-13 right at the end of the third quarter.
But those two late touchdowns and Taylor’s career day gave the Badgers a win. In spite of the disappointing season where UW could’ve given up, Wisconsin pushed through and proved they won’t give up on the season.
“We’re a resilient team, and we’ve been through so much,” Jonathan Taylor said. “I took it upon myself to give everything I have for the seniors. Once we went into overtime, the intensity and the energy, everything just doubled. We had to come out win a win.”