Rivalry football in November. What more could you ask for?
Wisconsin hosted the No. 18 Iowa Hawkeyes at Camp Randall Stadium in a game for the Heartland Trophy, but the matchup had further Big Ten West implications with the Hawkeyes and Badgers each playing for their Big Ten lives.
Fans of hard-nosed physical football, this was the game for you.
Wisconsin ran their usual offense based on the ground with Jonathan Taylor and some Quintez Cephus mixed in.
Iowa did their best Wisconsin impersonation, running the ball five straight times on a drive during the first half. But, the drive ultimately resulted in a lost fumble for the Hawkeyes, just as Iowa seemed to be gaining some form of momentum.
Defensive leaders Chris Orr and Zach Baun said in the days before the game that the game would come down to whichever team was more physical, and that was exactly what happened.
The Badgers were simply the more physical team throughout.
Whether it was Quintez Cephus outcompeting an Iowa corner on a jump ball for a pair of huge gains, or when Eric Burrell and Orr read a quarterback draw correctly on the two point conversion and held big Nate Stanley out of the endzone, the Badgers were the more physical team.
At no point was this more evident than when Jonathan Taylor and the offensive line capped off an incredible night on the final drive that secured the win. Six runs on the final drive went for a total of sixty yards and dashed any hope of an Iowa comeback.
Jonathan Taylor bounced back from down performances the last few outings.
After rushing for 254 combined yards over the last three games, Taylor rushed for 250 yards against Iowa which is the most a Badger has ever rushed for against the Hawkeyes. Taylor also became the first player to rush for over 100 yards against Iowa three times.
Coming into the contest, Iowa opponents had only averaged 87.1 yards per game on the ground. Taylor, alone, ran for 250 yards and the team ran for 300 yards as a whole.
Taylor’s effort contributed to a 24 point outing for the Badgers, the most the Hawkeyes had given up all year.
Surprisingly, Taylor wasn’t able to find the endzone as the scoring came from Danny Davis and Cephus.
Davis found the endzone twice; once on a jet sweep, and the other on a play action fake where he found himself open in the left corner of the endzone. Cephus showed off what he can do, winning a one-on-one and going for a 27-yard score.
As potent as the offense was, the Badger defense made the play of the game.
They held Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley to just 40 yards over the air through eight Iowa offensive drives. UW surrendered 16 points in the fourth quarter but held strong when they were needed on the two-point conversion to hold on for the win.
The Badgers didn’t get any help from Penn State in the Big Ten West race as Minnesota was able to upset the Nittany Lions. Now Wisconsin will have to take care of business, but will also be rooting for the Hawkeyes next week as they host the Golden Gophers.