Wisconsin’s defense came up huge in the 24-15 victory over Northwestern at Camp Randall. The Badger’s held the Wildcats to 3.1 yards per play and scored two touchdowns in this matchup against last year’s Big Ten West division champions.
Deep in the third quarter, Safety Eric Burrell forced a strip-sack on a perfectly timed blitz off the edge which ended up being returned for a touchdown by defensive end Matt Henningsen. Henningsen is now tied for second in touchdowns on the team, behind star running back Jonathan Taylor. It is hard to think that a defensive end is tied for second in touchdowns when the Badgers have averaged almost 48 points a game this season.
Linebacker Noah Burks also joined in the defensive touchdowns when he scored off a pick-six from backup Northwestern quarterback Aidan Smith. Burks returned it 68 yards while breaking several tackles and getting some key blocks. Those two defensive touchdowns made all the difference in a game where the Wisconsin offense was almost nonexistent.
After their 10 play, 54-yard drive to open the game, the Badgers offense didn’t put up any points other than a field goal in the fourth quarter. The Northwestern defensive line made sure Jonathan Taylor didn’t have his usual big game-changing runs and put pressure on quarterback Jack Coan all day.
The Badger offense barely made it past 200 yards on the day. Quarterback Jack Coan finished the day passing for only 113 yards on a 63 percent completion percentage. He consistently decided to throw short of the first down marker. On the only play he did throw deep it was picked off by cornerback J.R Pace for his first interception of the year.
“We’ve got to give ourselves more opportunities and better opportunities,” Head Coach Paul Chryst said on why Coan didn’t go deep more.
To match Coan’s lackluster day, Taylor didn’t have an explosive game, only getting 119 yards on the day and only scoring on the opening drive. Despite their sloppy offensive performance, the defense still carried them to an undefeated record in the Big Ten conference.
This win wasn’t the greatest under the Badger’s belt (4-0 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) and shows that the offense still has to fix some loose ends and actually show up when the Badgers play against top defenses. However, this win is reassuring that the defense is a force that can provide points if they need to. The offense will look to get back on track up against Kent State (2-2) next week.