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Badgers answer early challenge from Utah State, win 59-10

Wisconsin overcomes a 10-0 hole to blow out the visiting Utah State Aggies to open the 2017 season.

Utah State struck the first blows of the game, but it was the Wisconsin Badgers who had the knockout punch. The Badgers took a 10-0 deficit and put up 59 unanswered points to open the season with an emphatic victory.

The win was Wisconsin’s 38th consecutive home non-conference win which ties them for fifth all-time in FBS history. It also continues the second-longest active streak in FBS football, trailing only LSU and its 47 straight wins at Death Valley.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook went 15 of 23 for 244 yards and three touchdowns in just a shade over three quarters of play. UW ran the ball for 244 yards as a team and the defense had three interceptions and allowed just

Freshman running back Jonathan Taylor showed why coaches listed him as a co-starter on the Week 1 depth chart, leading the Badgers with 87 yards on nine carries and his first career touchdown run as well.

He wasn’t the only one to do big things for the first time on the night. In fact, five Badgers recorded their first career touchdowns on the night.

Along with Taylor, the Badgers got first career touchdown from wide receiver Quintez Cephus, tight end Zander Neuville, safety Joe Ferguson and walk-on running back Garrett Groshek.

While the streaks are nice and the stats eye-popping, there was a large stretch of the first half where it appears there was going to be a real struggle for the Badgers.

A combination of turnovers, bad offensive line play and big plays made by Utah State gave the visiting Aggies a 10-0 advantage as the first quarter ended. Things didn’t change much for most of the second quarter.

However, UW’s defense woke up in the second quarter and ignited what would turn out to be 59 unanswered points en route to a blowout victory.

After being shredded and left in bad situations, the Badgers defense forced a seemingly innocuous stop with 9:37 to play. But, there were only six plays allowed and decent field position on the ensuing punt.

Wisconsin’s offense responded to the defensive effort with a classic Badgers drive, going 15 plays and 79 yards over the course of 8 minutes, 25 seconds off the clock. That drive ended with a three-yard touchdown by running back Bradrick Shaw and a 10-7 Aggies lead.

That lead wouldn’t last much longer though, as UW’s defense came up with a turnover on the first play of Utah State’s next drive and the Badgers were able to turn that in to a field goal and a 10-10 tie game heading in to halftime.

UW’s momentum shift wasn’t finished though and the second half was complete domination by the Badgers.

Much of the second half spark came from two players, as tight end Troy Fumagalli got loose and freshman running back Jonathan Taylor flashed big-play ability. Fumagalli ended the night with five catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Fumagalli sparked things in the second half with a 23-yard touchdown catch on a great play call off a fake jet sweep and a route over the middle by Fumagalli. It was 17-10 quickly and the Badgers were off to the boat races.

After watching Fumagalli, apparently fellow tight end Zander Neuville wanted in on the action. He continued the scoring spree with a 28-yard touchdown to make it 24-10.

Meanwhile we all know what Taylor did, and it was his 13-yard touchdown that would come next and make it 32-10. Then it was Cephus’ turn for a touchdown, followed quickly by a rare 6-yard scamper on a jet sweep by fullback Austin Ramesh.

But, it wasn’t just the offense that buckled down and did the scoring. Wisconsin’s defense was equally impressive, allowing just 85 yards on the ground and creating three turnovers in the second half alone.

Wisconsin’s next touchdown came just as it appeared its unanswered streak was coming to an end. After the Aggies marched inside the Badgers 10-yard line, safety Joe Ferguson picked off Ken Myers for the third time on the night and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown and a 52-10 lead.

The Badgers will host Florida Atlantic and the traveling Lane Kiffin circus next week. Kick-off is scheduled for 11am CT with the game on the Big Ten Network.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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