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Taylor powers Badgers past FAU

Jonathan Taylor gets loose in 1st career start as the Wisconsin Badgers fought to a 31-14 victory over Florida Atlantic.

True freshman Jonathan Taylor put up 226 yards and three touchdowns to lead UW to a 31-14 victory over Florida Atlantic.

His 226-yard day put any doubts over who should be the starting running back to rest. So did his first two touchdowns of the day. It was also the best performance by a freshman running back not named Ron Dayne or Alan Ameche at Wisconsin.

Last time we checked, those two went on to do something pretty special.

Taylor’s first score came as he cut back on a hole and went off to the races for a 64-yard untouched touchdown. He followed that up by powering his way to a 29-yard touchdown off tackle and through a pair of tackles before hitting the open field.

It was Wisconsin 14-0 and looking like they would roll over the Owls. However, the opening drives weren’t a full indication of what was to come.

Florida Atlantic weren’t deterred and fought back hard in the opening half of the game.

Wisconsin’s run game was powerful period, going for 357 yards on the game. But, it’s inability to extend drives in the passing game cost them dearly as the first half went on.

It’s what allowed the Owls to get back in the game in the first half.

After an Alex Hornibrook to Troy Fumagalli touchdown made it 20-7, the Owls woke up on both sides of the ball.

Hornibrook was intercepted on Wisconsin’s next drive and the Owls responded with a touchdown drive to make it 21-14 with 4:29 to play in the first half.

Wisconsin’s defense had problems of its own in the second quarter, giving up a number of big plays and getting little pressure behind the line of scrimmage.

That was no more true on Florida Atlantic’s first touchdown of the game, as DeAndre McNeal caught a deep pass and wound up with a 63-yard touchdown reception.

The defense got the message at the half, clamping down hard on the FAU offense in the third quarter. UW allowed just eight yards of total offense in the quarter.

Wisconsin’s offense came out running the football with plenty of early success in the second half as well.

Not only did Jonathan Taylor continue to gouge the FAU defense, so did Pitt transfer Chris James. The junior finished with 101 yards on 16 carries of his own.

All of it added up to the Badgers owning the third quarter and opening up the eventual 31-14 scoreline.

Wisconsin’s pass defense got stingier as the game went on, helped largely by an improved pass rush. The Badgers picked up five sacks by five different players on the day, while also adding 10 tackles for loss in the process.

It was also hard to ignore the missed opportunities in this game. UW may have put up 564 total yards of offense, but that shouldn’t compute to just 31 points on the scoreboard either.

 

Simply put, Alex Hornibrook was wildly inconsistent on the day and it hurt what the Badgers were attempting to do on offense.

Wisconsin couldn’t get the game to open up despite dominating on the ground in large part due to multiple missed passes from Hornibrook. He was often throwing behind receivers or not getting enough behind deep throws.

Hornibrook ended the day with 201 yards passing, but he completed just 57.1 percent of his passes as well.

Of his 16 completions, half went to tight end Troy Fumagalli, who had eight receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown.

Fumagalli had two big drops of his own, stalling out a few good opportunities for the Badgers to potentially put more points on the board.

Then there was the stalled goal line drive, as UW failed to put the ball in to the end zone three times from a yard out. It resulted in Rafael Gaglianone hitting a chip shot field goal with just two seconds to play in the first half.

Head coach Paul Chryst made note of Wisconsin’s need to be more efficient with the ball and change things when at the goal line.

At least the defense came up big when called upon in the second half. UW’s defense allowed next to nothing in yardage outside of a we big plays, while ramping up the pressure and holding the Owls out of the end zone in the second half.

Wisconsin will get one last opportunity to correct those issues before Big Ten play. But, it won’t be easy as a trip to BYU next Saturday looms large.

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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