Jonathan Taylor UW-Northwestern

Northwestern Wildcats cornerback Montre Hartage (24) and linebacker Brett Walsh (10) tackle Wisconsin Badgers running back Jonathan Taylor (23) as he runs the ball for a first down during the first quarter Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.


Offense: C-minus

Jonathan Taylor made tacklers miss in the hole and ran with power. Alex Hornibrook wasn't setting his feet and wasn't accurate in the first half. That changed in the second half, when the line protected better and Quintez Cephus, Danny Davis and A.J. Taylor had catches of 32 yards or more. Troy Fumagalli was missed.

Defense: B-plus

After giving up 10 points on short fields, the defense was suffocating until it relaxed with a big lead at the end. UW overran Northwestern's line, recording eight sacks. Irrepressible Garrett Dooley had three sacks, Natrell Jamerson had two interceptions and D'Cota Dixon was everywhere. His safety sealed the victory.

Special teams: B

Anthony Lotti's 33-yard punt from the 11 gave the Wildcats prime field position in the first half, but he punted well after that. Zach Hintze had six touchbacks on six kickoffs. Can't do much better than that. Nick Nelson had punt returns of 12 and 17 yards. Northwestern crossed up UW by kicking deep late in the game.

Coaching: B

Paul Chryst used timely play-action fakes to get receivers open in the second half. Not sure why Jonathan Taylor had eight carries in the first quarter but only 11 after that. Jim Leonhard dialed up some new blitzes and almost all of them worked. The six-man rush that left Chris Orr untouched for a sack was textbook.

Overall: B

After a bye, the Badgers didn't appear to be ready to play at the start, fumbling the ball on their first two touches. But the big-play defense kept it close until the offense found its footing in the second half. UW relaxed at the end, giving Northwestern two touchdowns, but this was a solid victory over the Wildcats.


Tom Oates has been part of the Wisconsin State Journal sports department since 1980 and became its editorial voice in 1996, traversing the state and country to bring readers a Madison perspective on the biggest sports stories of the day.