Halftime Analysis: Northwestern 14, No.20 Wisconsin 10

Halftime Analysis: Northwestern 14, No.20 Wisconsin 10

Football

Halftime Analysis: Northwestern 14, No.20 Wisconsin 10

EVANSTON, Ill. – Wisconsin’s offense has yet to sustain a drive under first-time starter Jack Coan, but the Badgers find themselves trailing Northwestern only 14-10 at halftime at Ryan Field.

Making his first collegiate start in the place of Alex Hornibrook (concussion), Coan has been conservative with his approach with first place in the Big Ten West on the line. The Badgers haven’t moved Coan out of the pocket, despite his history of being a mobile quarterback, and taken only a couple shots down the field.

That approach worked fine early on, as UW’s second drive was set up on a beautifully by inside linebacker Ryan Connelly laying out horizontally to bat a pass into the arms of safety Evan Bondoc, who started his second straight game in place of senior D’Cota Dixon.

That was the sixth turnover in two weeks for Wisconsin’s defense, an impressive uptick after forcing a combined nine in the first six games. The prime field position set up Alec Ingold’s 20th career touchdown. Cornerback Madison Cone added another interception late in the first half to further grow that number.

The lead didn’t last, as quarterback Clayton Thorson rebounded to lead a 15-play, 75-yard drive that ended with his own 1-yard sneak. Thorson went 5-for-6 on the drive, hitting four different receivers on a drive where no play went more than 12 yards.

The Wildcats were poised to take their first lead in the second quarter on a couple of chunk plays. A 32-yard pass to Bennett Skowronek was initially ruled incomplete but was changed after officials ruled he had completed the process of the catch before the ball hit the turf. One play later, receiver Kyric McGowan and Northwestern caught outside linebacker Zack Baun cheating on, getting outside the defense for a 21-yard gain to UW’s 6.

The Wildcats didn’t get much more than that, as UW’s defense stopped a pair of Thorson sneaks from the 1-yard line to force a turnover on downs.

The good thoughts didn’t last, as Jonathan Taylor fumbled early in the drive after failing to secure a handoff from Coan at the UW 15. UW had two chances to limit the damage, but cornerback Faion Hicks committed a blatant pass interference penalty on fourth-and-2 and Andrew Van Ginkel and Connelly each missed tackles on a 5-yard touchdown run.

With Northwestern bottling up Taylor (9 carries, 33 yards) and UW’s running game (24 for 120), the Badgers lacked the threat of big-play ability through most of the opening 30 minutes. Coan finished the opening half 6-for-9 for 42 yards and one run for five yards. His longest throw went for 18 yards to Kendric Pryor on a drive before halftime, a 9-play, 50-yard drive that ended with a 36-yard Rafael Gaglianone field goal.

That field goal was Gaglianone’s 66th of his career, breaking Todd Gregoire’s school record for career field goals

Northwestern starts the second half with the ball, as the Wildcats currently leads Wisconsin by a half-game for first place in the Big Ten West Division.

 

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