Jonathan Taylor did all he could to give the University of Wisconsin its first marquee win of the season. Unfortunately, his teammates weren’t on the same page.
Taylor delivered all of Wisconsin’s biggest offensive plays, but a nonexistent passing game and struggles on defense led to the Badgers falling meekly to No.21 Penn State, 22-10, at Beaver Stadium.
The sophomore rushed for 185 yards and a 71-yard touchdown on Wisconsin’s opening series, but the Badgers (6-4, 4-2 Big Ten) couldn’t string together drives under sophomore quarterback Jack Coan, who was making his second start in the last three weeks in place of Alex Hornibrook (head).
Coan went just 9-for-20 passes for 60 yards, fumbling twice and being intercepted twice. The Badgers generated 269 yards of total offense. He didn’t get much help from his offensive line, which struggled to contain Shareef Miller and Fond du Lac native Robert Windsor (two sacks each) or for that matter staying set. On one second-half drive, UW’s line was whistled for three false start penalties in four plays.
Taylor did his best to keep Wisconsin moving forward. His 71 yards on his third carry was started with a big hole through the defensive line and Taylor using his size to break tackles and speed to run away from the defenders on the way to end zone.
The running game also set up Wisconsin’s field goal to start the second half, as Taylor rushed for 18 yards and Taiwan Deal delivered a 37-yard scamper.
After both scores, however, UW’s defense was unable to hold Penn State’s offense down. Although hampered by a right knee injury, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley led the Nittany Lions on a 75-yard touchdown drive and then, following a Coan fumble, tacked on a 49-yard field goal by Jake Pinegar.
It was one of three field goals Pinegar hit in windy conditions, a sign that UW’s defense didn’t break to give its offense a glimmer of a chance.
Wisconsin showed promise on its final two drives but the Badgers turned the ball over on downs at the Penn State 39 and, following a Nittany Lions fumble, saw Coan throw an interception at the PSU 8.
The problem was Penn State’s defense never relented. The Nittany Lions forced three turnovers, delivered four sacks, five tackles for loss and pressured UW’s backfield relentlessly. A week after the Nittany Lions were embarrassed, 42-7, at Michigan, Penn State had 23 first downs to UW’s 12.
Wisconsin plays its final road game of the regular season next week at Purdue. Kickoff and television channel for the game from West Lafayette, Ind., will be announced this weekend.