MADISON, Wis. — Alex Hornibrook threw three touchdown passes, Wisconsin forced four turnovers, and the No. 9 Badgers recovered from a miserable start with a dominating second half to beat Utah State 59-10 on Friday night.
Freshman Jonathan Taylor ran for 87 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in the opener. Star tight end Troy Fumagalli caught the go-ahead touchdown early in the third quarter, and Zander Neuville and Quintez Cephus made highlight-reel scoring grabs.
Wisconsin outgained Utah State 251-43 in the Badgers’ 28-point third quarter, rushing for 130 yards. Safety Joe Ferguson entertained the hardy fans who stayed for the fourth by returning an interception 99 yards for a score.
The Badgers asserted their dominance after struggling early. They trailed 10-0 late into the second quarter before taking off in the second half.
Aggies quarterback Kent Myers was 25 of 41 for 219 yards with three picks.
At least Utah State had a first quarter to remember.
Coach Matt Wells’ team had the Badgers’ aggressive defense on its heels with screens and a reverse. A school picked to finish last in its division it the Mountain West Conference was setting the tone against a Big Ten power at night on the road.
Hornibrook fumbled a snap deep in his own territory, a turnover that Utah State recovered at the Wisconsin 29 and returned 13 yards. LaJuan Hunt ran for a 12-yard touchdowntwo plays later to give the Aggies a 10-0 lead with 3:47 left in the quarter.
The fans at Camp Randall Stadium were stunned. Slowly, but surely the Badgers finally found their footing.
Bradrick Shaw’s 3-yard touchdown run with 1:12 left ended started the stretch of 59 unanswered points. Wisconsin scored 24 off turnovers.
Utah State: The game turned into a blowout, but at least the Aggies will remember their start at a hostile road environment. That’s especially impressive given that all five of their starting offensive linemen were playing their first career games at Utah State.
Wisconsin: All the talk going into the start of training camp was about whether Shaw or Chris James would win the starting tailback job. Shaw started on Friday, though Taylor displayed the explosiveness that helped him emerge through camp to compete for carries. On his 13-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, Taylor ran into blockers left at the line, then bounced outside and sprinted right to easily get across the goal line. Coach Paul Chryst could have the makings of another deep running back group.
Shaw, a sophomore, finished with 84 yards on 18 carries, while James had 15 yards on five attempts.
Utah State: Hosts Idaho State on Thursday.
Wisconsin: Hosts Florida Atlantic on Sept. 9.