MADISON — Jonathan Taylor ran for 119 yards and his 11th touchdown of the season, Wisconsin got two scores from its defense, and the eighth-ranked Badgers remained unbeaten with a 24-15 win over Northwestern on Saturday.
Taylor carried 26 times to help Wisconsin (4-0, 2-0 Big Ten) avenge its 31-17 loss to the Wildcats last season. The junior reached 100 yards rushing for the 26th time in 31 career games and moved into fourth place on the Badgers’ career rushing list (4,730).
After allowing 81 yards rushing through the first three games, the Wisconsin defense surrendered 97 yards on the ground to Northwestern (1-3, 0-2).
The Badgers’ defense sacked backup quarterback Aidan Smith once and starter Hunter Johnson three times, including one by safety Eric Burrell that caused a fumble by Johnson in the end zone. Matt Henningsen recovered to make it 14-3 in the third quarter for Wisconsin. Noah Burks added the other after intercepting Smith and returning it 68 yards down the Wisconsin sideline.
Johnson went 10-for-21 and Smith completed 8 of 19 passes and had a late 15-yard touchdown to JJ Jefferson. Drake Anderson had 16 carries for 69 yards and a 4-yard score for the defending Big Ten West champion Wildcats, who dropped their second straight game conference game.
Charlie Kuhbander added a 29-yard field goal for Northwestern.
Chris Orr had two sacks and Collin Wilder added another for a Badgers’ defense that is allowing just 7.3 points per game through the first four contests.
Northwestern: Defensively, the Wildcats, like last season, made it hard for the Wisconsin offense. But a loose offensive line and a lack of production at the quarterback position will continue to haunt the Wildcats’ offense.
Wisconsin: Jack Coan won his sixth straight start, but needed the Badgers’ defense to have a big day to overcome a lackluster day. The defense responded, as Coan finished 15-for-21 with 113 yards and an interception by Northwestern defensive back JR Pace.
With one of the top running backs in the history of college football and a stout defense, No. 8 Wisconsin continues to prove it is one of the top teams in the country and deserves to be on the short list of teams that can seriously contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Top 10 Badgers
Wisconsin now has won five straight against Northwestern when ranked in the top 10 of The Associated Press Top 25 poll .
Northwestern: Plays Nebraska on Oct. 5 on the road.
Wisconsin: Hosts Kent State on Oct. 5.