Wisconsin passed its most significant test of the season and is another step closer to the College Football Playoff after a 24-10 win over Michigan.
The undefeated, fifth-ranked Badgers looked like they could be on upset alert midway through the third when No. 24 Michigan took a 10-7 lead after an Alex Hornibrook interception. But the much-maligned Hornibrook responded in a big way.
Wisconsin’s offense mustered only 99 yards of offense until Hornibrook led his team through the heart of the Wolverines defense on a seven-play, 77-yard scoring drive. The Badgers went ahead for good when Hornibrook, on third-and-16, stepped up in the pocket and rifled one to A.J. Taylor for a 24-yard touchdown.
Hornibrook is not exactly known for his arm strength, but he showed he has an extra gear with this strike to give UW a 14-10 lead.
Three plays earlier, Hornibrook showed his touch by connecting with Taylor behind the defense for a 51-yard gain. Before that completion, Hornibrook couldn’t get much going. It looked like it gave him a sense of confidence, and soon after, he gave the Badgers the lead.
On the ensuing possession, Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters, making his third career start, was knocked from the game on a big hit by Wisconsin linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel.
Wisconsin, on a 32-yard run by Kendric Pryor on an end around, extended the lead to 21-10 on the next drive and later added a field goal to put the finishing touches on the win.
But for a while, it looked like the Wolverines had a chance to spoil the Badgers’ undefeated season.
Going against the No. 1 Wisconsin defense, Peters made a few impressive plays. After Wisconsin took a 7-0 lead on a 50-yard punt return touchdown by Nick Nelson late in the first quarter, Peters made one of of his best throws of the afternoon.
On second-and-goal, Peters lobbed one to Donovan Peoples-Jones in the end zone on a play that looked like it was going to tie the score. However, the play was ruled incomplete on the field because Peoples-Jones’ feet landed simultaneously — one inbounds and one out of bounds.
On the very next play, Peters fumbled as he tried to run for the goal line.
That kept the score at 7-0 in Wisconsin’s favor, but Michigan was able to crack the scoreboard on its next possession. Peters made a few more nice throws with the Wisconsin rush in his face and Ben Mason capped off an 84-yard scoring drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge, tying the score at 7-7 at halftime.
Wisconsin was on its heels a bit, especially on offense, but finally got things going midway through the third. There was no panic after Michigan took the lead. It wasn’t just Hornibrook, either. Star freshman running back Jonathan Taylor had another big game, finishing with 132 yards on 19 carries, including a 52-yard burst in the fourth when Michigan was trying to get the ball back.
But ultimately, it was the Wisconsin defense that put things away, limiting Michigan to only 234 yards of offense, including just 58 rushing yards on 37 attempts, and 5-of-17 on third down.
The Badgers, now 11-0, have already wrapped up the Big Ten West division title and finally have added a ranked win to its CFP résumé after knocking off the Wolverines Saturday. It was a familiar recipe of success for the Badgers, one that will carry over into next week’s regular season finale at Minnesota.
Wisconsin will be a big favorite in Minneapolis. After that, the Big Ten Championship — and potentially the College Football Playoff — awaits.
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