PLAYER OF THE GAME
Despite a lost fumble, the most entertaining, most electric and most productive player on the field Saturday was a freshman tailback making his first college start and playing in his second college game.
If college football fans weren’t wowed by Jonathan Taylor’s debut one week earlier, they had to be impressed by his follow-up act Saturday against Florida Atlantic.
Taylor started in place of Bradrick Shaw (right-leg injury) and carried 26 times for 223 yards, 8.6 yards per carry, and three touchdowns.
He became the first freshman to start at tailback for UW since Zach Brown in 2007 and became the fourth UW freshman to run for at least 200 yards.
Alan Ameche accomplished the feat in 1951, followed by Ron Day in 1996 (five times) and Brown in ’07.
BOX SCORE: Wisconsin 31, Florida Atlantic 14
RELATED: Badgers uneven again
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Live scores, game summaries, statistics, standings
Taylor is the first UW player to hit the 200-yard mark since Melvin Gordon rushed for 251 yards in UW's overtime victory over Auburn in the 2016 Capital One Bowl.
Through two games, Taylor has rushed 35 times for 310 yards (8.9-yard average) and four touchdowns.
What will Taylor remember most from his first start? Not the touchdowns of 64, 29 and 4 yards. And not the yards he gained.
“What I’ll remember most about today will have to be the little things,” he said. “Ball security, having (just) one guy take me down.”
The freshman gets it.
OFFENSIVE PLAY OF THE GAME
Taylor’s best run came on his sixth carry.
UW held a 7-0 lead and Taylor already had 90 yards and a touchdown on five carries.
On first and 10 from the Owls’ 29-yard line, Taylor took a handoff from Alex Hornibrook and made five defenders miss on his way to the end zone.
He sidestepped the first defender 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage, eluded two would-be tacklers at the 29 by bouncing toward the sideline, ran over another defender at the 27 and ran away from the fifth defender at the 25.
“You know, never want to think you’re stopped for a loss,” he said when asked about the run. “You always have to stay confident. Just trying to get as many yards as possible, using everything in your arsenal to try to beat the guys in front of you.”
DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE GAME
Kudos to Florida Atlantic’s defense, which stoned UW’s blockers and Taylor early in the second quarter.
After Florida Atlantic’s first touchdown, the Badgers marched from their 25 to a first and goal at the Owls’ 6.
Taylor gained 4 yards on first down, 1, on second down and then was held to no gain on third and fourth down.
On the final play of the drive, he tried to power in over the left side but was gang-tackled and the ball popped into the air. Center Tyler Biadasz hauled in the loose ball and raced into the end zone but the officials had already blown the play dead.
UW had four shots from the Florida Atlantic 6 or closer and got nothing.
“We’ve got to execute down there,” UW coach Paul Chryst said, adding he would need to evaluate the video to better ascertain the breakdowns. “Those opportunities to score are important and when you don’t, that impacts the game.”
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY OF THE GAM
UW punter Anthony Lotti became adept at pinning foes inside their 20 last season as a freshman.
Natrell Jamerson has been a key contributor on UW’s special teams since his freshman season in 2014.
The two combined for a picture-perfect play Saturday.
UW chose to punt from the Florida Atlantic 36 after failing to convert on third and 9.
Lotti put the ball high and Jamerson hustled down to the 1, turned toward the field and was ready to prevent the ball from bouncing into the end zone.
Jamerson swatted the ball, which was spotted at the 4.
INSIDE THE HUDDLE
Cornerback Nick Nelson thought he had deep safety help on the Owls’ 63-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. The problem was that D’Cota Dixon, the safety on that side of the field, came up to the intermediate zone. That left Nelson and cornerback Derrick Tindal in man-to-man coverage on the left side of the UW formation. Safety Natrell Jamerson had deep responsibility but on the opposite side of the field. “I thought I had somebody behind me, too,” Tindal acknowledged. “But there wasn’t and it ended up being a big play. We’ve got to eliminate that.”
UW defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard rotated between a 3-4-4 scheme and a 2-5-4 throughout the game. He wanted the former on the field to match Florida Atlantic’s “running” personnel grouping and the latter when the Owls deployed a plethora of wide receivers.
“I’m just out here having fun. On the wall, as we’re coming up from the tunnel, it says: ‘Have fun. Play the game.’ You have to be just grateful that you’re here, you’re here having fun.” – Jonathan Taylor, UW freshman tailback
BY THE NUMBERS
2 Turnovers by UW
5 Sacks by UW
17:08 UW’s edge in time of possession
50 Yards allowed by UW’s defense after halftime on 21 plays
564 Total yards for UW’s offense
UW (2-0) at BYU (1-1), 2:30 p.m. Saturday: BYU, which hosted rival Utah late Saturday, opened the season with a lackluster victory over Portland State and was held to 97 total yards in Week 2 in a 27-0 loss to LSU. After that loss, BYU coach Kalani Sitake talked about making changes on an offense that was generating just 231.0 yards and 10.0 points per game.