MADISON, Wis. — The Hawkeyes pulled within two points. The 78,018 people in Camp Randall Stadium knew what was coming. Everyone knew Jonathan Taylor was about to happen.
“With him being the best running back — I feel like the best back in the country — and our linemen (being) the best linemen in the country, when you have those guys and you’re up some points, I feel like I like our chances,” Wisconsin wide receiver Quintez Cephus said. “We have to get Jonathan the ball, obviously.”
The temptation is to say that Taylor got stronger as the game went on. If you look at how Wisconsin started its final two drives in its 24-22 victory over the Hawkeyes on Saturday, it’s hard to argue. On the first carry of a drive that started with 9:27 left, Taylor went for 36 yards.
After the Hawkeyes pulled within two, Taylor went 7 yards, 3 yards and 42 yards. He had 130 yards in the fourth quarter.
The 5-11, 219-pound junior was great late, great early and, well, just overall great.
“He doesn’t run into gaps foolishly,” Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa said. “He’s able to see things happen before they happen and then make smart decisions. That’s what he did all night. We knew that would happen. We didn’t tackle well, either. We have things to fix.”
Taylor finished with 250 yards on 31 carries. You’re not used to seeing this against Iowa’s defense. According to Wisconsin’s sports information, Taylor is the only player to hit the Hawkeyes with 250 yards since at least 2000. Michigan State’s T.J. Duckett came the closest, rushing for 248 yards against the Hawkeyes in 2000.
“All of us were hoping we’d defend the run better,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Two factors: I thought their line played a really good game. I don’t want to coach their team, but outside of the Michigan game, I don’t know if I’ve seen them play better and I’m not sure they played better against Michigan than they did us today.
“And Taylor is just an elite football player.”
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Taylor had runs of 11, 12, 13, 18, 36 and 42. That helped Wisconsin hold a 24-15 advantage in first downs over the Hawkeyes. Iowa (No. 7) and Wisconsin (No. 1) came into this as two of the top time of possession teams in the country. The Badgers held the ball for nearly an entire quarter more than the Hawkeyes, 37:24 to 22:36.
“Jonathan has been great all season, but I think he holds himself to a high standard,” Cephus said. “He wanted to come out here and do what he did today, and he answered. He told us he was going to be better, and he did it, so props to him.”
Taylor’s 250 yards were the most for a Badger player ever against the Hawkeyes, eclipsing the 216 Roy Dayne put on Iowa in 1999. Taylor’s 36- and 42-yard runs in the fourth quarter were the first 20-plus runs the Hawkeyes have allowed this season.
These probably could go on all night.
“You have to respect what he brings to the table and he brought it tonight,” Iowa linebacker Djimon Colbert said.
Probably a pretty good chance Taylor decides to skip his senior year and enter the NFL Draft. Taylor has rushed for 520 yards in three games vs. the Hawkeyes.
Iowa would love for you to be able to draft him in fantasy football next year.
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