MADISON, Wis. — Jonathan Taylor came to Wisconsin prepared for a heavy workload, even if he was buried deep on the depth chart when training camp opened.
How things have changed in three months at Camp Randall Stadium.
Taylor ran for a touchdown and broke the 1,000-yard mark for the season, Alex Hornibrook passed for two scores and the fifth-ranked Badgers stayed unbeaten with a 38-13 victory over Maryland on Saturday.
Taylor had 126 yards on 22 carries, a relatively ho-hum day following two straight 200-yard outings. Playing in his seventh game at Wisconsin (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten), Taylor tied a major college football record shared by five other backs for fewest games by a freshman to get to 1,000 yards.
That list includes standouts like Florida’s Emmitt Smith, San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk and Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson, along with North Texas’ Jamario Thomas. The last back to do it before Taylor? Wisconsin’s P.J. Hill in 2006.
“It’s very humbling to be mentioned with those guys,” Taylor said.
Just another star emerging off the Wisconsin running back assembly line. Considering some of the other great names in the school’s running back lineage like Melvin Gordon, Montee Ball and Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne , this milestone is special.
“I think it’s part of the reason why JT came here … he wants to be a running back in a place where there’s been some good running backs,” coach Paul Chryst said.
It’s a tried-and-true formula at Wisconsin that also includes stout defense. On Saturday, Hornibrook shook off an interception on his second attempt of the day, finishing 16 of 24 for 225 yards to balance the offense.
Maryland (3-4, 1-3), which has the conference’s worst defense, could have picked up some early pointers from Wisconsin.
Under heavy pressure, Max Bortenschlager’s pass over the middle was intercepted by Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards and returned 54 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring with 12:18 left in the first quarter.
No wonder Maryland rarely took a shot down the field.
“It’s not the way we want to start the game, for sure,” Terps coach DJ Durkin said.
But the Terrapins did have some success running the ball out of spread formations, with Ty Johnson leading the way with 83 yards on 16 carries. They dented a defense that was allowing a Big Ten-best 78.8 yards a game for 143 yards overall on 35 carries.
Wisconsin, though, sets a high bar in the ground game, and Maryland just couldn’t keep up.
Fullback Austin Ramesh’s 1-yard touchdown run with 9:10 left in the game ended an 11-play, 76-yard drive, giving Wisconsin a three-score lead that extinguished any faint upset hopes.
Maryland: Bortenschlager, a third-stringer forced into the lineup earlier this season because of injuries, still needs work throwing deep. But the sophomore showed more poise as the game went on with a handful of third-and-long conversions. “Max played a good game. He got us in the right calls at the right time and made the offense flow,” Durkin said. … WR DJ Moore was held to 44 yards on three catches a week after amassing career-bests of 210 yards on 12 receptions against Northwestern.
Wisconsin: Taylor has had an impressive freshman season overall, though he has fumbled in two straight weeks after coughing up the ball late in the first quarter at his own 3. The defense cleaned up that mistake after Maryland went three-and-out and settled for a field goal. … Problems that plagued the Badgers in last week’s win over Purdue popped up again on Saturday with two turnovers and four penalties in the first half. But execution improved in a mainly clean second half.
“We’ve got to just work on minimizing those mistakes that make it a little bit harder,” Chryst said. “But I do like the way they focus on the next play, and that’s the way you’ve got to play this game.”
Maryland: Bortenschlager finished 13 of 20 for 125 yards and a 10-yard touchdown pass in to Taivon Jacobs. He was sacked twice. “It wasn’t my best game, it wasn’t my worst,” he said. “I feel I left some throws out there. I left some plays out there.”
Wisconsin: TE Troy Fumagalli had seven catches for 83 yards a week after going without a reception against Purdue. He’s back to being a key contributor after missing the Big Ten opener last month against Northwestern with a left leg injury.
Maryland: Hosts Indiana on Oct. 28.
Wisconsin: At Illinois on Oct. 28.