The No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers stifled the Wildcats’ for much for the afternoon at Ryan Field, forcing the ‘Cats to be one-dimensional on offense, en route to a 21-7 win.
Wisconsin got things going early offensively, driving the ball into Northwestern territory with some good push up front for Corey Clement, but Alex Endicott shanked a 35-yard field goal after a underthrow from Alex Hornibrook on 3rd down to keep the game scoreless.
But after Justin Jackson came up short on fourth down and one on the ‘Cats longest drive of the first quarter – a nine-play, 46-yard drive – the Badgers, with Bart Houston under center, got on the scoreboard with a 40-yard field goal, taking a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Houston would play just one series for the Badgers, before Alex Hornibrook returned to lead the Badgers on their next drive.
Wisconsin would extend their lead to 10-0, after another ‘Cats three-and-out, on Jazz Peavy’s 46 yard run on an end-around, eluding multiple Wildcat defenders en route to the end zone.
The ‘Cats though, after not finding much offensively in the first half, put together what ended up being their best drive of the day to finish off the half.
Taking over with 1:41 to play, Northwestern drove 87 yards on eight plays culminating with an Austin Carr touchdown reception, his tenth of the season, to cut the Badgers’ lead to 10-7 heading into halftime.
Austin Carr finished the day with 12 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown, putting himself over the 1000-yard mark on the season.
And after winning the coin toss and deferring, the Wildcats had a chance to tie the game or take the lead and swing the momentum in their favor as they came out to start the 2nd half. But Northwestern went three-and-out on two straight drives, the second culminating in a short punt, giving the Badgers the ball on the Wildcat 32.
The Badgers couldn’t find the end zone though, and Alex Endicott’s 27-yard field goal extended Wisconsin’s lead to 13-7, keeping Northwestern within striking distance.
Another three-and-out gave the Badgers the ball back, but Wisconsin would squander their 11-play, 50-yard scoring drive as Endicott missed the 51-yard field goal.
It wouldn’t matter though as the Wildcats couldn’t take advantage, giving it right back on Thorson’s fumble as their own drive stalled just outside of the red zone after a holding penalty.
The Badgers would capitalize on the turnover, driving 45 yards and scoring on Clement’s two-yard rush, and the two-point conversion made it a 21-7 game, putting the finishing touches on their win and crushing Northwestern’s Big Ten West title hopes.
The Wildcats’ offense struggled against Wisconsin, as the Badgers forced the ‘Cats to be one dimensional, with just 39 yards on the ground. Justin Jackson had little running room and Thorson was under pressure all afternoon, sacked twice and hit another eight times. Northwestern did manage 316 yards of offense, but they weren’t able to sustain drives and lost the time of possession battle by almost 21 minutes.
Defensively, the ‘Cats only gave up 21 points, but it they just couldn’t get off the field, allowing the Badgers to covert 7 of 19 third down conversions, and a few big plays, including Peavy’s end-around, did them in.
With the loss, the ‘Cats fall to 4-5 on the season, still two wins away from bowl eligibility, but their schedule gets much easier the next three weeks starting with their matchup against Purdue next week.