By Genaro C. Armas, AP Sports Writer
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Jonathan Taylor rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns, and Wisconsin played smash-mouth football in the second half to run away from Rutgers for a 31-17 win on Saturday.
Ryan Connelly led a strong effort from the front seven with eight tackles, while Andrew Van Ginkel blocked a field-goal attempt for the Badgers (6-3, 4-2 Big Ten).
Starting quarterback Alex Hornibrook left the game at halftime because of a head injury, a week after missing a loss at Northwestern while in the concussion protocol.
All backup quarterback Jack Coan had to do in the third quarter was hand off to his running backs.
Why not when you have Taylor, the nation’s leading rusher, in the backfield?
The Badgers had 13 plays, all runs, for 163 yards in the quarter to turn a 10-0 halftime lead into a comfortable 24-3 advantage. Taylor, who had 27 carries on the day, scored on runs from 38 and 18 yards in the third.
“The things that he does for our offense speaks for itself. He’s a great player and does a lot of good things,” right tackle David Edwards said.
Wisconsin had the edge in talent over the Scarlet Knights (1-8, 0-6), the only team still winless in Big Ten play. Still, the first half had the sluggish pace of a nonconference game in early September.
Saquon Hampton picked off Hornibrook twice in the first half. The defense also held Wisconsin scoreless after a drive that started at the Rutgers 41 set up by Dixon’s 34-yard return of Van Ginkel’s block of a 45-yard field-goal attempt.
Running back Raheem Blackshear had eight catches for 162 yards and a touchdown to lead Rutgers, often getting chunk plays on screens or short passes as the Badgers tried to swarm quarterback Artur Sitkowski.
Blackshear also ran for 38 yards for 10 carries to give him 200 yards of total offense on the afternoon. Sitkowski was 20 of 39 for 261 yards but absorbed several hits from unblocked defenders.
“We got down, but we kept fighting. We got some things going in the second half offensively that we weren’t able to get going in a while. That was good to see,” Rutgers coach Chris Ash said.
Rutgers finally got its first touchdown with 8:14 left on Jonathan Hilliman’s 1-yard run to get within 14.
Rutgers: Trailing just 10-0 at the half might have been victory enough for the Scarlet Knights. Despite a big day by Taylor, the defense limited a Wisconsin passing game featuring three experienced receivers and emerging freshman tight end Jake Ferguson. Rutgers has allowed an average of 24.5 points over its last games, when coach Chris Ash has taken a bigger role in defensive planning, after giving up 40.8 over its first six losses.
Wisconsin: Hornibrook was 7 of 16 for 92 yards before leaving at the half with a head injury. His first pick came after trying to loft a pass to tight end Kyle Penniston, who had defenders behind him and an in front of him. The second interception came on a late throw on an out patter, with Hampton making an athletic grab. Coan was 5 of 7 for 64 yards and an 11-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to receiver Danny Davis. The sophomore needs every snap of experience he can get if he’ll be needed to start next week at Penn State.
Rutgers: Hosts Michigan on Nov. 10.
Wisconsin: At Penn State on Nov. 10 for first trip to Beaver Stadium since 2012.
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