MADISON, Wis. — The University of New Mexico defense was unable to slow down Wisconsin star Jonathan Taylor, who turned in a career day with career-high 253 yards as well as three touchdowns in a 45-14 victory on Saturday afternoon.
The Lobos received the opening kickoff and immediately put together a long, methodical drive that lasted 17 plays and covered 87 yards — one that included four third-down conversions and took 7:38 off the clock. The drive culminated with an 11-yard pass from Tevaka Tuioti to Delane Hart-Johnson that gave UNM an early 7-0 lead and silenced a crowd of 77,003 at Camp Randall Stadium.
“I really felt offensively we had a great rhythm early in the game,” head coach Bob Davie said. “I thought honestly, schematically there were some things we could do. When (Tuioti) went out…we didn’t get much done after that.”
The Lobos defense was able to bend but not break on their first drive on the field, allowing the Badgers to drive 76 yards on 12 plays but managed to keep them out of the end zone and forced the field goal to maintain the lead at 7-3.
The Lobos went three-and-out on their next drive as the Badgers began to find their way into the backfield, recording hurries on both passing plays during the series. But with the clock running down, it was still enough to take a 7-3 lead into the second quarter.
Wisconsin wide receiver A.J. Taylor runs after a catch as UNM safety Marcus Hayes closes in during the fourth quarter at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday.
Early on, UNM was able to slow Taylor down out of the backfield, as he recorded only 34 yards on seven attempts out of the back field in the first quarter. On the Badgers second drive of the second quarter after another New Mexico three-and-out, UW appeared on the verge of scoring before a forced fumble by Marcus Hayes, who is originally from Chicago, Illinois and was playing in front of friends and family .
Following the fumble, Sheriron Jones came out behind center for UNM due to a head injury that knocked Tuioti out of the game. Davie said that Jones will likely start for the Lobos next week in Las Cruces.
After the loss of Tuioti, the Lobos offense couldn’t regain what it had shown on the first drive, and the Badgers began to take over. After a three-and-out following the turnover, Taylor showed off his ability to bounce back and rushed for 16-yards and a touchdown to give the Badgers a 10-7 lead heading into the half.
Out of the half, the Lobos defense forced its second turnover of the game, as a tipped pass from Badger quarterback Alex Hornibrook landed in the hands of Evahelotu Tohi, which he returned to the Wisconsin 26, but UNM couldn’t take advantage, as Jones threw an interception on third down, the first of three turnovers he had on the day.
Jones said that both interceptions were due to him making a bad read, and took responsibility for both throws.
From there the Badger offense took over the game, scoring for what would be the first of five consecutive touchdown drives through the end of the game.
“We couldn’t stop them running the football, Davie said. “We knew that was going to be an issue and I think most teams will have a hard time stopping them running the football. But the bottom line, it was 10-7 in the third quarter and we create the turnover and we have a chance. Then we turn the ball over three times in the second half. (The) defense got worn down.”
The Lobos got a second touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter with a nine play drive that ended with Jones connecting with Elijah Lilly from five yards out for the touchdown.
Three Wisconsin touchdowns in the fourth quarter pushed the score to its final total at 45-14. The Lobos return to action next Saturday at 6 p.m. in Las Cruces, New Mexico against the New Mexico State Aggies.
Cameron Goeldner is a sports beat reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball and the Albuquerque Isotopes, but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @goeldfinger.