MADISON — Jonathan Taylor needed extra time to rest and regroup after a win over New Mexico.
Rushing for 253 yards on 33 carries, both career highs, can take a toll on a running back, and the sophomore took some time to himself before speaking to reporters about his milestone day.
Taylor also matched a career-high with three rushing touchdowns, and No. 5 Wisconsin asserted its dominance after allowing a score on the game-opening drive to pull away for a 45-14 win on Saturday.
“I’ve got to take care of the body after a game. That’s most important,” the Badgers star said.
Taylor is also determined to take better care of the ball after fumbling for a second straight week. But Badgers coach Paul Chryst likes how Taylor bounces back after a miscue.
“I just like the way he keeps an even keel,” Chryst said. “He doesn’t want to (fumble), but he knows too that he can pay it back.”
Players offered encouragement to Taylor on the sideline after the fumble. Chryst went back to the bench to give his star running back friendly advice.
“He always talks about how the game won’t go your way the entire game. You’re going to face adversity,” the running back said. “But the No. 1 thing is, how do you respond? Your teammates are going to need you.”
Taylor scored on a 16-yard run on the next drive to put the Badgers ahead for good 10-7 with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left in the second quarter. He was spotless the rest of the game.
A.J. Taylor had a career-high 134 yards receiving and a score for the Badgers (2-0), who won their 41st straight home nonconference game. That’s the longest active streak in the FBS.
With the Lobos (1-1) down to third-string quarterback Sheriron Jones because of injuries, the Badgers converted two turnovers into touchdowns within about a five-minute span of the third quarter to pull away.
Alex Hornibrook hit A.J. Taylor for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 7:46 left in the third quarter on a drive set up by safety Scott Nelson’s interception and a 43-yard rush by Jonathan Taylor.
“The big swing came on Scott’s pick,” Chryst said. “I was proud of the response.”
Jones fumbled on the next series on third-and-1 at the New Mexico 34. Seven plays later, Jonathan Taylor rumbled into the end zone from 5 yards out behind pulling center Tyler Biadasz for his second touchdown of the afternoon and a 24-7 lead.
That allowed the crowd at Camp Randall Stadium to relax a bit. Until that stretch, the Lobos trailed by just three and threatened to take the lead after picking off a pressured Hornibrook deep in Wisconsin territory on the opening series of the third quarter.
Nelson’s interception and Jonathan Taylor’s hard running established order again in Madison.
“We create the turnover and we have a chance. Then we turn the ball over three times in the second half,” New Mexico coach Bob Davie said. “The defense got worn down.”
The Lobos got off to a promising start when starting quarterback Tevaka Tuioti orchestrated a 17-play, 87-yard drive that took up 7:43, capped by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Delane Hart-Johnson.
New Mexico’s option plays gave Wisconsin fits on the first series. The defense also regrouped and figured out the Lobos.
Davie said Tuioti left the game with a head injury after the quarterback hit the turf in the second quarter. New Mexico turned to Jones with second-string quarterback Coltin Gerhart already out for the game because of injury. Jones was 9 of 16 for 79 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Davie urged his players early in the week to focus on making incremental improvements while downplaying the magnitude of a potential road upset. Mission accomplished in the first half. The game-opening drive gave the Lobos a confidence boost, as did safety Marcus Hayes’ forced fumble of Taylor on first-and-10 at the 4 in the second quarter. But Wisconsin gradually took control of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and figured out the Lobos’ pace.
The Badgers’ young defense learned its lesson after New Mexico’s game-opening touchdown drive, holding the Lobos to 33 yards on 16 plays over the final four series of the first half and forcing four punts. Bolstered by the return of defensive lineman Isiahh Loudermilk from a left knee injury, the Badgers got more pressure in the backfield.