If you turned on the IU football game Saturday at any point during the second half, Wisconsin probably had possession of the ball.
In the final two quarters of what was a 45-17 Wisconsin win, the Badgers controlled the football for 22 of 30 minutes. That, IU Coach Tom Allen said, was a factor of Wisconsin’s size wearing down on his team. With fatigue comes turnovers, and it was turnovers that did IU in.
“They were kind of large, you know,” Allen said of the Badgers. “So they lean on you for a while, it takes its toll. And we’re not very deep right now.”
That depth is an issue across the board for IU, which missed the same key offensive and defensive players (see: junior wide receiver Donavan Hale, junior running back Mike Majette, sophomore husky Marcelino Ball and sophomore cornerback A’Shon Riggins) that have been out for several weeks now.
A new injury that factored into this loss, IU’s sixth in a row to start Big Ten play, was the absence of freshman quarterback Peyton Ramsey.
Senior Richard Lagow returned to his role as a starting quarterback for the first time since September and had the IU offense rolling early.
After an interception in the end zone by IU senior linebacker Tegray Scales on Wisconsin’s first drive, Lagow took the Hoosiers 80 yards in 11 plays and capped things off with a touchdown pass to sophomore running back Devonte Williams. It would be the longest drive of the day for IU.
Senior kicker Griffin Oakes added a field goal to put IU up 10-0 early in the second quarter, and the Badgers responded with a touchdown drive of their own. A few minutes later, IU freshman running back Morgan Ellison took a handoff, ran up the middle and was ruled down by contact despite losing the ball.
After a review by the referees, the ruling was overturned. The referees not only said Ellison had in fact fumbled before going down, but they also determined Wisconsin had clearly recovered it. It appeared as though the officials had blown a whistle before anyone recovered the ball, but the break went Wisconsin’s way nonetheless.
“Tough break I guess, but you’re going to have tough breaks, you’re going to have penalties,” Lagow said. “You can’t point to that as a reason we lost the game.”
Even if it wasn’t a reason for IU’s eventual loss, there seemed to be a change in momentum after the fumble. Wisconsin quickly scored to take a 14-10 lead and never looked back. In the second half, the Badgers outscored the Hoosiers 31-7.
Freshman running back Jonathan Taylor led a Wisconsin rushing attack that finished the day with 237 yards on the ground. Taylor himself had 183 yards and a touchdown after being questionable to play all week due to an injury.
Scales, who had 12 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss in the game, said Taylor’s running style made it difficult to take him down.
“He’s a tough runner,” Scales said. “He doesn’t go down on first contact. He just keeps his legs moving.”
Lagow did what he could to keep IU close as the second half began. A 17-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. trimmed Wisconsin’s lead to 24-17 toward the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the wheels fell off for the Hoosiers. Lagow threw two interceptions and Wisconsin had three rushing touchdowns in the final period. The senior quarterback finished his day with 226 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Three games remain this season for IU, and the Hoosiers will need to win all three to get to six wins and ensure bowl eligibility. The path to six starts next Saturday at Illinois, where IU seemingly has the perfect opponent – an Illini squad that also has no Big Ten wins – to get back on track.
“I believe they’re going to finish really well,” Allen said of IU. “I think this team will be remembered as a team that played a very, very difficult schedule but finished well.”
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