Badgers overcome slow start to rout Aggies
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst delivered some motivational words to his team at halftime of their season opener.
It was probably wasn't the cleanest of speeches given the way his ninth-ranked Badgers played most of the first half against Utah State.
Whatever Chryst said worked. Wisconsin found its footing in the second half, pulling away in dominating fashion for a 59-10 win on Friday night.
The Badgers trailed 10-0 late into the second quarter before taking off after halftime.
"We came out slow and coach Chryst definitely fired us up at halftime ... He just gave some inspirational words at the half. I won't go into great detail about it," tight end Zander Neuville said with a smile.
Neuville caught one of the career-high three touchdown passes from Alex Hornibrook, freshman Jonathan Taylor ran for 87 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in providing a second-half spark and the defense forced four turnovers.
Star tight end Troy Fumagalli caught the go-ahead touchdown early in the third quarter, while Neuville and Quintez Cephus made highlight-reel scoring grabs.
The memories of a miserable start were quickly erased by the second-half barrage. Wisconsin outgained Utah State 251-43 in the Badgers' 28-point third quarter alone, rushing for 130 yards.
"You don't set the edge on defense, you're in trouble," Utah State coach Matt Wells said.
Aggies quarterback Kent Myers was 25 of 41 for 219 yards with three picks.
At least Utah State had a first quarter to remember.
Utah State had the Badgers' aggressive defense on its heels with screens and a reverse. A school picked to finish last in its division it the Mountain West Conference was setting the tone against a Big Ten power at night on the road.
Hornibrook fumbled a snap deep in his own territory, a turnover that Utah State recovered at the Wisconsin 29 and returned 13 yards. LaJuan Hunt ran for a 12-yard touchdown two plays later to give the Aggies a 10-0 lead with 3:47 left in the quarter.
The fans at Camp Randall Stadium were stunned. Slowly, but surely the Badgers finally found their footing.
"There (are) a lot of lessons in that game for us," Chryst said. "Certainly a number of areas that we've got to clean up to be the best team we can be."
Bradrick Shaw's 3-yard touchdown run with 1:12 left ended started the stretch of 59 unanswered points. Wisconsin scored 24 off turnovers.
"We came out hard and flying around fast," Hunt said. "But we couldn't handle adversity well."