Taylor scores twice, No. 4 Wisconsin beats W. Kentucky
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Jonathan Taylor had two long touchdown runs, Alex Hornibrook threw for 257 yards and two scores and No. 4 Wisconsin opened the season with a 34-3 victory over Western Kentucky on Friday night.
A young defense working in seven new starters forced two turnovers inside Wisconsin's 5 . A.J. Taylor paced the short-handed receiving corps with five catches for 85 yards, while Garrett Groshek turned a screen pass into a 43-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter for a 31-point lead.
The Badgers finished with a flurry, scoring on five of six drives after punting on three of their first four possessions.
Leave it to Jonathan Taylor to get the offense going. He finished with 145 yards on 18 carries, even watching most of the fourth quarter from the sideline with the game well in hand for Wisconsin.
The dynamic back picked up right where he left off last year, when he rushed for an FBS-record 1,977 yards as a freshman.
Three tight ends and the Badgers' burly offensive line helped spring Taylor for a 47-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Taylor scored from 30 yards with 3:48 left in the second quarter as the Badgers closed the first half with 14 unanswered points.
He had 100 yards and 11 carries by the half, when the Badgers held a 24-0 lead.
Drew Eckels was 15 of 26 for 167 yards in his first career start for the Hilltoppers, while also running for 38 yards on seven carries.
Known as a passing team last season in coach Mike Sanford's first season, Western Kentucky tried to keep Wisconsin off-balance early with read-option plays.
It didn't really work. The Hilltoppers punted on the first six possessions, including four three-and-outs.
A trick play flopped too when receiver Quin Jernighan's fluttering pass for Eckels from the 10 was picked off by cornerback Faion Hicks in the third quarter.
Preseason All-American linebacker T.J. Edwards had seven tackles for the Badgers.
Western Kentucky: The defense posed an early challenge up front with pressures and blitzes against Wisconsin's vaunted line. Hornibrook was sacked three times and missed a couple throws to open receivers in the first half. But a Conference USA team picked to finish fifth in its division, couldn't take advantage of the Badgers' slow start.
Wisconsin: A young secondary featuring three first-year starters had a solid opener. Safety Scott Nelson, in particular, played well with seven tackles and two pass-breakups, and showed a propensity to deliver hard hits. Hicks, a fellow redshirt freshman, finished with three tackles. It was a confidence-building night for a unit that will face tougher tests later this season.
Western Kentucky: Hosts Maine in home opener on Sept. 8
Wisconsin: Hosts New Mexico on Sept. 8 in the second of three straight nonconference home games to open season.