Madison, Wis. — What looked like another second-half runaway turned into nail-biting final few minutes for No. 10 Wisconsin.
The defense caught its breath and came up with one more big play.
Jonathan Taylor ran for two touchdowns to help the offense overcome a sluggish start and the Badgers swarmed Northwestern before holding on for a 33-24 win on Saturday.
“We knew it was going to be a hard one,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. “There (are) a lot of lessons to be learned in this one.”
Alex Hornibrook threw for 197 yards and a touchdown, settling down after two interceptions on deep balls in the first half. Garrett Dooley had three of Wisconsin’s eight sacks.
Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) stood up the Wildcats (2-2, 0-1) late to seal the win in each team’s conference opener.
The Badgers led 31-10 with 9:54 to go on safety Natrell Jamerson’s 36-yard interception return for a touchdown.
It looked good for Wisconsin then since its defense hadn’t allowed any second-half points all season.
But Northwestern finally got its offense going, scoring two quick touchdowns to close the gap to 31-24. Wisconsin then went three-and-out, but Anthony Lotti’s perfect pooch punt was downed by Jamerson at the 2.
Two plays later, quarterback Clayton Thorson couldn’t find a receiver out of his own end zone and was sacked by D’Cota Dixon for a safety with 58 seconds left.
“I was a little shocked,” Dixon said about how long Thorson held on to the ball.
The mobile Thorson was outside the pocket, where he can do damage. Unfortunately, he was working from his own end zone.
“There (are) no ifs, ands or buts about it,” Thorson said. “I’ve got to throw it away.”
Northwestern’s fourth-quarter flurry overshadowed what was an otherwise dominating day for Wisconsin’s defense.
Jamerson finished with two interceptions. The front seven applied withering pressure most of the afternoon. Northwestern running back Justin Jackson was held to 25 yards on nine carries.
More Big Ten
(At) No. 4 Penn State 45, Indiana 14: DaeSean Hamilton caught nine passes for 122 yards with three touchdowns and became Penn State’s career receptions leader. Hamilton caught his first two touchdowns from quarterback Trace McSorley and a third from running back Saquon Barkley to cap the scoring in the fourth quarter. He hauled in his 180th career catch midway through the fourth quarter to set the record held by Deon Butler since 2008.
Barkley returned the game’s opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and finished with 221 yards to pad his Heisman Trophy resume. Penn State turned two first quarter Indiana turnovers into touchdowns to spark the rout. McSorley added a rushing touchdown, Nick Scott scored on a fumble return and Tyler Davis added a pair of field goals for Penn State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten).
The Hoosiers (2-2, 0-2) turned the ball over on their second play of the game when Morgan Ellison coughed it up to Penn State linebacker Jason Cabinda after an 18-yard gain. McSorley capped an ensuing six-play, 39-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Indiana fumbled it away again when Irvin Charles ripped the ball out of punt returner J-Shun Harris’ hands. Scott scooped it up and returned it 13 yards to put Penn State up 21-0 less than 10 minutes in.
Ricky Brookins scored on a 2-yard run late and Simmie Cobbs caught an 18-yard scoring pass from Ramsey to cut Penn State’s leads to 28-14 before halftime.
No. 11 Ohio State 56, Rutgers 0: J.T. Barrett threw three touchdown passes and became Ohio State’s career passing yardage leader in leading the 11th-ranked Buckeyes to a 56-0 victory over Rutgers. Mike Weber ran for a career-high three touchdowns and Ohio State (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) blanked Rutgers (1-4, 0-2) for the second straight year. The Buckeyes have won three straight after being upset by Oklahoma.
This marked the second meeting between Ohio Stata coach Urban Meyer and former defensive coordinator and now Scarlet Knights coach Chris Ash. It also marked the first time former Rutgers coach and current Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano returned to High Point Solutions Stadium for a game.
This one wasn’t much of a contest with Ohio State outgaining Rutgers 628-209.
The Scarlet Knights, who were beaten by the Buckeyes 58-0 last year, had an embarrassing end to their night as Andrew Harte’s 32-yard field goal attempt banged off the upright in the final minute.
Barrett threw touchdown passes of 70 and 39 yards to Johnnie Dixon in the first half in building a 35-0 lead. The fifth-year senior added a 22-yard strike to Binjimen Victor in the third quarter for his eighth touchdown in the last two games and 13th of the season.
Weber, a 1,000-yard rusher last year as a freshman, scored on runs of 1, 3 and 2 yards in showing signs that the hamstring injury that limited him to seven carries this season is healed.
Barrett finished 14 of 22 for 275 yards. He has 7,622 yards passing, surpassing Art Schlichter (7,547) for the top spot in Buckeyes history. Barrett’s 364 yards in total offense (89 rushing) put him over 10,000 for his career (10,350).
Backup Dwayne Haskins threw a 35-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Demario McCall, who also had a 48-yard scamper to close out the scoring.
Rutgers quarterbacks Kyle Bolin and freshman Johnathan Lewis were under pressure. Bolin was 5 of 14 for 56 yards. Lewis was 3 of 10 for 21 yards and two interceptions, including one by linebacker Dante Booker at the Buckeyes 13 late in the first quarter with the Scarlet Knights down 7-0.