Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 21, 2018 at 1:28 am.

Minnesota next for Taylor, Badgers

Jonathan Taylor showed why he’s considered one of the best running backs in the nation and a Heisman Trophy candidate last Saturday in Wisconsin’s 47-44 triple-overtime win over Purdue in West Lafayette.

Taylor churned out a career-high 321 yards and scored three touchdowns to spark the Badgers to a stunning victory that greatly improved their bowl destination landing spot.

The Badgers (7-4, 5-3) close out the season at home against Minnesota. Taylor’s performance, though, was one for the record books. Despite carrying the ball 33 times and averaging 11.8 yards per carry in the second half, Taylor fell short of setting the program’s single-game rushing mark. Melvin Gordon (408 yards vs. Nebraska) and Ron Dayne (339 yards against Hawaii) remain the top-two standards.

“He truly is talented,” UW coach Paul Chryst said of Taylor. “And yet it doesn’t just happen. J.T.’s got something special but he is the first to admit it takes everyone.”

The Badgers needed a historic effort from their sophomore running back, especially with quarterback Alex Hornibrook missing his third game in the last four with a concussion, while right tackle David Edwards and reserve tailback Taiwan Deal also missed the Purdue game with an injury.

Despite falling out of the race for the Big Ten West Division title, the Badgers can have a sunnier destination by defeating the Gophers (5-6, 2-6) in a blowout fashion. The Gophers won their first three games under second-year coach P.J. Fleck but have played two freshmen quarterbacks and were beset by injuries to key players. Minnesota redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan has started the last four games, completing 59.3 percent of his passes but thrown six interceptions and seven touchdowns.

The Badgers’ main focus on defense is stopping Minnesota wide receivers Tyler Johnson, who has caught 70 passes for 1,036 yards and 10 touchdowns, and Rashod Bateman. Both players are big-play threats and will look to attack Wisconsin’s vulnerable secondary. But Wisconsin’s strong linebackers have to apply pressure and force Morgan into tough decisions and not allow him to sit in the pocket to pick apart the defense.