NU Sports – Northwestern Delivers 31-17 Knockout to No. 20 Wisconsin

EVANSTON, Ill. – The Northwestern defense forced three fumbles and held Wisconsin to just seven second-half points while senior quarterback Clayton Thorson tied his career high with two rushing touchdowns to propel Northwestern (5-3, 5-1 Big Ten) to a 31-17 win over No. 20 Wisconsin (5-3, 3-2 Big ten) at Ryan Field on Saturday afternoon, extending the Wildcats’ winning streak to four games.
Northwestern remains in first place in the Big Ten West Division with its first 5-1 start in Big Ten play since 2000. The win over the Badgers gave Northwestern its 12th victory in the last 13 Big Ten contests and its second win over a ranked opponent in the 2018 campaign.
Thorson rushed for two touchdowns, bringing his season total up to four. Today was Thorson’s fourth career two-touchdown game, the last coming against Nebraska on Nov. 4, 2017. He finished the game 17-for-30 for 167 yards.  Junior wide receiver Bennett Skowronek led the Wildcats with 73 yards on the day, including a long of 32.
On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore linebacker Paddy Fisher forced his sixth career fumble. He is now tied with Brian Peters for the third-most by an NU player since 2000. On the play, senior cornerback Montre Hartage picked up his first career fumble recovery. Sophomore linebacker Blake Gallagher led the team with 10 tackles, including seven solo.
On Northwestern’s opening drive, Thorson’s pass was intercepted by Evan Bondoc at the NU 29-yard line. Alec Ingold rushed for a four-yard touchdown at 8:04 in the first quarter to complete a five-play, 29-yard scoring drive, giving Wisconsin an early 7-0 lead.
Northwestern responded on its following possession when an 11-yard pass from Thorson to junior superback Cameron Green followed by an eight-yard run by first-year running back Isaiah Bowser gave the Wildcats the ball on their own 36-yard line. A series of rushes by senior running back Chad Hanaoka and Bowser coupled with a 12-yard pass to Skowronek down the sideline moved the ‘Cats to the Wisconsin 37-yard line. Two first downs later, Thorson rushed for his third touchdown of the season with a one-yard run up the middle with 2:21 left in the first quarter to cap off a 75-yard scoring drive and tie the score at seven.
With just under seven minutes to play in the second, Jonathan Taylor fumbled the ball that was then recovered by junior cornerback Trae Williams for his first fumble recovery of the season at the Wisconsin 15-yard line. Back-to-back rushes by Bowser followed by a three-yard pass from Thorson to Hanaoka set up a five-yard touchdown run by Thorson who dodged a series of Wisconsin defenders to pick up his second score of the day with 3:44 left to play in first half, giving the ‘Cats a 14-7 advantage.
Wisconsin pulled within four on their next possession as Rafael Gaglianone ended a nine-play, 50-yard scoring drive when he converted a 36-yard field goal at 2:39 in the second quarter.
On its second possession of the second half, a roughing the kicker penalty on Wisconsin gave the Wildcats the ball on the Badgers’ 49-yard line. An eight-yard pass from Thorson to Green followed by two rushes for six and eight yards by Bowser gave the ‘Cats the ball on the 32-yard line. Two plays later, Thorson completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to McGowan who bobbled the ball but managed to get his foot down at the back of the end zone at 6:23 in the third quarter to extend Northwestern’s lead to 21-10.
With approximately 5:30 left to play in the third, Fisher forced Jonathan Taylor to fumble the football. The ball was recovered by Hartage at the Wisconsin 42-yard line. After a couple of rushes by Bowser, Thorson ran for a season-long 27 yards to the 10-yard line before being forced out-of-bounds. Sophomore kicker Charlie Kuhbander delivered a 26-yard field goal at 2:39 to successfully cap off the scoring drive and give the ‘Cats a 14-point lead.
The Northwestern defense forced its second fumble of the half when Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan fumbled the ball and senior linebacker Nate Hall recovered the ball at the Wisconsin 13-yard line. After a three-yard completion from Thorson to Green, Bowser rushed the ball three straight times, running for a two-yard TD at 12:50 in the fourth quarter, making the score 31-10.
After Thorson’s pass was intercepted by Zack Baun at the NU 36-yard line, the Badgers had the ball at the Northwestern 29. Coan finished off a five-play, 29-yard scoring drive when he completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kendric Pryor with 8:00 left in the game, pulling Wisconsin within 14 but it would not be enough to top the Wildcats.
Chicago’s Big Ten team returns to action when it hosts Notre Dame on Saturday, Nov. 3 at Ryan Field at 6:15 or 6:30 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on either ABC or ESPN.
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