MADISON, Wis. — Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor and the Wisconsin Badgers flattened Michigan in a 35-14 victory Saturday at Camp Randall.
Wisconsin’s dominated both sides of the ball through four quarters, outgaining Michigan 487-299.
“I thought Wisconsin had a great game plan and executed it extremely well. (They) outplayed us offensively and defensively,” Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said after the game. “… We were outplayed, outprepared, outcoached.”
The Wolverines seemed doomed from the start after opening the game by allowing a 12-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown run by Taylor. On that drive, Taylor accounted for 51 yards on eight carries.
Michigan’s defense had a chance to get a stop when it forced a fourth-and-1 at Wisconsin’s 32-yard line, but the Badgers converted the play and got an extra 15 yards with a penalty.
Michigan appeared to be ready to answer right back with a touchdown of their own when senior quarterback Shea Patterson connected with sophomore receiver Ronnie Bell for a 68-yard gain down the sideline on the first snap.
Two plays later, Michigan handed the ball off to Ben Mason — who has played the 2019 season as a defensive lineman — and lost possession on a fumble.
Harbaugh said Mason, who was a fullback before this season, has been receiving more work in the backfield leading up to Saturday’s game. He said having Mason in the backfield was a “wrinkle” in the offensive game plan.
Lost fumbles have been a drive-killer for Michigan’s offense through its first three games. Saturday’s two fumbles bring the Wolverines’ total to seven on the season, more than double the total of 2018.
Senior tight end Nick Eubanks said the first quarter fumble lingered on the offense.
“Having that big turnover when we first got down into the red zone, that killed us,” he said.
On the first play after the fumble recovery, Taylor took the ball to the end zone on a 72-yard run to double the lead to 14-0. Taylor finished with 203 yards rushing on 23 carries.
Michigan would go three-and-out on their next possession — one of five drives that ended after three plays.
The defense proceeded to allow a 15-play, 80-yard drive that used more than half the second quarter and resulted in a touchdown. Taylor didn’t play a down on that drive.
Turnover issues continued for the Wolverines when one of Patterson’s passes was tipped at the line and finished in the hands of a Wisconsin defender.
Michigan’s defense forced a punt on the next drive, but another three-and-out gave the ball right back. In two plays and 14 seconds of game clock, Wisconsin scored its fourth touchdown of the half to lead 28-0.
Patterson was replaced at the half by junior Dylan McCaffrey, who has played some in Michigan’s first two games. Harbaugh said Patterson was “being evaluated” at halftime, and the team decided to start McCaffrey in the third quarter.
The Wolverines scored their first touchdown of the game on McCaffrey’s second drive of the half, but he was knocked out of the game on the second targeting penalty of the series. Patterson re-entered the game and found senior tight end Sean McKeon for a touchdown, making the score 35-7.
McCaffrey didn’t return. After the game, Harbaugh said McCaffrey had a concussion and he couldn’t comment on it, but that it was “clearing up for him.”
Patterson led the team on one more scoring drive in the fourth quarter primarily through attacking the defense with long passes. Michigan scored its second and final touchdown on a 5-yard pass to junior receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Saturday was Peoples-Jones’ first game back following a lower body injury to start the year.
Michigan kept their comebacks hope alive by recovering an onside kick after the touchdown, but their chances were gone after Patterson lost another fumble.