While the numbers suggest A.J. Taylor has emerged as a go-to guy at his position, the junior wide receiver on the University of Wisconsin football team is a bit reluctant to embrace that label.
Even more impressive than Taylor’s big performance Saturday – he caught five passes for a career-high 134 yards in the No. 5 Badgers’ 45-14 victory over New Mexico – was his display of humility afterward inside the interview room at Camp Randall Stadium.
“Somebody has to step up,” said Taylor, the most experienced player in a group that is missing two of its biggest pieces, Quintez Cephus and Danny Davis, due to suspensions. “I think it’s not really (just) me. I think the whole receiving corps, we’ve all stepped up, we’ve all taken pride in that.”
UW is without Cephus indefinitely after the junior was charged last month with second- and third-degree sexual assault of two intoxicated women.
Meanwhile, Davis is expected to make his season debut next week against BYU. The sophomore was suspended by UW coach Paul Chryst for two games after his name came up in the criminal complaint against Cephus.
With two of his top targets out of the mix, UW junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook has turned to Taylor to make plays.
Taylor has 10 catches for 219 yards through two games. He was responsible for all but 14 of Hornibrook’s 148 passing yards against the Lobos.
“He did a great job of getting open,” Hornibrook said after targeting Taylor on six of his 11 pass attempts.
Taylor had receptions of 28, 21, 44 and 31 yards. His shortest effort of the day, a 10-yarder, resulted in a touchdown that gave UW a 17-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
The Wisconsin Badgers beat the New Mexico Lobos, 45-14, on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
Alas, there was one regret from Taylor on his career day. Taylor cost himself another touchdown – and forced the Badgers to settle for a field goal on their opening drive – after dropping a pass on a slant pattern.
“That was a ball I definitely should have,” he said. “I missed the ball, but shoot, I’m going to keep playing the next play. It is what it is.”
That drop came eight plays after Taylor hauled in a one-handed pass on the sidelines to move the chains on third-and-6. New Mexico cornerback D’Angelo Ross had good coverage on the play, but Taylor reached out and hauled in the pass with his left hand.
“To be honest with you, I really wasn’t thinking,” Taylor said. “I saw the ball, I thought it was going to be a little bit further than it was so I was slowing down to jump for it and I guess the guy had my hand, so that’s the only hand I had (to use). I decided to just go for it and it ended up working out.”
Later, Taylor came down with another deep ball in tight coverage. When Hornibrook was asked about Taylor’s ability to come up with 50/50 balls, the quarterback made it clear he likes his teammate’s chances in those situations.
So does Taylor.
“I do,” he said. “I don’t want to boast on myself, but the fact that he trusts me to do that gives me so much more confidence to go make a play for him. Since he trusts me, I don’t want to let him down, I don’t want to let the team down, I don’t want to let the offense down.”