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Badgers star back Jonathan Taylor says he owes tight end Jake Ferguson for setting up touchdowns
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Badgers star back Jonathan Taylor says he owes tight end Jake Ferguson for setting up touchdowns

Jake Ferguson - UW vs. Michigan State

Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson runs to the 1-yard line after catching a pass from quarterback Jack Coan in the first quarter of the Badgers' 38-0 win over the Michigan State Spartans on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. 

Jonathan Taylor promises he didn’t bribe Jake Ferguson prior to the Badgers’ game against Michigan State.

However, the star running back of the University of Wisconsin football team did say he owes his tight end a couple favors after the performance he put on during Saturday’s 38-0 UW win over the Spartans at Camp Randall Stadium.

Taylor, a Heisman Trophy contender, scored two touchdowns from the 1-yard line against MSU. Both of those punch-in scores were set up at the 1 by clutch catches Ferguson made to extend drives for the offense.

“I definitely went up to him after the fact and told him I have to do something for him,” Taylor said of the former Memorial standout.

UW (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) coach Paul Chryst went for a fourth-down conversion on the team’s second drive, calling a play-action pass that would go to Taylor or Ferguson depending on how the defense reacted. Two Spartans (4-3, 2-2) covered Taylor, leaving Ferguson wide open up the seam.

He caught the pass from quarterback Jack Coan, but was immediately off balance. Try as he might, he couldn’t avoid the dreaded turf monster and went down at the 1. Ferguson sighed when recalling what happened on the play.

“Just trying to help J.T. out. I don’t need to score,” he said with a laugh.

Coan said he avoided razzing Ferguson for the slip because Ferguson was already busting his own chops enough. Taylor scored a play later to put UW on the board.

Ferguson's second play down to the 1 spared him any embarrassment. On a third-and-8 at MSU’s 22, Ferguson ran a deep crossing route, hauled in Coan’s pass and went out of bounds at the 1. Taylor scored a play later.

Ferguson finished with four catches and 62 yards, tying career-bests in both categories. He also made crucial blocks for the Badgers, including one that set the edge on Kendric Pryor’s 66-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“Ferg showed up a number of different (ways),” Chryst said. “Ferg is a good player, and those certainly were big plays. We needed him. Everyone needed him.”

Pryor puts on a show

Chryst wouldn’t go so far as to say when or how, but when he was asked during the week about getting Pryor more involved in the offense, he said the chances would come.

While he didn’t see the ball come his way a great deal, the junior receiver made the most of the chances he got.

Badgers 38, Spartans 0
Badgers 38, Spartans 0
Badgers 38, Spartans 0
Badgers 38, Spartans 0
Badgers 38, Spartans 0

Pryor’s long touchdown carry came on a jet sweep, and he turned the corner around his offensive line with eyes on the end zone.

“If it hadn't been for Q (Quintez Cephus), he got a great block and Ferg got a great block on the edge,” Pryor said. “Once I saw that, I was like, ‘I've got to get into the end zone.’ That was just me taking advantage of an opportunity.”

Pryor also caught a pass for 18 yards.

With a difficult schedule coming up — a road test at Illinois on Saturday followed by a road game at No. 3 Ohio State and home game against No. 17 Iowa — Pryor says he’s ready to continue making his chances with the ball count.

“You may not get as many touches as you want, but when your number is called, you've just got to take advantage and I feel like I did that today,” he said.

Fresh legs

Redshirt freshman Donte Burton’s playing time has picked up of late, giving UW defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard another option in what is becoming a deep cornerback group.

Burton even made his first career start, though he was replaced after one play by usual starter Faion Hicks.

“The coaches see it in me in practice,” Burton said. “I guess they feel that I’m more confident out there.”

As usual, UW spent a lot of time in its nickel package. In addition to Hicks and Burton, sophomores Rachad Wildgoose and Deron Harrell also rotated between the three corner spots.

“That’s the thing about our secondary, man,” Hicks said. “Everybody can play.”

Moorman adds more OL depth

A three-man rotation at guard that has served UW well thus far became a quartet Saturday.

Senior David Moorman played a good deal of snaps at guard after filling in as a tackle, tight end and short-yardage fullback this season. He said Joe Rudolph, the Badgers’ offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, told him early in the season to be prepared to play all over the line at any time.

“The challenge this week was guard. I played guard all week in practice and got to go in for some series today. It was awesome,” Moorman said.

The game was special for Moorman — as a Northville, Michigan, native, he grew up rooting for the Spartans. Playing a significant role in the Badgers’ lopsided win was meaningful.

“I was really excited to be out there,” he said.

From the infirmary

Junior Jack Dunn had a 5-yard return on Michigan State’s first punt of the game before leaving with a head injury.

He was replaced by junior Danny Davis, who had two returns for 4 yards.

Wisconsin State Journal reporter Jim Polzin contributed to this report.



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